I Dare Say – You asked for it (1-14-42)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 14, 1942)


You asked for it

By Florence Fisher Parry

Oh, the indignation and purpose which have swept into the hearts of all Americans since Pearl Harbor! And with these emotions a still deeper one: that of exaltation. We are beginning to look upon ourselves as instruments of destiny – even the least among us has found himself caught up in a finer emotion than he may have thought possible, before the challenge came.

So I think it is only natural that those of us whose profession, presumably, has made us more articulate, find ourselves, too, lifted up upon the wave of the future. We must be pardoned when we give vent to our feelings in some lofty reach of purpose.

Nor must these outpourings, be identified too closely with our actual capacity to live up to what we write! We are bound to fall sharply short of what we express. In a fine frenzy of intention, we may deliver ourselves of sentiments which we ourselves cannot humanly sustain.

I know this to be the case with me. And so, when I get letters deriding me for daring to “set myself up” as a critic or adviser, I feel bad. But I dare say this is the penalty most columnists pay when they try to set a course of conduct they cannot themselves hope to reach.

Yet it seems to me that in times of duress, like these, it is an easy temptation for any columnist to feel himself more solemnly obligated to his readers than ever before. The printed word, however lightly set down, does carry a singular weight, out of all proportion to its deserving. No write, however obscure, but feels a new sense of responsibility. And if, from time to time, this column might appear to bandy advice too freely – please be reminded that it is advice I offer to myself as well, knowing how badly I need it!


The other day I wrote a column to young women who are letting this war provide them an excuse NOT to have babies. And the letters I have received since then remind me, in their tone, of those I received some years ago when I was conducting a little side-campaign against the all-too-free recourse of birth control. At that time, this was the accusation hurled at me:

What about yourself? I notice that two children were enough for YOU.

This taunt finally wrung from me the defense that there was not time for more, as my husband died right after our second baby came; and, not remarrying, I could scarcely be expected to have more children.

I remember at the time how mad it made me to have to haul out my own private life to fend off attack.

And now I am mad again for the same reason. For the gist of the letters here on my desk is this:

It’s all very fine for you to give US advice about having babies, and handing over our sons to be killed. It would be more becoming if YOU had a son of war age, then you might know what it’s like to give him up.

Well ladies, you asked for it.

I HAVE a son of war age. He is thousands of miles away. He is flying by night and by day. He writes that he is safe and well as they all write – when they write.

Noblesse oblige

Now there is another matter which I should like to dispose of, once and for all.

History will record, among its miracles:

…just what was accomplished by the attack upon Pearl Harbor.

A national unity of sentiment and purpose unknown before in our whole national course.

Washington did not have it. Lincoln did not have it. Wilson did not have it. Roosevelt has it.

Remembering as we must the sharp divisions, the terrible disunion, the passionate politics, that preceded this unity, it is indeed the miracle of all miracles in history.

And we all, each one of us, to the last man, contributed to it.

From the instant the first word of the attack upon Pearl Harbor, all that we had thought and said before, was wiped clean. For some of us, there was much to wipe out. But with instant zeal, we set our hearts in tune and in tempo to the President of the United States, supreme commander of our national destiny.

Look us over, look us over, examine every word that we have written, spoken, since, and you will find, among the journalists of the American press, a unity of support unexampled in the history of journalism. Considering our open use and misuse of “the freedom of the press” before the war, this is no mean accomplishment, and I may be pardoned if I brag about it here.

This being so, then in God’s name, WHY the recriminations, the reproaches, the post-mortems, the vindictiveness of the very ones who BEFORE this unity came about, preached it so shrilly?

WE ARE WILLING TO FORGET. We who were the black-hearted, hard-shelled, willful minority; who who believed in and wanted Willkie; we who opposed and criticized the President – yes, we who were among the last to become militantly aware – WE ARE WILLING TO FORGET.

Where we were mistaken, we acknowledge openly, eagerly, contritely. What reservations remain in our secret souls, we guard with patient tact. Nothing matters now, to us, but unity and victory, behind our President.

But do not goad us. Do not gloat.

Noblesse oblige.

For the duration, let us keep, in heaven’s name, UNITED!