Our Last Stand (Vol. 2, Issue 5)
Eighteen years ago today, world leaders called a moratorium on murder. Tomorrow, next week, or next month, that moratorium will expire. Then—back to the slaughter.
Eighteen years have passed. Just long enough for a new generation to grow up. A generation too young to know the full misery of the last war, and just old enough to be sent off to learn the horrors of the next.
A good number of changes have occurred in the intervening years. “Splendid isolation” has been dealt a death-blow by advances in aviation. When one can fly from New York to Berlin in a day or so, war definitely ceases to be a local phenomenon. It becomes as unconfined and as contagious as the plague. While, only a few years ago, disturbances in isolated places could be dismissed as of a passing nature, the slightest signs of unrest at present are cause for just alarm.
With this, of course, goes the fact that immunity for any part of the citizenship has likewise been relegated to limbo. The coming conflict will certainly not be restricted to the comparative few who are sent to the front. Next week’s battlefield will not be some de serted plain upon which military maneuvers will be held. It will be down the block, or in the next door backyard.
For this second result of scientific progress, there is good reason for being grateful. No more will men, shivering in the mud of trenches, have their minds tortured with uncertainty for the future of their loved ones at home.— These will be adequately taken care of by air raids and lethal gas.
Then again, the next war will not leave a wake of destitute, hopeless widows and squalid, starving orphans. These, too, will be taken care of by incendiary bombs and gas. Nor are there likely to be many veterans’ hospitals after the next cataclysm. It is not probable that military leaders will be content with half measures.
But this is not a plea for humanity in warfare. That is a contradiction in terms, all international pacts to the contrary notwithstanding. This is a simple recognition of what war is, and of the inevitable carnage a twentieth century war must of necessity engender.
Hysterical? Exaggerated? It is exactly this reaction on the part of people that the peace movements’ difficulties lie. It is only too easy and too natural for people to seek the easiest way out of a situation causing anxiety. We are too prone to make a fool’s paradise for ourselves and preserve an ostrich-‘like indifference to an impending catastrophe.
That is why a realization of what faces the world is greeted with attempts to minimize the problem and to shout “Hysteria”. Apathy or lack of appreciation of this sort is not very difficult to cope with. What is of much greater seriousness to us is the attempt atdiversion and distortion of peace movements by professional patriots and unscrupulous chauvenists. Efforts to discredit student peace movements have constantly been made and will no doubt become stronger and more vociferous when the regular pre-war wave of propaganda reaches its stride.
It is up to us, the prospective victims, to maintain a well-fortified defense. It is one thing to be an alarmist, and another thing to be cognizant of a real threat hanging over our lives.
There is only one force for peace at present that is not in danger of being silenced by the pressure of vicious war propaganda. That is a militant student front against war.
It is up to the students of America to decide now, while it is still possible whether a sufficiently powerful movement is to be started and sustained. Such a movement would be the very last stand before the crumbling of other peace forces, and could be a strong brake upon public sentiment.
We are engaged in a grim defensive battle. There is but one issue. Are we to live and continue to live, or are we to submit to our being, maimed, torn and slaughtered?
There is but one answer, and that answer must be made now.