Survey Associates.

The Survey (Volume 58) online

. (page 101 of 130)
Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 101 of 130)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of Henry Ford's heart and the general high degree of virtue
and perspicacity of our automobile kings. The hard-boile.-l
one was very cynical about Ford but also very approving.
He liked the way Ford asserted his power and laughed at
his moral pretensions. I think he was a little unjust to
Ford in analysing his secret motives. At least Ford seems
to me to be indescribably naive rather than maliciously
shrewd. But he was closer to the truth in his estimate of
the total facts of the Ford industry than the good brother
who professed to see in Detroit a veritable kingdom of God
on earth with Henry Ford as the messiah.

The modern religious over-estimate of human virtue
inevitably produces a cynical reaction. When religion is
pessimistic, irreligion produces a Rousseau. When religion
becomes corrupted by the romanticism of its former foes,
irreligion expresses itself in the cynicism of Marx and shall
we include Mencken? The modern cynic is of course more
than a mood become articulate. Science supports his con-
clusions. Tracing man's kinship with the brute in the
secrets of his private life and in the farthest reaches of his
social attitudes, the psychologists and economists combine
to give a new scientific dignity to the idea of total depravity
at the very time when the theologians are least inclined to
it. The cynic seems for the moment closer to the facts
than the sentimentalist ; yet he is as far from the truth be-
cause he has sacrificed his hopes with his illusions. Because
man is not as free as he imagined himself to be it does not
follow that he is not free and therefore not ethical at all.
What is needed is a philosophy, a religion and an ethical
idealism which can save man at once from complacency and
from despair; which can prompt him at the same time to
repentance and to aspiration. When religion is at its best
it can do that and I know of nothing but the paradox of true
religion equal to the task. But it is not easy to maintain
that kind of religion. The sophistication required to detect
sin, covert in the intricacies of social and economic life,
easily becomes fatal to the simple spirit of trust and faith
which keeps human life wholesome. We can not finally
solve the problems of man's aggregate existence if we can
not persuade men to love and trust one another even in
defiance of some immediate facts which might warrant and
justify mistrust. Faith at its best creates its own evidence
and validates its own assumptions.

The religion which seems to me worth fighting for is
one which knows how to rebuke men and yet preserve
respect for them, which knows how to be wise as a serpent
in analyzing the delinquencies of men and yet can be inno-
cent as a dove in its confidence in the essential goodness of
men. It may seem that the way to achieve such a religious
attitude is to proceed with equal vigor against both senti-
mentalists and cynics. But that is probably not the right
way. Cynicism hardly ever stands alone. It is usually the
shadow of hypocrisy. The best way to defeat it, therefore,
is to develop an ethical life of sufficient integrity to confound
those who have a sneer upon their lips when they speak of
the ways of men.

An experience in my own city confirms me in this convic-



tion. Who hasn't heard how our city entertained the Amer-
ican Federation of Labor Convention last year? The
convention itself was stodgy enough and would have
attracted little attention but for the more or less successful
effort on the part of the employing interests in the city tc
keep labor speakers out of Detroit pulpits and the Y.M.C.A,
forum. I have heard many plausible excuses for the general
capitulation of the churches before the hysteria of the busi-
ness community. But labor papers have drawn only one
conclusion from the episode and it is the right one. Thej
have pointed to the incident as a revelation of the too inti-
mate relation of the churches with the economic interests
of the employing classes.

THE fact is religion, which was once the special posses-
sion of the lowly and the humble, has come increasingly
under the influence of the successful classes in modern civil-
ization. The classes which suffer least from the moral limi-
tations of modern economic society find the optimism which
pervades the churches most congenial. To a certain extenl
they create that spirit of optimism and sentimentality. One
of the ministers of our city whose conscience was deeply
stirred by the A.F. of L. episode so that he unburdened him-
self on several successive Sunday mornings on the moral prob-
lems of modern industrial life was gently rebuked in his
official board. "Our Sunday morning services," said a good
elder, "have always been noted for their joyful and uplifting
quality. The happy note has been missing of late. People
don't come to church to be scolded. I hope we may soon
have a return to the happier mood which once characterized
our worship." Evidently Jonathan Edwards would have
a hard time of it in a modern metropolitan pulpit.

The church is not always unsuccessful in persuading the
privileged groups to share their blessings with the needy
with some degree of generosity. They have hardly tried
and have certainly not succeeded, in prompting them tc
share the power which is the basis of their privileges. Fail-
ing to do this, the critics of contemporary industrial society
are justified in regarding the church as, on the whole, a
hindrance to an ethical reorganization of modern life. Irre-
sponsible power, whether economic or political, is essentially
unethical ; and anything which gives it the semblance ol
morality is ultimately inimical to the ethical ideal. The
cynic who recognizes this fact is certainly nearer the truth
than the sentimentalist who hides it from himself and from
others.

As a nation we are exhibiting exactly the same attitudes
which characterize the privileged classes. Internationally we
are in fact the great privileged class. Pious as we are, we
seem to lack every resource of moral insight and imagination
to qualify international attitudes dictated by purely economic
facts. Europe is poor and we are rich. Europe needs us
and we do not need Europe. That is the determining factor
in our growing isolationism. Does Europe want an aim:
We will grant it ; and add a little advice on how to be
righteous and prosperous. But we will countenance noth-
ing which challenges our favored position and our economic
power. I recently attended a Sunday school convention in
which a well-known religious leader asked his hearers to take
grateful notice of the fact that President Coolidge had given
our national life a "spiritual note" such as it has not had for
generations. "Everyone of his public utterances contains the
makings of a good sermon." I do not think the whole church
is as bad as that, but the utterance (Continued on page 480)



Worms for Bait



By ROGER WILLIAM RIIS




shadows of summer evening were reaching
across a Long Island garden. In a little
while it would be dark, and the small boy
who was so active in one corner of the
garden was putting hurried effort to his
work. It would soon become difficult to see
the worms as his energetic shovel turned them up, and he
must get a proper supply of them if he were to start "first
thing in the morning" on his fishing trip.

Possessed of malice, the worms were slow about offering
themselves. He had turned over several square feet of earth
and as yet had only a half dozen curling victims in the tin
can beside him. A little tired and much worried, he paused
for a moment and straightened up.

Through the garden a man came toward him.

"What is it now?" asked the man.

"Worms for bait," replied the boy as he bent again to
the digging.

The man stood beside him and watched for a few minutes,
speaking once to point out a worm that the lad had missed.
Finally, "When are you going fishing?" he asked.

"First thing in the morning. Before breakfast. I wish
the darn worms would show up more."

"Well," said the man, "I know a way to get them up in
great shape. "Let's try it."

Willingly the boy gave up the shovel. The man stepped
to a piece of ground that had not yet been dug, forced the
spade twelve or fifteen inches into the ground,
and then commenced to move the handle back
and forth. The resulting jars at each end of
his stroke shook the earth for four or five feet
around. The boy watched curiously. Back
and forth the man moved the spade, mean-
while watching the surface of the ground
closely.

"There's one," he said suddenly, stooping
to pick up a panic-stricken worm which had
hurried to the surface. "And there's an-
other."

The boy was delightedly surprised.

"Hey, there's two more!" he cried. "Gee
whizz, Pop, that's a peach of a way. Oh, gee,
another!"

"They think it's an earthquake," the man
remarked conversationally, "and they come up
to see where it is. Maybe they get squeezed
a little, too, when they're underground."

A few minutes of this sufficed to put enough
worms into the tin can for any emergency of
fishing. As man and boy walked together to
put the spade away and to install the worms
safely for the night, the boy looked up,
hopefully.

"Pop, come along tomorrow, will yuh ?"

"Won't the other fellows mind?"







Jacob A.Riis, the father
447



"Mind!" exclaimed the boy stoutly. "No, they wouldn't
mind anyway, but they aren't going. It's just me. I got
a new pond I've only been to a coupla times. It's two miles
down toward Jamaica, and gee! the fishing's swell there!"

"All right, 'Billy, I'll come," said the man. "We'll start
about half past six, hey, and I'll get Rovisa to give us
something to eat to take along."

"All right," said the boy. That was all he said, for he
was not given to much self-expression. But his heart was
light. To have his father go with him on one of these
expeditions was an exciting and thrilling thing. His father
was always so busy, or away, and the few times he could
go along he was such a good skate and such an interesting
fellow! And, too, his father had that great prestige that
enabled him actually to ask Rovisa, the cook, to make
breakfast conform to the fishing expedition, and sense
enough to take breakfast along instead of having it at
home first. This was real luck.

"All right, Pop," said the boy. "I'll make the hooks after
dinner tonight."

So next day the two went hand in hand through the
fields, each carrying a maple pole, home-made, wound with
the black thread that was the line. The hooks the boy had
made by heating needles in a candle and bending them to
shape. The boy carried the worms in one hand, and held
his father's hand with the other.

The two spent a happy morning at the pond, yanking
out enough fat sun-fish to satisfy both of
them. Not until many years later, when the
boy read the man's autobiography, did he
discover that a million mosquitoes had at-
tended the expedition, too, and had worked
impartially and thoroughly on both of them.
Man and boy were bitten and sunburned ;
but they were happy, too, as they walked
home. It had been a good trip for both of them.
"Let's see if Rovisa's got an old pail or
somethin' for an aquarium," said the boy,
looking down proudly at the sun-fish that
pushed and flopped in the can that had held
the worms.

"Why don't we take that old wash boiler
from the tool shed and sink it in the ground
by the beeches?" suggested the man. "Let's
make a regular aquarium right in the ground."
"Gee whizz, let's! And we'll line it with
those shells you brought back from Denmark,
and and "

Mutually planning, they came home. Now
and then the boy's rather shy eyes would look
up at the man. In them was a look that spoke
eloquently. Occasionally the man looked down
at the boy and in his eyes was the same look.
Man and boy, father and son yes, but play-
mates at heart.



Soldiers' Graves

By DOROTHY CANFIELD




'NYONE watching from the cemetery could
have seen in the distance the little cloud
of dust which announced the approach of
the first Ford. But there was no one watch-
ing from the cemetery. The dead lay quiet
in their graves; the grass and trees and all
the growing things thrust their roots deeper into the warm,
moist earth and lifted their heads joyfully towards the
strong, living heat of the sun. There was no one who
cared in the least that the first Ford was approaching.

Presently it appeared, and ground slowly up the sandy
road, a small American flag waving from its radiator-cap.
Similar flags, new and paper-crisp, fluttered from the
wreaths of flowers held by the little country boys who filled
the car to the brim, perching three deep on the back seat.
When it stopped at the gate of the cemetery, the little
boys spilled themselves out without waiting to open the
doors. Like the grass and trees -and other growing things,
they were quivering and glistening with vitality. Their
small bodies were clad in their best clothes, every one had
a neck-tie, their hair was smoothly brushed back from their
round, well-soaped faces. Over their arms hung the wreaths
for the soldiers' graves.

"Now, don't go and put them on the Masons' graves, the
way they did last year," cautioned the driver of their car
energetically, as he slammed the Ford into reverse to turn
it around. "They didn't pay any attention to what they were
doing, and got everything all mixed up. Look for the
graves that have the G. A. R. standard and a flag. Take
out the old flag, put in your this-year's one and lay your
wreath down near the head of the grave. No, better lean
it up against the tombstone, if there is one."

The little boys listened seriously, nodded their under-
standing of these instructions, and walked on. It made
them feel important to be walking. They were very little
boys who usually skipped or ran.

More cars were arriving now, from which more clean-
faced little boys with wreaths were clambering out. In
one of the cars sat the minister who had come to "say a
few words and pronounce the benediction." A golden cloud
of dust hung in the air, shimmering.

Inside the cemetery there was no dust. It was not con-
sidered decorous for cars to roll in over the weedy gravel
of those driveways. The little boys, ten or twelve of them
now, walked forward, the smaller ones once in a while
giving a skipping hop to keep up with the bigger ones.
When they reached the older part of the cemetery where the
grayer tombstones stood, they separated and began to hunt
out the graves where a faded last-year's flag drooped from
the metal standard.

JOHN HEMINWAY ANDREWS
DIED IN CAMP FAIRFAX VIRGINIA

May 15, 1863

IN THE TWENTY-SECOND YEAR
OF HIS LIFE

The round-cheeked little boy did not read this, but he
saw the drab grizzled flag and knew that here was a place



for one of his wreaths. He stepped around the grave, and
set his wreath up against the tombstone. As he did this,
he leaned his hand for an instant upon the stone. Instantly
a silent scream burst up from the grave. The first of the
soldiers had awakened.

All the year around they lay quietly and rested in their
graves. They had all been country-men, at home under
the open sky. Neither the furious rages of winter, nor the
heat of the summer suns could disturb their sleep. Year
by year the shroud of their oblivion was thicker and
softer. ... If only little boys could be kept away from
their grassy beds. . . little boys with clear eyes and honest
faces and small kind harmless hands. At the touch of those
small hands, the dead men who had been small and harm-
less little boys themselves, awoke in the old agony to what
they were trying to forget.

John Andrews, who had died in Camp Fairfax in 1863,
had died screaming his heart out while the surgeons were
amputating his leg without anaesthetics. When he awoke
it was always in the midst of that shriek. But now it was
at the little boy he screamed, to warn him, to tell him, to
let him know. . . . He could never think of words for his
warning, he was so horrified by the child's rosy calmness, by
the candid clarity of his eyes, by his awful unawareness . . .
he could only shriek and shriek silently from his grave, till
the trees above him quivered to it, till the clouds echoed it
back. But none of the little boys ever heard him. Nor did
this one.

He looked carefully at the standard to make sure it was
the right one. The metal was so rusted that the letters
were almost illegible but he thought he could see G. A. R.
Were those the letters he had been told to look for? He
tried to remember. He had no idea what they meant.
Older people always take for granted that children know.
But little children are always new. They are not born
with any knowledge of what older people have lived with.

The little boy took out the dingy flag now and put in
the bright new one. It was the first time he had been old
enough to do this on Decoration Day and he wanted to get
it quite right.

Well, there was one wreath disposed of. Where was
another grave?

A LITTLE distance away from him was an older boy
who was already placing his second wreath. This
was his second year to come to the cemetery on Decoration
Day, and he knew what to do. He took the old flag briskly
from the standard, set in the new one, and laid his wreath
of lilacs up against the tombstone. His mother had told
him not to take longer than he need, because they were
all to go fishing that afternoon.

Under the matted grass of the grave he had just decorated
lay a dead man, who had been very poor and who had gone
away to war because he had been offered five hundred dol-
lars to take a rich man's place. With the money, he and
his young wife had planned to buy a farm of their own,



448



SOLDIERS' GRAVES



449



ariu havj u home in which to bring up their children. Very
dear to him were his three little sons so like this little boy
who now bent his fair round child-face above the old grave.
The dead man had never been very bright, and knew that
never in any other way could he earn so much money as
five hundred dollars. It had seemed an easy way to provide
a home for his children and his young wife, where he could
take care of them all as they grew up.

He had killed other men because he had been told to,
killed and maimed men whom he had never seen before,
who had never done anything to him ; and then one of
them had maimed and killed him. He had died in battle,
an expression of astonishment on his face (he had never
been very bright and had not at all understood what was
happening to him). The last thing he had seen was the
unknown face of the unknown man who was killing him
although they had never seen each other before. Death
had sealed that stranger's face upon his eyes, so that when,
with a start, once a year, he awoke from his sleep, he saw
two faces . . . the set, strange features of the man who was
driving a bayonet into his side, and a little boy's face, fresh
and clear and harmless, like his own little boy's face. He
had died without a sound, but now, as the child leaned
upon his breast to set the wreath in place he broke into a
groaning cry of "Misery! Misery!"

But no one heard him. The little boy brushed his hands
together' lightly to dust them off, and was about to turn
away when he saw a tiny fly buzzing in terror in a spider's
web. He stooped, broke the threads and freed the small
flying thing, which spun up into the sunny air with a whirr-
ing beat of gauzy wings.

At this the soldier in his grave groaned yet more loudly,
"Misery! Misery! Misery!" straining to be heard, till
the blades of grass growing over him shook with his violence.
The little boy, having placed all his wreaths, skipped
down the weedy path to join his mother.

A thin little boy who ought never to have been born
was stopping beside another grave. The little boy's mother
was "not all there" as country people say, and his father
was dying of tuberculosis. There were six children already,
all of them thin and white and sober-faced. This was the
oldest one at home, eight years old. The one older, a girl,
who was nine, was already in a sanitarium, her bones hav-
ing begun to rot away in her father's disease. The little
boy with the wreaths had known why she had been sent
away from home, and he was keeping carefully hidden a
sore on his knee that did not heal. He told no one about
it, and if anyone noticed that he limped, he always said he
lad just stubbed his toe.

He was happy now beyond anything imaginable. Al-
though his mother was not bright, and his father was shift-
less and sick, he had been chosen just like any other boy
to decorate the graves. He was in an ecstasy of elation.
In his smileless little face his eyes shone. It was the first
time in all his life that he had held a proud position of
trust like this. He had had a ride in an automobile, with
flags on it, with other little boys, well and strong and well-
dressed, whose fathers worked regularly and whose mothers
were clean and knew how to read and write. And now,
just like anyone, he was laying wreaths on the graves . . .
trusted . . . nobody watching him to see that he did it right
. . . responsible. He walked carefully, trying not to limp,
and glanced down at his knee once in a while to be sure



that the oozing matter from his sore had not soaked through
the cheap thin material of his trousers.

He laid a wreath on a grave ... a very fine grave with
a great marble tombstone, marked with the name of Captain
Elijah Hatwell on it. He was not going to take a mean
little grave when he could just as well have a fine one.

Under the great marble monument lay a happy man . . .
a man who like the little boy ought never to have been born,
who had lived to know it and to wish for death ; a man
whose sick-minded fathers had passed on to him a sick
brain, and whose mother had given him enough health to
see the fate which stood across his path. He had died slowly
of his wounds, months of dying in one hospital after an-
other, and all of it had been sweet to him, as his escape.
Soundly he slept . . . and he did not awaken as did his
comrades who had not wished to die, when rosy little boys
laid their small hands upon the old graves.

But today he stirred, and felt his stilled heart draw to-
gether in pain. "Come . . . come . . . come . . ." he mur-
mured pityingly to the little limping child. "Come . . .
come . . . come . . ." he called in a low compassionate tone
so sweet with longing that a thrush about to sing in the
tree above, stopped to listen.

But the little boy did not hear. People were gathering
at the other end of the cemetery, near the entrance, for
the "exercises," and he hurried off. He did not wish to
miss any of this day of glory.

A sturdy, broad-chested playmate of his called after him,
"I'll be there in a moment . . . I've got one more wreath
left."

He looked about hastily for a grave with a flag, and when
he saw one ran towards it energetically as he ran in his
games. Close beside it, he tripped and fell sprawling across
it, his wreath flying out of his hands.

The soldier beneath him had been as sturdy and broad-
chested as the little boy. He had left his pleasant, whole-
some, country life and had gone to war to defend his coun-
try's unity and to free black men held as slaves. He had
been proud of this, had been glad to die for it, and year
after year on the day when his dead comrades lost their
courage, he had kept a stern righteous silence. Although he
had winced at the touch of little boys' hands, he had al-
ways kept his eyes resolutely shut and his lips folded to
stillness. This year he had hoped he was forgotten, and
felt himself already sinking back into blessed blackness, when
the impact of the child's firm, strong, falling body startled
him from his gaze into oblivion.

He had no time to prepare himself, to stiffen, to resist.
He was gazing full into the little boy's eyes . . . clear . . .
clear . . . deep, and ignorant. Their utter, empty ignor-
ance of all the soldier knew, drove to his vitals like the
bullet that had killed him, and as instinctively as he had
screamed then, he screamed now . . . the thing the little
boy did not know, and that he knew. "Blood! Blood!
Blood !" he shrieked noiselessly.

It was the word he slept to forget. All eternity would
be too short a sleep to forget that word. Awake now, with
a clear-eyed living little boy lying on his breast, his scream
of "Blood! Blood! Blood!" rose from his grave like a
scarlet spray and fell back in dripping red drops upon the
child's beautiful strong body.

The little boy sprang hastily to his feet and looked about



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 101 of 130)