Herr Hitler's submarines, by their most recent torpedoings, have given the people of this country some tangible alibi for urging Congress to scrap the Neutrality Act. The sudden outcry of "out-rage" and "dastardly rattlesnake" must be reminiscent, to those who lived through it, of the last war and the Lusitania.
When they find some definite action into which they can sink their fangs the people seem to forget or to ignore the logic of the "outrages." What did the newspaper editors of the nation think Hitler would do when our Navy was told to fire on his ships? Smile benignly on us, say "danke schoen" and turn back to his knackwurst? If we're going to shoot, so's he; two can play at that game. He has nothing at all to gain from letting American ships loaded with supplies pass by his undersea blockade unharmed. America is unneutral already; sinking our merchant marine won't make us any more so.
In the fact that we already are so ostensibly and proudly unneutral lies the real reason for repealing the outdated Neutrality Act. Written when it appeared that America's aim should be to keep out of the war at all costs, the Act is only an anachronism and a hindrance, when the nation's aim has shifted to a target precisely in the opposite direction.
If the ship sinkings do serve a purpose, it should be to show the nation the handicaps of sending out American ships unarmed and defenceless, at the mercy of any grim and realistic, if not "merciless" raider. A five inch gun on board a merchant ship is powerful as a defensive threat, forcing the submarines under the seas in their attacks. It gives the ship more of an even break. The sooner our ships get guns, the more chance we will have of decreasing the ghastly acceleration of lives lost at sea.
This is a time for excitement and anti-Nazi feeling, but not for blind fury and useless foaming at the mouth. We must accept the ship sinkings not as the murders of a maniac but as logical moves in the game of war. We must use them as evidence in proving to Congress that the Neutrality Bill must be repealed, but we must use them for their true witness value, not for the emotion of hatred which they arouse.