One of the very pressing and very human problems with which millions of people have been beset since the outbreak of World War II, and one which has received little attention in the press generally has been that of displaced persons and refugees, whether they be from the tyranny of Hitler or from that of the communists in East Germany or other countries under the sway of the Iron Curtain rule. Both President Truman and President Eisenhower asked for and got special legislation to permit a modest number of these unfortunates to enter this country, but neither acts has resulted in much more than an aspirin for a headache. The unworkability, of the lack of desire to enforce, the last Refugee Relief Act of 1953 was the subject of recent controversy within the State Department, and resulted in the firing of Mr. [Edward J.] Corsi by Secretary Dulles, because, Dulles said, Corsi was not the man for the job, or words to that effect. Curiously enough, it was the same man who, 90 days before, he had told the Senate was the best-qualified person he knew. Whatever the vagaries of politics in the matter, the fact is that while the 1953 act authorized admission of up to 214,000 refugees and other non-quota immigrants before the end of next year, to date only a little over 30,000 visas have been issued and of these only some 22,000 persons have actually entered under the law – far below the anticipated number, and hardly more than enough to make a dent in the problem. Now President Eisenhower asks Congress to change the law in ten specific ways in order to make it administratively workable. The present outlook for passage is good, partly due, it must be admitted, to the absence of the late Pat McCarran of Nevada, who was adept at devising gimmicks to prevent a law from doing what it seemed to purport to do. There are, it is true, many individuals and groups who retain their holier-than-thou attitude toward immigrants, but in many cases their own ancestors migrated before there were any immigrant laws, and it is reasonable to suppose that many of them could not now enter under the rather stringent criteria set up. Here is a national opportunity and responsibility to perpetuate something of the tradition enshrined in the words of the Statue of Liberty, to receive the oppressed. It was the Master himself who cast favor upon the person because, in his words, “ I was a stranger and you took me in.” Here are millions of strangers and the least we can do in the circumstances is assume willingly the role of host, a role indicated by both our civic tradition and our religious precepts.
Occasionally it appears to be pertinent to deal briefly with some aspect of the scriptures. A few weeks ago, I commented briefly on the New Testament, with special reference to the Revised Standard Version, about which there is continuing, but decreasing controversy. This week, an item came to mind about the problem of prophecy in the Old Testament, which prompted a little investigation, with how fruitful a result, I shall leave you to determine.
The prophets are about the least understood part of the Bible and yet one of the most interesting. They are difficult to understand, and require a knowledge of human nature, social customs, and world history completely beyond the children who study the Bible in Sunday schools. The attempt to bring down to a child’s level has produced a naive interpretation which pictures God as a sort of coach who frequently sends new players into the game with special instructions. They go so far as to show that when the players disregard the instructions they lost the game.
Ministers and writers have added to the confusion by combing the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah and twisting them to show that they prove that Jesus was the Messiah.
Actually, the word “prophet” is Greek and has been used to translate several Hebrew words with different meanings but with the common idea of speaking messages supposed to come from a supernatural source. Samuel himself, called a “prophet,” was more of a priest with a shrine and ritualistic duties. Later prophets were “seers,” or visionaries who interpreted the meanings of the times – much like our present-day radio commentators. There were also “diviners,” who sought revelations in natural phenomena, the entrails of a second goose, the stars, the patterns of stones thrown on the ground, and “signs” of all kinds. All these various meanings have been included in the word “prophet.” No wonder it is difficult to understand and interpret. And the bewildering thing is that those who have basic foundation in a knowledge of human nature, social customs, and world history are the very ones that try to do the most interpreting. Those who have done the most study are likely to be the most reluctant to pose any dogmatic statement as the explanation of prophecy.
We used to be amused to read in our history books about the benighted governments of the Old World burning books that expressed ideas that the governments did not like. Now we learn that the Post Office Department is burning “thousands of sacks of mail.” We are not amused any longer. The burning of books is a historic sport of tyrannical majorities. There is no room for such nonsense in a land traditionally dedicated to freedom of conscience and the mind. Book burning is a negative sort of brainwashing. A free and independent press is the symbol and condition of a free and independent mind, without which a person is not a citizen but a slave, though his slave bonds are invisible. As Tom Paine said of another time, “These are times that try men’s souls.” These times call for free institutions of religion, for courage, dedication, information, and patriotism untainted by the particular definition of small, however-well organized, groups who would impose on the minds of men their own narrow, provincial conception of what patriotism is. Time may be found on a later broadcast to deal with this vital problem in detail.
A bit of satire, or so I interpreted it, came to my attention this week from a church paper. An excerpt from it goes something like this: “I have just been reading some old stuff on the National Council of Churches of Christ in America meeting in Evanston. Evidently a lot of time was spent wrangling over whether or not Christ was coming to this earth again and whether people were prepared for it. In 325 A.D. a similar church council wrangled over whether God was in three persons or all of one piece. Not much improvement in the church in fifteen centuries.”
Somewhere I read that the U.S. owns and holds about 75 million bushels of wheat in 317 ships of the U.S. Reserve Fleet, including 30 million bushels on the West Coast. The Agriculture Department is preparing 105 ships of the “mothball fleet” to store about 24 million bushels on the West Coast. Most of the human beings on this planet are hungry. Hunger favors communism or any other change. Wouldn’t it be better to oppose communism with wheat than with bombs? Or am I being unappreciative of the role of force in the world of today. Seems like that somewhere I also read that he who takes the sword shall perish by it.
Of course in recent years those who talk about, believe in, and emphasize the desirability and possibility of peace as opposed to war are often looked upon by little men, or men of little minds, as being suspect; sometimes their very loyalty is even impugned. But war is the breakdown of diplomacy. It is the failure of government. It is, momentarily at least, the collapse of civilization. It is so all-pervading and recurring that little people everywhere, and most of us are little people, cannot but be concerned about it, whatever their religious convictions, or whether they have any such convictions at all. War is the denial of the right of human beings to exist. It constitutes an indictment of the human race. It is the negation of all human values. Curiously and tragically enough, man is the only animal that hunts his own species. As a means of settling international disputes, war is a failure. It creates more problems than it settles. Every war contains the seeds of future wars. There is no such thing as a just war, for war is killing innocent human beings. All war is immoral.
The assumption, in some quarters, is that in a war, one side is right and one side is evil and the right side will win. History shows that this is not the case. Napoleon is reported to have said, “God is on the side of the heavy battalions.” All war decides is which side has the most efficient killing machine. When the war is over the contestants have to do what they might have done before the slaughter: that is, sit around a table and decide how they shall live together in peace. War is always presented to its victims as a noble crusade. It is never that. It is brutal, dirty, immorality on a gigantic scale. It is the supreme disgrace of the human race.
The liberal, and I used the word advisedly, is for peace. This does not mean that he endorses the form of government that obtains in Russia or China, or, necessarily, anywhere else. He can not endorse the government of our ally fascist Spain. He may not endorse the government of our ally communist Yugoslavia. He may say that the form of government that other nations have is none of our business. But in any case, he is for peace. He sees that the U.S. has coexisted during the entire life of communism on this planet. Russia has the oldest government in Europe. During its history it has never attacked the U.S. It, like the U.S., has tried to spread its ideas…. Why this sudden fear that Russia is going to attack us? I think that that fear is whipped up by politicians who see this hysteria as a means of getting elected or staying elected.
Today, no one really wins a war. “You lick ‘em; then you feed ‘em.” In World War II, we defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now the American dough boy, if he survived intact, is holding up their economy by the taxes he pays. Between 80 and 90 percent of our federal income goes to pay for wars past, present, and hoped for. A French statesman is quoted as saying, “We won two wars. If we win another, France is finished.”
The peoples of the world do not want wars. They would live in peace if the old men on the chancelleries of the world would let them alone. On issues removed from the lives of the common people, those in high places decree these bloody sacrifices. In this country boys are conscripted, uniformed, pushed, pulled, hauled, sworn at, brain-washed, and made thirsty for the blood of kids of other nations who have gone through a similar process. How long is this bloody death going on? How long before the youth of the nations will say to the 60-year-olds in government, “If you want Germans, Chinese, Japanese, or what have you killed, go do it yourselves”?
Yet, the problem is not quite that simple. The problem of war is a tough, longstanding one. Man has solved the problem of armed conflict through his history only by applying the rule of law over ever-widening areas. First it was the family, then the clan, the tribe, to the city-state, and now into the sphere of the national state. It is between these national states today that anarchy reigns supreme. Globe-trotting secretaries of state may rush here and there making little agreements that are blown into huge victories by partisan papers, but the fact remains that such people are merely trying to put blowout patches of an old tire that has long since demonstrated its unreliability. The problem of war can be solved, but only when enough people among the nations demand and secure the establishment of world law to apply in the area where there is now only international chaos. Application of law, in our Western, democratic philosophy of things, involves a law-making body responsible directly or indirectly to the people, it implies some kind of administrative agency to see that laws validly enacted are put into practice, and it involves a law-interpreting agency to settle differences of opinion over the meaning of laws. In short, it requires some form of world government. Though I am aware that the phrase “world government” is anathema to some people, in fact, a facts-forum poll that reached me yesterday asks this question: “Is it possible to promote world government and be loyal to the U.S.?” To the liberal, there is only one answer to the question, and to the liberal, the question itself is silly. There is no conflict between my loyalty to the government of the state of Tennessee and my loyalty to that of the United States. Sometime, let us hope, such a narrow conception of loyalty will be relegated into the limbo of dinosaur land, where it belongs.
To realize a world government, responsive to the will of the world’s peoples, will take tough work, compromise, adjustment, and an absence of jingoism. It may, to use a painful phrase, even require an “agonizing reappraisal” or many of the shibboleths that we have mouthed lovingly through the years. But it is the only sure road to solution of the problem of war. It will take brains, not brawn, and sometimes we seem more inclined to use the latter and let the former atrophy from disuse. But the problem of war goes on, like Banquo’s ghost will not down. An alternative to it must be found, and there may not be nearly so much time in which to do it as we need. What do you think about it? Tomorrow, all over this land, people will march to cemeteries to pay decorative tribute to the war dead. These cemeteries are painful memories reminding us of the stupidity of man. Is it not about time that we, in a paraphrase of the words of the Great Emancipator, “Here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this world shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”?