The Regional Review

Volume VI - Nos. 5 & 6

May-June, 1941

The Regional Review

Vol. VI. May-June Nos. 5 & 6

Symbols of Americanism

These are not normal times. More than half the civilized world is at war. Tanks, crashing across the landscape, grind the visible signs of human habitation as flowers and fruits and cultivated rows and with them, humanity itself into the earth. War birds of the skies fly with terrible loads of death and destruction a thousand miles to wreck the work of human hands and cut at the heart and arteries of industry and transportation. Human blood flows freely and human life is cheap.

The history of this war is the history of all wars. They start with an incident or an ambition. They flame to meteoric intensity, and cut deeply into the heart of human progress and into man's efforts toward the immortal. They leave blackened scars and blackened lives and desolation. They leave shattered citadels of art and science and religion.

America is not yet at war. But the lives of all Americans are effected by the struggle across the seas. The prices on commodities of all kinds skyrocket out of reason. At the same time vast sums of money are released into the channels of trade. It is necessary to build defenses by which we will protect our national freedom and by which we will maintain our personal life, liberty and the heart-breaking pursuit of happiness. It becomes necessary for us to think and work by night and day to do our part to keep these shores unencumbered by the chains of any type of government than that in which we believe.

These are certainly not normal times. We go about our daily lives with an undercurrent of excitement. We can feel it in the business deals we make; we can hear it in the beat of feet to factory, mine and workshop. It is uncertainty, an uneasy preparation for something which might or might not come.

Everything is geared to national defenses. Everyone is thinking and talking in terms of national defense. Almost every individual and agency plays some part in the vast national scheme against any man or group of men who seek to disrupt our democracy. Every American activity not important to national defense, is given a back seat in both private and public endeavor.

There are some who claim that the conservation of America's natural resources is not an important item in the plans for the protection of our land. These claims are usually made by persons not conversant with the role which the resources of America played in the building-up of this empire we now value so jealously. The forests, they say, will grow again, and the wildlife return with the minimum protection. Such statements are a basis for presentation of facts, figures and strong words.

But there is another side to this national defense. In the world today, where every person is geared up with the machinery to maximum production, there must be an occasional space for relaxation. The human body is so constructed that it cannot blast away night and day, without rest, and expect to endure for its appointed span of years. One part of the old flesh and blood machine goes on the blink, and almost immediately it is followed by the collapse of all other organs which work in harmony with it. Hand in hand with the need for physical and mental recreation comes the demand of the spirit for some process by which it is jarred out of its lethargic existence and elevated to reaches beyond the mere height of man. The spirit finds its relaxation in beauty. All the senses of the being are attuned to catch the merest fragments of beauty, even though they flash like falling stars and are gone again almost before they are recognized. A musical chord, a picture in the changing loveliness of the earth, an inspiration not born of glands or blood or human flesh - those things we touch and feel with the antennas of our being - they keep man in touch with the infinite. And at the same time they keep his feet against the swell of the earth and his head clear for the job at hand.

The national parks are symbols of beauty. They are the lovely, virgin parts of our world over on this side of the ocean which were salvaged when the foundations of an empire were being laid down, tree by tree, stone by stone and by the sweat and blood of pioneers. They are the symbols of Americanism. They are as important to the people of this land as the largest guns mounted on the coastline and the fastest fighter planes which cut the blue sky lanes above the earth and squeeze the world together. They help fulfill a desire of which man is only vaguely aware until the means to gratify that desire are lacking.

More than ever now, in these abnormal times, we need such reservoirs of beauty where we may go and refresh our souls. It is certainly true that while wisdom is needed to guide the destiny of any nation, beauty is needed for its existence. We may drive our physical bodies far beyond their strength without evil effects, but we must set aside a little time for mental and spiritual inspiration to help us bridge the desolate times ahead through which the world is struggling back to normalcy.


view of mountains and trees
Courtesy Virginia Conservation Commission

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Date: 04-Jul-2002