Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Columnist Side of Drury

While Drury was working as a reporter in DC, he also wrote columns for the Palo Alto Times, the Waterloo Courier, and occasionally for other newspapers. Some of these columns and some excerpts from them are collected in Three Kids in a Cart: A Visit to Ike, and Other Diversions. It is a remarkable collection of insight, foresight, and sometimes (in his retrospective comments) hindsight.

"A Gray Day at the Beach" (December 7, 1951)

It was a half-cloudy day and we were coming home from church. Somebody said brightly, "Turn on the radio and let's see if if we're at war with Japan." We did, and we were. Later we drove out to the beach and looked at the Pacific. It was as though we had never seen it. It looked gray and hostile. It didn't look as though it belonged to us anymore.

For a while, it didn't; and then after a while, it did again. We were all brave, with a bravery it is hard to conceive of or imagine now. Some of us were so brave as to put the rest of us under obligation forever. But eventually the bravery was no longer necessary, the dark and mysterious and terrible things no longer took place on the other side of the sea.

Where did it all go, the dedication, the unity of feeling, the hopes, the determination? How did we let it get away? Whose was the fault, where the error?

Well, it is all gone now. Across the same gray sea the terror is on again....For what purpose, and to what end?

Sometimes it is hard to see. We work and we strive and we worry and we hope, and it ends in nothing, or what seems to be nothing. We take refuge in cliches: we say, "Well, it is all very well to have hindsight." Or we say, "Well, it is only human to make mistakes." Or we say, "Would you have done any better?" Or we talk about the will of God, as though it were His fault that we have ruined the world.

This is how we hold off the raving madness of what we had, and what we lost, and what did and did not do.

Is this the way out?...It is possible to wonder. Perhaps this is the cowardly way, the way foredoomed to failure. Perhaps it is time for bravery again.

Perhaps it is time to look upon the last ten years with the eyes of absolute candor, flinching at nothing, rationalizing nothing, excusing nothing. Perhaps it is time to analyze the universal guilt. observing how each of us contributed to the weakening, the wavering, the glib glossing-over, the deliberate hiding from reality, the great national pretending that peace could be automatic and painless even when we knew in our heart of hearts that it would exact continued sacrifice and restraint and forebearance and daring and imagination. Perhaps we should start with the knowledge that to some peoples history has given the privilege of of placing all the blame on their leaders, but not to us. In our nation, we are the leaders...

...first comes humility. After that, we may possibly begin to approach salvation.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? And here's Drury in a prophetic mood, for all those who don't think it's appalling that many Democrats want all their conservatives and moderates well as being an admonition to those Republicans who'd like to drive all the liberals out of the GOP's big tent.

"Divide and Conquer" (Sept. 13, 1948).

....According to this theory it is often said that it would be a desirable thing to have a political realignment which would put all those on the left in one party and all those on the right in another. There could be no greater tragedy for America. With such alignment would come an end to the talent for compromise which is the foundation of our country. The talent would die because it would no longer have an opportunity to function. As people became pushed more rigidly and inescapably into conflicting compartments, a steady decline in social and political relations between them would occur. All or nothing would soon become the slogan; and those who succeeded in getting all would find themselves holding nothing.

Diversity of opinion on the part of individuals and within groups is one of the great checkreins on American government. Given sufficient diversity, there has to be compromise, for only by compromise can anything constructive get done. End the diversity and you end the compromise.

And here's a useful explication of American foreign policy as it should be, and will be, until and unless America is no longer America:

"A Shocking Proposal" (June 30, 1950)

So we can dismiss all the mistakes, running all the way back to Yalta and beyond...nobody is going to profit from a rehash. Probably nobody is even going to profit from one basic truism which underlies everything else -- namely, that the United States of America has always fought, and if it remains worthy of its heritage always will fight, in defense of human liberty, freedom and decency.

If that fact could just once be accepted by the leaders of other powers, none would dare to even begin the series of steps which inevitably lead to war with America. If it could just be accepted by the leaders of America, none would ever have to find the country with its back against the wall starting the long road back through an inexcusable war...

Time after time...the jeering questions have come back: "Are you in favor of going to war? Are you in favor of sending American boys to die?" And not once have the critics had the guts to come back with the obvious answers:

"Yes, we are in favor of going to war, if that is the only way to preserve human integrity. Yes, we are in favor of sending American boys to die, if...that is the only way human freedom can be saved."

We are always too cowardly to state the principle -- and we are always too brave to let the principle go down to defeat.We have always fought for it. We are fighting for it now. And please God, we always will fight for it.

...As far as the final reality is concerned, it doesn't matter in the least whether we approach this truism...with all sorts of crawfishing, dodging and self-serving rationalizations, or whether we simply announce at the end of one war that if human freedom is challenged we will fight another. As a matter of fact, we have never tried the latter is exactly what we have done.

We cover up our one consistent national principle under words and phrases and diplomatic double-talk dictator will believe it until too late. We confuse our enemies no less than we confuse ourselves...

...Many believe...that the one way to break the pattern is to bring the truth into the open and simply say, "If you attack the free, we will fight. We give you our word, supported by our entire national history. Attack at your peril. We will destroy you if you do."


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