Assistant Village Idiot, in his post Wisdom from a Liberal of Another Era, quoted this paragraph - among others - from a 1938 E.B. White essay in One Man's Meat:
I'm down now; the barn is tight, and the peace is preserved. It is the ugliest peace the earth has ever received for a Christmas present. Old England eating swastika for breakfast instead of kipper is a sight I had as lief not lived to see. And though I am no warrior, I would gladly fight for the things Nazism seeks to destroy. (Living in a sanitary age, we are getting so we place too high a value on human life - which rightfully must always come second to human ideas.)
I say "Old England eating Islam instead of kippers." (I love kippers for breakfast.) The New Yorker has always had an anglophilic streak. But AVI asks:
Does anyone at the New Yorker think that today?
Read his whole piece, which I have been thinking about for a week. AVI rightly observes that today's anti-war folks would probably renounce pacifism, but claim that Iraq is not a place for Americans to die. That is debatable, but it seems that the bad guys need to be killed somewhere. Why not there?
But on to the bigger issues: Do we, today, tend to place too high a value on human life? Are there ideas we will die for, or communities we will die for, or will we only die for family? Is our precious selfhood, which some might term narcissism, more important than anything else to us and, if it is, what changed between 1938 (before the US was in the war) and today?
Photos: Yes, we are E.B. White fans. Below is the Maine boathouse in which he wrote Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. A favorite E.B. White quote:
"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have a hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult."