DECLINE AND FALL
Astonishing as are the phenomena of American public life, the pyjama Senators and boy-friend Mayors, the antics of the war veterans seem to put to the blush the wildest acts of self-seeking politicians. In the West the contingents Washington-bound have commandeered trains, interfered with the passage of United States' mail, and forced police to resist them openly. In New York they have stolen a ferry, and intimidated government officials into providing them with transportation. The threat of violence, always only implied, but ever present, has everywhere extorted food and shelter from the communities through which the veterans are passing. As a result of their efforts they are securing a vote in Congress on their pet bill, which calls for payment of $2,400,000,000 in fiat money as bonus; it is not inconceivable that these men may be able to make a raid on the Treasury, in one way or another.
Yet the claim of the veterans upon the taxpayer's pocketbook is selfish and altogether unfounded. There is no beatitude which promises the United States' Treasury to the drafted-into-arms, nor was there any heroic self-sacrifice on the part of the most of the men who formed the American Expeditionary Forces. Many of them were drafted, and used every expedient to avoid service. Others of the "veterans" never saw a transport. They have only the precedent of Civil War and Spanish-American War survivors to give them a moral basis for their demand, and thinking people agree that such a precedent should be broken.
The acquiescence of the public in the action of the expedition to Washington is only an indication of good-natured tolerance and unthinking approbation of "the boys". The action of officials who aided in the matter of supplying food, shelter, and transportation for men who would be dependent on the generosity of the District of Columbia for their living, is an unwise adoption of the easiest way out. There is great potential danger in large gatherings of men who are bent on selfish goals, schooled in the ways of violence, and very dissatisfied with existent conditions. They are the food of revolution, as Mussolini discovered. The only good result of the affair is that it gives the lie direct to Armistice Day orations which praise indiscriminately the "noble, patriotic self-sacrifice" of the ex-service men.