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and America closer together than they were in Paine's day? 6. Under what conditions does Paine think war is justified?
LITERATURE AND LIFE IN THE HOMELAND
"One flag, one land, one heart, one hand,
One Nation evermore!"
-Oliver Wendell Holmes.
LITERATURE AND LIFE IN THE
It is a hard thing to picture to ourselves our Homeland. Is America just a lot of cities and towns and farms, or a collection of so many thousands of square miles of prairies and mountains, the sort of thing one would see from an airplane if one could get up high enough and had good enough eyes? Or is it a collection of states with queer boundary lines that look plainer on a map than they do when we cross them in the train? There are people who try to find America in some motto or symbol. One of our great cities has for its motto the words "I will," and the people who live in that city like to think that the enterprise by which they build great industries and give work to great numbers of people is the expression of their Americanism. And some people see in the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor, a statue holding aloft a blazing torch to give light to all people, the symbol that best expresses the spirit of America.
Both the motto and the statue help us to see our country as something more than a part of a book called "Geography" or "History." Both of them express what America had always been to its citizens and what it became to the world in 1917. We did not desire to enter the war, but when it became necessary to do so no true American hesitated. There were great difficulties: an army to raise and equip and train so that it could meet an army that had been preparing for forty years to fight the world; an army to be transported over three thousand miles of water, a terrific task even in normal times, but made a hundred-fold harder because of the monsters that lurked under the sea waiting a chance to send a transport to the bottom. And once across, there were docks and railroads to be built and a great industrial organization to be set going. But the will of America was triumphant and the job was done. And the statue, like the "I will," is a symbol of the spirit in America that has helped the spirit of liberty throughout the world, so that we now know the day is
coming when all peoples, everywhere, shall be free. We can make a beginning, therefore, in our effort to form a picture of what America means, by thinking of this Statue of Liberty and of these words of high purpose, "I will."
But we must fill in the picture. No statue will do, for it, after all, is lifeless. No motto will do, for it is only a phrase, an inscription. A photograph on which you have written a date or the record of a happy meeting with your friend, is very interesting indeed, and helps you to call to mind your friend. But in reality the photograph merely suggests to you your friend and your happy times together. Your friend has many moods, now sad, now gay. Your friend looks different at different times. The history of your friendship has many events in it, and all these go together, a thousand details, to make up your own idea "this is my friend." So it is with America. History and legend, the knowledge of past events, must acquaint us with our country as with our friend. Infinite variety of mood she has, now stern and grave like her mountains, now placid like her vast expanse of prairie or her waving fields of grain; now laughing like the waters in the sunlight, or beautiful in anger as mighty storms sweep hill and plain. And infinite, again, are her activities great factories and mills, lofty office buildings filled with workers, trains speeding like mighty shuttles through vast distances, farms filled with growing food for a world. All these you must bring into your picture, and more, for infinite, also, are the ideals and hopes that go to make up this many-sided personality that we name Our Country.
The selections that follow will help you to make this picture that is to be more to us than a statue or a photograph. Some of them are little views, snapshots of our nation's childhood. Others are pictures of various moods or appearances of the later America. Some show the spirit of laughter in America; others give some of the songs of America; and at the end are a few pictures of America at work. All will help, but they are only an imperfect and brief introduction to a subject that is going to interest you all through your life: What is America to me, and what can I do to make her happy?