It is the inherent character of patriotism to be as blind as it is noble. Opinions formulated in the fervor of national faith are not infrequently inconsonant with truth. The American people have long been known for their fair-mindedness, but the enthusiasm of their present purpose has in many respects driven them to that bias and petty prejudice which must, above all things, be avoided. No more striking example of this tendency could be found than in the war-time position of our press. The American newspaper, in the formulation and expression of public opinion, reflects the attitude of our people. That this attitude should become biased by the exigencies of the time is an unwholesome sign in the development of a great race.
In the last months of the war we have felt keenly the downfall of Russian resistance. We have good cause to deprecate a policy which not only leaves a whole nation in the chaos of anarchy, but endangers the success of our arms. Yet, despite all this, there exists no reason for our press to pour abuse and call down hatred upon that people. For in what period of history has a single race been face to face, at one and the same time, with a great foreign war and a complete overthrow of all institutions? The Russian situation is indeed unfortunate, but it demands for its understanding, not the abuse of narrow-minded patriotism, but sympathy.
When we turn to the German people, we observe the same intolerance. The press is absolutely and unqualifiedly opposed to anything which may be proposed from that source. It refuses all consideration for those things which bear the Imperial stamp. Now we offer no brief for the German nation. We have found in their offers no basis for a just peace. We maintain the principle that they as yet lack the good faith which is so essential to the final settlement. Yet it seems that such an intolerant attitude is the blindness of a superficial patriotism. Only by earnestly watching for a change in the feeling of their people can we come to an understanding. How else is peace ever to be attained? Though we may find reason to doubt the integrity of their government, we may be generous enough to meet them half way.
America can afford fair play. If we have entered the war in a purity of idealism, we must not sink to the baseness of a narrow-minded prejudice. Let us remember that misguided and barbarous as the Germans appear, they are, after all, of the race from which we all spring. They undoubtedly have violated many of mankind's sacred laws, but they are human. When, crushed by the burden of insuperable odds, they shall finally turn their faces toward an honest peace, we must be ready to do our part in seeing that a decent consideration is given their proposals. In preparation for that time, we need not hurriedly condemn their every utterance. We should do better rather to maintain our traditional virtue of fair play.