'Put Away Your Flags.' (Dorothy Day on the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) (Editorial)

Article excerpt

More than any other person I've ever met, Dorothy Day deserved to be called a saint. That's not a sentiment she would have appreciated. When the late Milton Mayer wrote about Dorothy Day in the November 1977 issue of The Progressive, he noted her impatient response to talk of sainthood: "I don't want to be dismissed so easily."

Still, sainthood inevitably comes to mind because Dorothy Day, who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement, devoted her life to achieving a peaceful and just world. She didn't embrace peace and justice as a goal or a cause or a vocation; she lived peace and justice, and she brooked no compromise.

A friend just sent me a remarkable document-the text of a talk Dorothy Day delivered on December 8, 1941, to the Liberal-socialist Alliance in New York City. It was published recently in a paper called The Little Way, which is issued by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, D.C. December 8, 1941, was, of course, the day after the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor-a day when even the most committed pacifist might have been forgiven for maintaining a discreet silence. There was nothing discreet about Dorothy Day.

I had never read these words before, and I want to share them with The Progressive's readers. Here are excerpts:

"There is now all this patriotic indignation about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Japanese expansionism in Asia. Yet not a word about American and European colonialism in this same area. We, the British, the French, and others set up spheres of influence in Asia, control national states-against the expressed will of these states-and represent imperialism in the Orient. We dictate to Japan as to where she can expand economically and politically, and we declare what policy she must observe. From our nationalistic and imperialistic point of view, we have every right to concentrate American military forces in the Philippines, confronting Japan at her front door. Were Japan to face us from Cuba, what would be our reaction? If the United States insists upon a colonialist policy in Asia, then this nation must be prepared for a militaristic backlash....

"But I waste rhetoric on international politics-the breeding grounds of war over the centuries. The balance of power and other empty slogans inspired by a false and flamboyant nationalism have bred conflict throughout |civilized' history. …