Home > Uncategorized > Sinclair Lewis: College education makes soldiers more patriotic, flag-waving, and skillful in the direction of slaughter

Sinclair Lewis: College education makes soldiers more patriotic, flag-waving, and skillful in the direction of slaughter

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

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Sinclair Lewis
From It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

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By June, the enrollment of the Minute Men had increased to 562,000, and the force was now able to accept as new members only such trusty patriots and pugilists as it preferred. The War Department was frankly allowing them not just "expense money" but payment ranging from ten dollars a week for "inspectors" with a few hours of weekly duty in drilling, to $9700 a year for "brigadiers" on full time, and $16,000 for the High Marshal, Lee Sarason… fortunately without interfering with the salaries from his other onerous duties.

Since all members of the National Guard were not only allowed but encouraged to become members of the Minute Men also, since all veterans of the Great War were given special privileges, and since "Colonel" Osceola Luthorne, the Secretary of War, was generous about lending regular army officers to Secretary of State Sarason for use as drill masters in the M.M.'s, there was a surprising proportion of trained men for so newly born an army.

Lee Sarason had proven to President Windrip by statistics from the Great War that college education, and even the study of the horrors of other conflicts, did not weaken the masculinity of the students, but actually made them more patriotic, flag-waving, and skillful in the direction of slaughter than the average youth, and nearly every college in the country was to have, this coming autumn, its own battalion of M.M.'s, with drill counting as credit toward graduation. The collegians were to be schooled as officers. Another splendid source of M.M. officers were the gymnasiums and the classes in Business Administration of the Y.M.C.A.

Most of the rank and file, however, were young farmers delighted by the chance to go to town and to drive automobiles as fast as they wanted to; young factory employees who preferred uniforms and the authority to kick elderly citizens above overalls and stooping over machines; and rather a large number of former criminals, ex-bootleggers, ex-burglars, ex-labor racketeers, who, for their skill with guns and leather life-preservers, and for their assurances that the majesty of the Five-Pointed Star had completely reformed them, were forgiven their earlier blunders in ethics and were warmly accepted in the M.M. Storm Troops.

It was said that one of the least of these erring children was the first patriot to name President Windrip "the Chief," meaning Führer, or Imperial Wizard of the K.K.K., or Il Duce, or Imperial Potentate of the Mystic Shrine, or Commodore, or University Coach, or anything else supremely noble and good-hearted. So, on the glorious anniversary of July 4, 1937, more than five hundred thousand young uniformed vigilantes, scattered in towns from Guam to Bar Harbor, from Point Barrow to Key West, stood at parade rest and sang, like the choiring seraphim:

"Buzz and buzz and hail the Chief,
And his five-pointed sta-ar,
The U.S. ne'er can come to grief
With us prepared for wa-ar."

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