The New Era
Today, we are told, is the start of a new era. Men who haven't smiled for twenty years are realigning their facial muscles so that they can give a good broad grin for "Ike" as he rides down Pennsylvania Avenue this morning. The newspaper publishers are throwing away their ready-made slugs of type bearing the words "fumbling," "bungling," "corruption," and "pinks," and replacing them with bright new slugs designated "honesty," "integrity," and "efficiency." The purveyors of the mass media have been congratulating us for some weeks past on how lucky we are to have a leader and an Administration behind which the whole country can rally in this time of crisis, and how fortunate to find that we still have a Constitution to whose principles we can return after that noble document has been alternately ignored and abused for the past two decades.
Behind the lofty, almost ethereal, sentiments of President-elect Eisenhower emblazoned on the covers of our national magazines, can one discern a single tinge of red, or hear the scrape of a single subversive note? Most certainly not, John Foster Dulles, having heroically dared the Federal Bureau of Investigation to probe his background, has come through cleaner than a hound's tooth. Two minor clerks in General Eisenhower's office, presumably not so prudent as Mr. Dulles, have been consigned to outer darkness for their past indiscretions. And the music of Aaron Copland, a man who is said to have "a long and questionable record of questionable affiliations," has been stricken from the program of the inaugural concert to be held in Washington this evening.
One cannot question the desire of any government to present a spotless record of honesty and loyalty to those it serves. One may question, however, whether the type of prophylaxis represented by the Copland episode can give us a government that is clean without being sterie. While it will probably make little difference to the boozed-up bigwigs who attend tonight's concert whether they hear the music of Mr. Copland or not, many people in Washington will learn from this episode that the new government does not want anything to do with anything that is "questionable" in any way. Some of them will be making policies or performing services for the new administration, and when they are faced with the choice of following some old, well-established line or making some new, perhaps questionable, departure, they will be that much more inclined to choose the former, and thus deprive their government, and their country, of what may represent original thought on old and vexatious problems.
The elaborate acts of ritual purity with which the new government is ushering itself into office are not encouraging. One may hope that they are only a temporary affliction of a party recently unused to power, and unsure of how to gain and hold the confidence of the people. If they are permanent, the new government will have great difficulty in adjusting to and meeting the enormously complicated problems facing it and the world, and its "odor of sanctity" will soon begin to stink.