I Dare Say – Decent laughter, honest thinking (11-2-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (November 2, 1944)



Decent laughter, honest thinking

By Florence Fisher Parry

I hate to admit it at this critical moment in the campaign; but one of the funniest parodies I ever read can be found in the current New Yorker. It is written by E. B. White and is entitled “Breakfast on Quaker Hill.”

I cannot seem to be able to make my friends and family, who take their franchise hard, understand that I can laugh heartily at this ribbing and still remain true to the razor-backed, rock-ribbed, stiff and bristling, deep-dyed tradition of our family politics.

Besides, it’s a relief to find something light and harmless among the ill-smelling “jokes” of this campaign.

We have lost much in dignity and decency in the past months; but no attribute has seemed to deteriorate so much in us as our usually healthy sense of humor. Perhaps the all-time low in presidential campaigning was reached the other evening when Frank Sinatra introduced Vice President Wallace at a get-together, followed by Ethel Merman singing a song entitled “Don’t Look Now, Mr. Dewey, But Your Record Is Showing!”

There exist, in both parties, men and women whose sensibilities are affronted by such tactics, and who feel shame and embarrassment that America should thus expose itself to the dubious opinion of its friends and allies.

And at such a time! When our fighting men’s performance in the waging of this war has reached so noble and magnificent a stride!

It can happen

If you want to get a cross-section of the really frightening mood of the rank and file, particularly our youth, sit in a motion picture theater and listen to the cheers and boos when the newsreel campaign material is shown upon the screen… Anyone who could say, after a demonstration like this (and it occurs in all our movie houses these days), “It Can’t Happen Here,” has greater faith in mass common sense than I!

There is a word that has grown cheap and shallow by over-usage: the word RABBLEROUSER. It is the most dangerous of all words in any language. Have you seen a rabble roused? Have you been one of a mob? Have you been crushed onward, helpless, in a pressing crowd at Times Square in New York on New Years Eve? Have you witnessed the frenzy of the congregations of Aimee McPherson?

ANYTHING can happen. Yes, here as elsewhere. Mob mood is the most dangerous single emotion in the human chemistry.

So, watch the exhorters; they bear watching.

And when you hear them, tremble. And when you see them, stiffen in your tracks.

Ask yourself

In so few days we will be going to the polls to vote. If only, if only, some miracle could be invoked to purify our souls, make clear our minds!

We make attempt to shrive our souls when we enter church; we shed, so far as we are able, the clutter and the cares of day when we enter our homes at the end of our work day. We try to bring cool judgment to bear upon business decisions we make. In any moment of decision each in his own faltering but honest wav tries to be calm and thoughtful and farseeing.

And so, surely, when we enter the solemn secret privacy of a polling booth, we must rally every worthy attribute within our minds and souls. We must catechize ourselves with simple searching questions like these:

Am I voting for my own personal immediate advantage?

Is this advantage one abnormally induced by the WAR, or would it have been mine to enjoy now had there been no war?

The vote I cast may determine the election, and thus, the kind of destiny my country is to have. Therefore, which man am I the surer to trust?

In which company of MEN shall I walk most trustfully, relying upon their vigilance to keep America FREE, supremely itself as it has been, the envy, the example and the hope of the world?

I have a family, or shall have. What kind of future will this, my vote, demand? The right to incentive and an earned reward? The right to initiative and freedom to exercise it?

Questions like these we have the right, the duty, to ask, as we approach the free and secret privilege of the polls.