I DARE SAY —
Follow the leader?
By Florence Fisher Parry
Who can compute the loss in the death of Gen. Andrews?
The average value of one man’s life has been estimated. I do not recall the figure in dollars and cents, but a figure has been computed. It runs into many thousands of dollars. The value of Gen. Andrews’ life is beyond compute. An army of men could not replace him.
We have already lost eight generals in this war. You need only keep track of the casualties, singly reported in our newspapers, to realize that they are thickening and that the great toll is already being counted.
Prophecies and predictions are being made as to the length and cost in lives of this war. The coldest-blooded of them all was made by Gen. Homma of Japan, some time before Pearl Harbor. He said to one of our most gifted reporters, Clark Lee:
It seems that the prevailing idea among Americans is that one of your fighting men is worth two Japanese fighting men?
Mr. Clark admitted:
That’s about the size of it.
Accepting your own evaluation, then, we have proceeded with our preparations. We are prepared to lose 10 million men in our coming war with you. How many are you prepared to lose?
According to Gen. Homma’s estimate, based upon our own assumption of superiority, we must lose, then, five million men before we have exhausted Japan’s fighting manpower.
Five million men in the Pacific. How many in Europe and other parts of the globe?
Damage is done
What value a man’s life?
What price freedom?
It is worth any price, of course. If we think we can avoid paying it, we are already lost.
Yet the ghastly farce continues on the home front, and democracy is being discredited the world over. The damage has been done. The terrible propaganda has been set loose. Our men in far places have been let down and humiliated. Whatever the coal settlement, the weakness has been exposed. We stand indicted before the world. We are still playing at war.
Truce, not settlement. Armistice, not peace. The old, old story: the old, old fallacy which lost us the peace after the last war and can lose us this one. The fallacy of compromise.
I hope you have been reading Ernie Pyle’s reports from the battlefront. They stand alongside any classic that has been written about men at war. They compare with the pictures of Goya. The unutterable weariness of the living, the grotesque attitudes of the sudden dead, the horizonless perspective, the insensate cloudiness – it is all there in the simple record…
…in their eyes as they pass is not hatred, not excitement, not despair, not the tonic of their victory – there is just the simple expression of being here, as though they had been here doing this forever, and nothing else.
I hope these words will stay with and trouble and give no rest to the miners who, under Lewis, are still waiting for his orders and have ignored all others.
Who makes a leader?
One more word before I join the silent vigil of waiting to see what word is to go to our boys who are fighting for this thing called democracy.
Mr. Editor, I know that it is at variance with the expressed attitude of The Pittsburgh Press as voiced in your most excellent editorials, which lay the blame – and the consequences – flatly upon the shoulders of one man: John L. Lewis. You exempt the miners themselves. They have been betrayed by false prophets, you say. They are not to be condemned.
Mr. Editor, if we were to employ this same line of reasoning to the war which we are now waging, and say: The German and the Japanese people are not to be condemned; only their leaders are guilty, we would never win the peace, however absolute our martial victory. We would be just where we were before.
So long as the followers are exonerated and only the leaders blamed, human conduct will continue to be unimproved. Leaders are made by their followers, for leaders can exercise only what power their followers permit them.
If our miners forsake their sons in battle, their President and Commander-in-Chief, and cleave only to their leader, they are guilty too, and cannot escape blame and punishment any more than can the followers of Hitler, who were also misled.