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To the Editor of the Crimson:
May an old alumnus, a veteran who lived through the last war and is now trying to live through the present war, say a few words to the students of Harvard at this opening of a new and desperately critical year?
The words I would speak are words of warning against the members of your faculty. They have been acting very badly since the war began. Not all of them, by any means; but enough of them to dominate the sentiment of the University, and to throw its influence to the support of the war-mongers of this country. While the students of Harvard and of other colleges have been behaving admirably, the professors, all too many of them, have quite gone off their heads. Panic began in Cambridge before it siezed the rest of the nation, and all through the summer distinguished doctors of philosophy, law, and letters played the role of emotional whirling dervishes.
This is not surprising. Scholars and intellectuals generally have a peculiar propensity for going mad in war-time. Those of us who lived through the last war remember the disgraceful spectacle of learned men in all the belligerent countries of 1914-18 sustaining and idealizing a war which we now know to have been on both sides the most shameful exhibition of military imperialism in modern times. In Germany, professors were the first to proclaim the justice of the Kaiser's war, and to acclaim his invasion of Belgium and France. In England, professors made speeches, wrote articles and books, headed propaganda agencies, which painted the sordid European struggle as a Hl-like crusade to end war, to save civilization, and to make the world safe for democracy. In America, professors led the baying pack which drove the nation into the war in 1917, and carried our boys across the seas to fight and die on European battlefields. It might not unreasonably be expected that men trained to knowledge would be able to read the meaning of history as it flows by; to lead the public in calmly seeking truth amid error, prejudice and fear; to use their knowledge to illumine the scene of darkness and terror. But no! In this last war professors were worse than politicians. They were the blind leading the blind, the mad inciting the mad.
All this is important as bearing on the present situation. For this war, as you should know, is just like the last war Indeed, it is this last war begun all over again the same causes, the same conflicts, the same combatants! We are being told, to be sure, that it is something different a holy crusade for a holy cause! just as we were told this thing about the war of 1914-18. Every war is always "different" from other wars while it is being fought and the glamor of heroism and sacrifice is still upon it. But when "the cold gray dawn of the morning after" has come, the sordid reality is revealed. The last war, as the documents have proved, was not holy at all. And this war is the continuation of that war! So says the Hon. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the British Empire, who ought to know. Addressing the House of Commons in his famous speech on August 21st last, he stated, ". . . this war is, in fact, only a continuation of the last."
Yes, it's the same old war. And the professors are performing the same old tricks. Do not be bewitched by them! They have lost their heads. They have eaten of the insane-root. You will live long enough to prove this, for a quarter of a century from now on we shall know about this war what we now know about the last war. We are in the clutch of imperialism--and the professors have been fooled again!
It would be an interesting subject for a Ph.D. thesis--why professors go mad in war. Another thesis might be written on why students keep sane. In this war, at least, you boys have done just that. While the nation has been going crazy, you have remained calm. While the government has been driving us swiftly towards war, with professors laying on the lash, you have refused to be stampeded. Insistently you have maintained the dignity of education. The sanity of youth in this mad hour is perhaps the most encouraging sign of the times that this world is not yet lost. This sign must endure. Therefore, hold fast! Listen to your teachers with a healthy skepticism. Remember that they don't know half so much as they seem to know, or pretend to know. They were mistaken last time; why should they be right this time? John Haynes Holmes '02
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