The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, February 01, 1916, Page 17, Image 19

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The Commoner
through Indemnities. They will all spend all
they have fighting, leaving nothing but incon
ceivable poverty to be divided, and endured
among them. In the light of what has already
happened, of what has already been spent, and
what now must with the inevilableness of the
law of gravitation .still be spent, no mind in Eu
rope can any longer figure on the hope of re
imbursement. In a deadlock of physical force
they lie, each side waiting for the other's finan
cial exhaustion to put an end to the struggle.
Meanwhile, all together arc tumbling headlong
toward financial and industrial anarchy.
Yes, the close of this war in Europe, will see
America the one great, rich nation of the world
leading all the nations in wealth, commerce and
industry. The question above every other for
us to answer is this: will the United States ex
tend Us leadership also to the realms of morals
and ideals? Are American ideals of international
good will and justice to prevail? Is real Chris
tianity to spread until it embraces the nations in
their intercourse; or, are we to confess that dur
ing the past fifty years when we were largely
relying on the justness of our actions, and our
moral ideals to save us from conflicts with other
nations, we were wrong, and the European na
tions alone were right when they spent a vast
Dart of their, energies and resources in planning
for war? Is America now to be dominated by
its suspicious, military minds, or is America to
lead the world in the effort to conquer the dead
ly militarism which, because of its hellish rule,
has swept Europe into her present horrors? Be
cause of our leadership, our wealth, our re
sources and relative strength, our conservation
of that which Europe has, thrown away, Europe's
only hope of rehabilitation lies through us: and,
whether we want it or not, we are to have an
enormous world influence, and it has come to us
at an hour when very literally civilization is at
the cross-roads. The world is at that point in its
life where either Christian ideals are going to
take, hold of the .nations and make, them see the
' iutter.4nsanityt of. civilized men fighting, like wild
beasts, and spending the hard accumulated earn
ings of the people fpr that which is not bread,
until poverty and misery are universal; or, we
are in but the first chapter of a retrograde move
ment wherein the light of civilization fades into
another period of dark ages. The present del
uge of blood and misery produced by the power
of the military mind in Europe is going to be the
last thing of its kind among highly civilized na
tions, and lead to the complete over-throw of
the doctrine of military preparedness, or, it is
going to lead to such hatreds, tyrannies and
fears; to such unbelief in human nature, to such
universal suspicion, to such a bold open pro
fession of supreme faith in force, to such a ma
nia of armamental rivalry, that what Europe
has been for the last forty years, an armed
camp, that the whole world is going to be. An
armed world, a world given over in every coun
try to the leadership of its military minds, is a
world headed for a chaos as much beyond that
in which Europe is at present engulfed, as the
present European state surpasses in misery all
the" preceding wars of the ages. No generation
of men, therefore, were ever called upon to de
cide a more momentous moral question, a ques
tion so fraught with good or evil, so influencing
the whole destiny of humanity for ages to come,
as that which confronts the people of America
over the problem of increased armament. No
one of us could sit on a jury having the life or
death of a single man in our hands without a
profound sense of responsibility; but in the de
cision of the United States over the question of
vastly increasing our military strength at this
time, and in giving our assent to the doctrine
that in time of peace it is right to prepare for
war, we are deciding the fate of a world; and
we are deciding it just the way the men who
scoff the loudest at all efforts to create a Chris
tian conscience among the nations, and who
openly say that men are going to fight and that
fighting, after all, is not a bad thing but a good
thing for the nations just the way these men
of supreme unbelief in moral ideals and spirit
ual forces want us to decide. Further than that,
when America votes to vastly increase her mil
itary preparedness at this time, she proposes to
do under excitement, under fear, under a delib
erately planned, nation-wide campaign of narrow
minded specialists, and of financial interests
which will make millions out of this new pro
gram, what her whole moral judgment during
all our preceding history has condemned. She
will do what virtually every newspaper in Amer
ica under the first shock ot the news that at last
Europe was at war, denounced in the European
nations as the very thing which above everything
else had led to this universal conflagration. In
such a time as this many of us conccivo it to bo
the supreme patriotic duty of all who believe in
a righteous God and an eternal moral order, to
which nations as well as Individuals are respon
sible and agaiiist which in the long run a bil
lion men can not prevail to refuse to let our
selves be swept out of our right senses, but to
keep calm-and to look thoroughly into the need,
the value and the moral significance of these
proposed new and vastly costly policies. To
spend billions of dollars over a mere rumor and
the fears created by falso alarmists, is nothing
less than criminal. Beforo entering into tho
discussion which is to follow, let me say that I
do not consider all soldiers to bo militarists,
and therefore subject to wholesale censure. All
soldiers are not military in mind any more than
all preachers are pacifists. For the self-respecting
soldier who does his work conscientiously,
and so lives and thinks in touch with the best
light of his age that he has some hope that possi
bly the world may be educated and made wise
enough, if not to get rid of its soldiers, at least
to relegato them to such a placo of regulated
subordination that they do not eat up all the
fruits of our common toil with such a soldier
I have no quarrel. And I hope there may be
many such. But for that man, whether in the
soldier's uniform, the editor's shirt sleeves, or
the garb of a priest of religion, whoso ultimate
faith for tho welfare of society rests upon force
and not spirit, upon fear rather than justice and
love, I have little respect and no admiration.
Now the first thing I want to say about the
program of vast preparedness is that its chief
advocates, the ones who have fathered it from
tho beginning, the ones who have done the most
to create the 'fear that we are in danger of at
tack, if not from one direction, then certainly
from somewhere else; thd men who have pro
duced that state of fear out of which this sup
posed necessity springs, in their philosophy
agree perilously near with tho European Bern
hardi's and the whole blood and iron tribe who
are most responsible for Europe's present state.
We pick up Bernhardi's book and read it. It
fills us with abhorrence. Here is a brain di
vorced absolutely from heart. Here Is a man
openly preaching the doctrine that might makes
right. Here Is a man appearing in the modern
world with a spirit "as frankly pagan as if he
had been lifted bodily out of Rome under Julius
Caesar a world that never heard of Jesus
Christ. We lay the book down with disgust, and
we say: "A nation under such leadership is
headed for the, pit." It is horrible to think that
modern civilization anywhere could have so de
generated as to make such a human possible;
and we can not help feeling that a kind of moral
taint rests upon the whole of Germany that a.
man so divorced from all the finer feelings of
humanity should have flourished there. But
hold on a minute before you visit your whole
sale condemnation upon the German people.
Have you read our own American Bernhardt
General Homer Lea, in his "Valor of Ignorance,"
the book which has received the unqualified en
dorsement of the" military people who are now
preaching to us that we are gone unless we
straightway arm to the teeth? the book which
has been more responsible for our well nursed
fear of Japan than all causes put together. I
defy any man to find anything in Bernhardi
which is more frankly pagan, which more bru
tally denies every postulate of the Christian re
ligion than does General Homer Lea. General
Lea's God is blind Force. Force and nothing but
Force rules the nations in their intercourse. Ac
cording to this preacher' of valor, men live by
conforming only to the laws of Force. Hear
this sentence: "To exist thus, individually or as
a nation, man must ceaselessly endeavor not to
thwart but to comprehend and live according to
these laws that know not of him and his vain
progeny." Some of us, on what we consider
even better authority than the dictum of Gen
eral Lea, have for a long time believed that man
lives by conforming to the will of a righteous,
personal God, who not only knows of us and our
vain progeny, but of the very falling sparrows.
But with one fell sweep General Lea wipes God
and the whole Christian morality out of exist
ence, and thea h proceeds to make for us a new
religion founded not on a personal God of love
and righteousness, but on the worship of Force
"that knows not of us and of our vain progeny."
People who are religious according to that old
mistaken notion which was embodied in the
teachings of Jesus Christ can do nothing to alter
human life for tho better. They aro so wildly
visionary and so completely misread the laws of
life, as General Lea knows them to be, "that,"
I quote again "as far as the world is concerned
they might as well bo a louse on tho back of a
wild duck as It wings it way through the stormy
night." General Lea holds that religious people
who hato war aro powerless to -stop It, but that
military "experts" like the General, who believe
in it, by writing books which constantly play up
on the fears of the people, can do a great deal
toward making men more belligerent. Ho is as
right in his last proposition as he Is wrong In
the first. Again I quote from our supremo
alarmist: "It Is in relation to these forces that
govern the formation, duration, and dissolution
of political entitles, that International arbitra
tion and disarmament are to bo considered. Not
that they themselves aro Worth oven a passing
word but for the fact of tho mischief that their IP
lusive ideas are capablo of bringing about." It Is
amusing to see the intense anxiety with which
each one of the modern war writers from every
country, including even Bernhardi of Germany,
views tho decline of militant patriotism among
his own people, and looks upon tho growing
tendency to find some way to curb war as a sign
of national decadence peculiar to his own land;
Instead of seeing In this growing hatred of war
among all free and intelligent classes a world
wide movement big with hope for a new and
happier humanity, certain In time to bring about
just that change which the militarist says can
never come. But to quote again from the au
thor of "The Valor of Ignorance" (better named
"Tho Ignorance of Yalor") "Usually these de
lusions are harmful only to tho individual, and
as such are not worthy of concern; but when
tho hallucination Is apt to become so widespread
as to affect the welfare of the nation, then it is
time to point out the mockery of their hopes and
the quicksand into which they have led them
In this class of visionaries we plate In
Jernatipnal Arbltrationists and Dlsarmamental
ists, who are so persistently striving through
subservient politicians, through feminism, cleric
alism, sophism and other such tollers to drag this"
already much deluded republic Into the Brobdlng
naglan swamp from whose deadly gases there is
no escape." And, we may answer, exactly so
reasoned Bernhardi about the same toilers in
Germany! Yet, there is not a free mind In all
the world outside of Germany which does not
feel that it would have been far better for Ger
many and for all humanity if Germany had had
more of these visionary toilers and less Bernhardi's.
War, according to General Lea, who breaks off
again and again into peans of praise over the
hardened soldier who has been militarily trained
until he has shed all the moral sentiments and
feelings which belong to ordinary humanity
war is not only a necessary and good thing, It is
such a good thing that the very effort to avert
and curb it, though that effort appear among
intelligent men of all modern nations, is the su
preme imbecility and impiety of which the hu
man spirit can be guilty. By the patient and
persistent effort of those who were at the time
called "dangerous visionaries" by the Homer
Lea type of .mind, but whom we look back on
now as the real builders of civilization; our race
has conquered cannibalism and tribal war,
slavery and bloody empires that rested solely on
murder and rapine, gladiatorial 'combats; all
avowedly wars of conquest; over most of the
earth the power of irresponsible kings ruling in
wickedness by divine right; wrung from tyran
ny, ignorance and superstition, a thousand con
cessions, and put an end forever among really
civilized men of the cowardly practice of duel
ling and the degrading code of honor all habits
, of. mind as old as war and, once thought to be,
as impregnably fixed "in changeless human na
ture" as war itself. But they are all gone now
and are superceded by new and better habits of
life. But the one supreme curse of them all, the
one diabolical thing which is nothing less than
hell incarnate, man's deadliest enemy and father
of more miseries than all else, we are asked not
to attack, not to question Its right to be, but to
bow down before it as a great god of fate. Be
fore war alone we must be helpless fatalists.
For, according to our wise prophet of the way oJt