To the editors: Your editorial (Dec. 15) "Blood, Sweat and Tears" is for me a perfect example of that secularism which the Bishops of the United States in a recent statement deplore as a greater danger than Communism. It is an attempt to outline a national defense from the viewpoint of the natural man, untouched by grace, unredeemed. It is also the attempt to speak with the voice of authority, in exalted accents, and except for a beautiful paragraph you quote from Christopher Dawson which seems to belie the rest, it fails to lift up the faltering arms and strengthen the weak knees. It is a cry of distress, of despair almost. It is certainly a cry of fear.
Ignazio Silone said at a Congress in Zurich in 1947: ''To be perfectly frank, I do not know if, in recent years, there has been a single country or a single party in which the intellect has not been degraded to the humiliating function of an instrument of war. I assure you, I do not intend to hurt anyone's feelings or to cast the least doubt on the good faith of these writers who at their own risk and peril took part in the ideological war. What I mean to say is, that now the war is over, nobody can deny that the use made by the military leaders of the work of these writers and of the eloquent slogans invented by them was identical with the use made of this or that war weapon. In fact, as soon as there was no more use for them, the principles of liberty, human dignity and universal security were put back in to storage just as if they were tanks. That is why we have this peace, which is no peace but at best an uncertain armistice. . . . Never identify the cause of moral value with that of a state. . . . Only by the sacrifice of intellectual honesty is it possible to identif y the cause of truth with that of an army."
In time of trouble men turn everywhere but to God, the author of the Imitation of Christ writes. It is as though we are saying these days, as it was said at the beginning of the last world war, "'This is no time for the beatitudes. This is the time for the militant virtues." All the forces we used then, including the atom bomb, did not bring us peace hut built up an ever vaster war.
In the Old Law war was looked upon as a retribution for sin. God always asked for prayer and penance first of all, and He asked for prayer and penance first of all, and He asked too that armies be whittled down to a handful so that His would be the glory. In Deuteronomy rules were laid down for warfare. If men were newly married or had just bought farms or had no desire for war, no talent for it, they were to be sent home. In Maccabees they were even required to be in a state of grace, as it were, free of sin.
Now we have the New Law and we are still disregarding the Old. "Blessed is he who will not be scandalized in Me," Our Lord said in his message to John the Baptist. But we are all scandalized. We see only the failure of the Cross. We have not accepted the folly of the Cross, the humiliated Christ. Now we have begun to be humiliated in Korea. If only we could accept our humiliation in a spirit of penance; if only there is no use of atomic weapons, if only we refrain from a great moral revulsion, not from fear alone, God may save us yet.
IN THE SAME issue an editorial states that there was no widespread feeling of moral guilt after the bomb was used on Hiroshima. Have the editors so lost faith in the people as to believe that? The legend is that Moses was not permitted to reach the promised land because he wavered in his faith in his people. To lose this faith is not to see Christ in others.
It is time to protest against this horror of war, each one to say no against the acceptance expected by the State. There is an attempt to hush up the "No's" and to gain a unanimous approval of the people who are wondering how we came to be involved in Korea. Do they know these facts about that country where we were "resisting aggression"? Absentee landlords owned most of the land in Korea, the largest being the Oriental Development Company, a Japanese-controlled corporation, which held title to more than half the farm land. Under Japanese rule, the smaller Korean farmers rapidly lost what land they owned, so that from 1918 to 1938 the number of tenant farmers increased by 45 percent. U.S. Department experts put the rent as high as 6o percent of the crop. Other sources put it as high as 90 percent. So little of the crop was left for the families that even in a good year they suffered hunger, the "spring hunger" during which they staved off starvation by living off bark and roots of trees, grass and earth. In rating the diet level of 70 countries, a recent pamphlet published by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Commission put Korea at the bottom of the list with a per capita diet of only 1,904 calories a day.
"After U. S. troops took over from South Korea in 1945," George McCune wrote in his recent book, Korea Today, "the Oriental Development Company became the New Korea Company and an arm of the department of agriculture, and continued to operate not only its own varied interests, but in December, 1945, was designated as manager of all former Japanese-owned land. In 1947, U.S. financial journals estimated the assets of the corporation at $1,250,000,000 and stated that corporation controlled 64 percent of Korea's dry lands; 80 percent of its rice lands; 350,000 acres of forest lands. Its industrial holdings included shipbuilding, textiles, iron mining, alcohol, and shoe industries. The National City Bank of New York was its fiscal agent."
To repeat all these things is to run the risk of being accused of using Communist propaganda. The fact remains that in the Old Law, during a year of jubilee, lands that were mortgaged were returned, debts remitted, bondsmen freed. This has been no such Holy Year. The Commonweal editorial does not call for the liberation, the saving of the peoples of the East. "We must, for the time being," it reads, "leave the continent of Asia to its fate." It is now necessary, the article continues, "to save our own lives, our own way of life," so we must arm and hold Western Europe. In another part of the same issue there is a severe rebuke handed by one correspondent to Etienne Gilson for spreading a gospel of defeatism.
WE SHALL OF course be called defeatists and appeasers. Nevertheless I would say that our way of life, as we are living it, is not worth saving. Let us lay down our way of life, our life itself, rather than go on with this senseless slaughter.
It is possible to begin now to truly liberate our brother and ourselves, by beginning to fulfil the vow, we made at our baptism, to renounce, in order to be—to put on Christ, Who laid down His life for His friends.
And not to speak in too general terms, to consider such steps as not paying income taxes, and whatever other forms of civil disobedience may prove effective, giving up jobs which contribute to the social disorder which makes for war; in other words, giving all things as Saint Matthew did and not going back to the tax office or money tables. Saint Peter could go back to his nets but not Saint Matthew to his money changing!
This is a call to the rich and the poor, and the great middle class of our country, in whose spiritual capacities I have faith. They are there, these great reserves of desire, at least, to help and love our brothers. And if we do not have the knowledge and courage to act, and if we lack leadership to inspire and guide us, God will bring it about that we will be stripped, to walk in His little way.
New York, N.Y.
[For more of Dorothy Day's writings from Commonweal, see our full collection.]