Upton Sinclair: Decade of national cynicism, corruption followed “war for democracy”
From Boston (1928)
The day of glory, sung in the “Marseillaise,” had arrived; the American troops stopped the first German onslaught, and began their counter-offensive which was to end the war. The whole country thrilled with it – all but a few perverse persons, so constructed that they could not think of glory, but only of bodies crawling about in burning forests, dragging shattered limbs and protruded entrails. “Ah, but the broken bodies, that drip like honeycomb!”
This was a celebration in which even the pacifists could join. The nation would have one or two hundred thousand cripples to take care of – but at least you didn’t have to think of new thousands being made every day!…Such wonderful promises, a world fit for heroes, a world made safe for democracy, a world in which the last war had been won by the forces of justice! So we had been told in a golden glowing speech at least once a week for a year and a half; and now we were to see it made real. As a first step President Wilson packed up his typewriter and his fourteen points, and went over to Europe to oversee the making of a world charter. His packing appeared to be careless, for he lost one of the points in England – that providing for the “freedom of the seas” – and had only thirteen when he landed in France.
The American people had been told to trust him; he was the President, and sources of information not open to the rest of us…But now it turned out that he hadn’t any sources of information, or if he had, he hadn’t used them. He had made no bargains whatever with the allies, he had not made them give up a single one of their greedy demands. And now, of course, it was too late; the danger was over, the allies were no longer afraid, and would do exactly what they pleased.
It was a disillusioning experience, and was to produce ten years of cynicism and corruption in every department of American life. The climax came when the President capitulated to the diplomatic ravens, and let them have their prey, and came home and told the public that that was what his fourteen points had meant. He did more than that – he went before a committee of the Senate, and stated that he had not known about the secret treaties until he went to Paris; which one had to take as Pascal took the doctrine of his church, and believe it because it was impossible.