America Strikes Back: A Record of Contrasts

America Strikes Back: A Record of Contrasts

America Strikes Back: A Record of Contrasts

America Strikes Back: A Record of Contrasts

Excerpt

Legends have a mysterious longevity. In the course of a few generations law, institutions, economic and governmental systems may, and often do, greatly change because the ideas affecting them have changed. But bare assertion, when repeated often enough, becomes established as seeming truth; and the mere scrutiny of it may then be looked upon as presumption.

The range of legend includes peoples as well as individuals and eras. Through that medium a people looms as something it both was and was not. Our notion of "the glory that was Greece," for example, has a basis in the classic beauty of Greek art, which contains few reminders of the misery of a helot population. If judged by the extent of Roman power, "the grandeur that was Rome" is not legendary; but the definition of that grandeur is not allowed to include the degradation and oppression of Rome's plebeian masses.

Legends drawn from antiquity arose at a time when written knowledge was scarce. Yet the avalanche of books and the wide reading of modern times provide us no guarantee against the growth of new legends. Quite the contrary. The more widely error is published and imbibed, the greater its claim to unquestioned acceptance. Thus there has been affixed to America the character of a nation sodden with materialism.

Why has no examination been made into the nature of these assertions? At any time either common sense or knowledge could have prompted the taking of well-grounded exceptions to a campaign of assertion which singled out one country alone as the pernicious exponent of materialism. At any time, too, inquiry could have been made into the consecutive arraignment, both imported and domestic, of America as mercenary; the land of mediocrity, deficient in culture; the country ruled by a reckless, incompetent democracy. Why have these accusations been vested with such authority as to pre-

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