||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
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.