Thinking, as Well as Fighting.
(We invite all men in the University to submit communications on subjects of timely interest, but assume no responsibility for sentiments expressed under this head.)
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The Union for American Neutrality feels that the misrepresentations of it which are now going the rounds entitle it to state its position fully. This is no time for bickerings or bad blood. The R. O. T. C. and the Union should seek to work together, for both are seeking to serve the country. No opposition to the R. O. T. C. is implied by the published platform of the Union, to which I subscribed. I am now suggesting, on my own responsibility, how the R. O. T. C. needs the Union.
We have naturally been dubbed pacifists. Nor does the name cause us shame. But the fact is that, as a group, we do not stand dogmatically for war or peace. What we stand for, above all, is a democratic and enlightened method of deciding whether war or peace is our duty. What we are fighting against are the Prussian methods and spirit, which do at least seem to threaten Harvard's ideals of freedom and reason. We hate this Prussianism at home more than Prussian submarines abroad. This spirit has taken two marked forms already. I speak now of one only.
In our judgment, an unreasoning obedience to authority is being preached here, as against a democratic control over the authorities. Students are being told not to concern themselves with the inquiry as to what is the wisest action for the country. Instead, wrote a distinguished contributor to the CRIMSON recently, "It is the duty of Harvard men to line up ready for orders, not to take a vote as to the wisdom of those orders." This means, does it not, that the President shall commit the American people to war or peace without their saying one word. Our newspapers, of course, do not voice public opinion, but only print class opinions. Use the word "Kaiser" and you could not tell it was not Prussia. So far, therefore, as the R. O. T. C. discourages thinking, thinking straight and thinking publicly, we believe it suffocates our democracy. We submit that if the issue is to be decided in the interests of the many, the many must formulate their views and press them upon the President and Congress. Otherwise, the sinister minority interests will have their way. We have, therefore, declared for a referendum to guide Washington. And we implore every student to reason out for himself whether war or peace will make for the greatest eventual happiness of Americans and to write his Congressman and the newspapers. A single individual can, it is true, exert but slight influence. Yet the combined effect is tremendous, just as many individuals make a regiment.
The other points emphasized by the Union cannot be discussed here. Let this letter drive home one cardinal truth: that in a democracy, patriotism means thinking for the nation, quite as much as fighting for it; and unless the thinking takes place first, we may expect such consequences as the tragic European war exhibits. CECIL H. SMITH 2L.