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Dr. Alexander Meiklejohn, former President of Amherst College, has reentered the journalistic spotlight by making the statement that democracy is a delusion, a gospel and a venture, in that it treats people as if they were intelligent, kind, pure, high, generous and sweet. They are nothing of the sort, says Professor Meiklejohn. Since he is evidently referring to American democracy, it must be inferred that the people mentioned are members of the American public.
Nor is he alone in the casual caustic. One profound commentator on national life has found Americans to be a race of Rotarians, thinking only of themselves. Another novelist places these unfortunates low in the scale by declaring them to be a race of rather nasty people, seeking primarily to satisfy their lowest impulses. A foreign writer glances across the ocean and through the haze of three thousand miles deduces that they are prigs, smug claimants of virtue where no virtue exists. A recent visitor to Boston pronounces them a lazy people, desiring luxury and case. And their most consistent critic declares that they are guilty of all the foregoing charges and a great many more; as many, to be precise, as he finds necessary to keep the pages of his cultural magazine filled to over-flowing. Now Dr. Meiklejohn has summed Americans up as a race of unintelligent, unkind, corrupt, debased, miserly people.
Obviously this is a matter of grave concern. In some way, these yokels and morons must be made into men and women of real ideals, into human beings. To this task these men feel called. For the good of the American public, they are willing to spend their lives pointing out the faults of the genus Americana. These prophets will indicate the way, will lead American to the promised land, will ensconce the American citizen on the throne of learning, culture and refinement. The vita activa finds candidates still.
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