On Prejudice and American Fascism

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On Prejudice and American Fascism

247. My Day

13 August 1947

Campobello Island, N.B., Tuesday—This column will deal with a very serious subject—one that I have been thinking about for a long while. It is not to be written about lightly. In fact, I would rather not write about it, but two things which have happened make me feel that perhaps this is the time to speak. Later on may be too late.

In a recently published article entitled "Bystanders Are Not Innocent", Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review of Literature, tells the story of one of these incidents. A Greek scholar, teaching and studying in one of our great mid-Western universities, was attacked one evening in the coffee shop of a well-known hotel by a group of rowdy undergraduates who, after making some loud remarks against the Jews, pointed at him and said: "He looks like a Jew." As a result of this assault, the man spent ten days in a hospital.

The horrible thing to me is that this could happen when other people were about and that no one seems to have tried to prevent it. I feel sure that even one person with courage and conviction could have brought these young people to their senses. We did not fight a war against fascism in order to allow it to develop here.

The closing two paragraphs of Mr. Cousins' article are the ones I want to bring to your attention, so I quote them here.

"In any event, this is no time for bystanders. Those who persist in looking the other way in the presence of evil or necessity exempt themselves from nothing except membership in the human family.

"This week marks the second anniversary of Hiroshima and the Atomic Age. Happy anniversary, everybody"1

On top of this incident, I received a sheet from the Congressional Record, into which Rep. Adolph J. Sabath of Illinois had read an article by I.F. Stone on the subject of a man called Marzani.2 This man, a month after resigning from the State Department, was discharged and then indicted under an act of Congress, passed in 1944, which extended the statute of limitations three years after the cessation of hostilities in case of fraudulent war-contract claims. He is not accused of having tried to defraud the Government, but he is accused of falsely denying certain statements made in 1940 and 1941. He is now in jail, sentenced to from one to three years and denied bail while waiting appeal of the case.3

As to his innocence or guilt I know nothing, but on reading the article I feel that our civil liberties are being endangered. Through fear and undisciplined prejudice, we are becoming the very thing which we have condemned other people for being.

It is time we took a look at ourselves and made up our minds that we can no longer joke about questions of race prejudice or religious differences. And even if we do not agree with the political beliefs held by some, we must not reach a state of fear and hysteria which will make us all cowards! Either we are strong enough to live as a free people or we will become a police state. There is no such thing as being a bystander on these questions!


1. During his thirty-plus-year editorship, Norman Cousins (1915–1990) saw the Saturday Review (as it was later called) circulation increase from 20,000 to more than 600,000. Perhaps best known as a critic of nuclear proliferation, Cousins also used the weekly magazine to voice concerns about social issues such as violence, pollution, and support for the United Nations and a global government. Cousins's opposition to nuclear weapons remained so strong that he helped arrange medical treatment in the United States for Hiroshima residents scarred by the atomic bomb (whom the press quickly dubbed the "Hiroshima Maidens"). The article to which ER refers appeared in the August 2, 1947, issue of the Saturday Review of Literature (Eric Pace, "Norman Cousins, 75, Dies; Edited the Saturday Review," NYT, 1 December 1990, 31; Norman Cousins, "Bystanders Are Not Innocent," Saturday Review of Literature, vol. 30, 2 August 1947, 7-9).

2. Adolph J. Sabath (1866–1952), a Czechoslovakian immigrant, practiced law in Chicago where he held numerous public positions, including serving as Chicago's representative to the US House of Representatives for more than twenty-three sessions (http://bioguide.congress.gov, accessed 1 March 2006).

The article to which Sabath referred is I. F. (Isidor Feinstein) Stone's "New Weapon for Witch Hunters," The Nation, vol. 165 (July 12, 1947), 33-35. In its obituary, the New York Times described journalist and pamphleteer Stone (1907–1989), as a "short, owlish maverick with dimpled cheeks and major handicaps in hearing and in vision, [who] was a tough-minded but pacifist gadfly, a tireless miner of public records, a persistent attacker of Government distortions and evasions and a pugnacious advocate of civil liberties, peace and truth" (Peter B. Flint, "I.F. Stone, Iconoclast of Journalism, Is Dead at 81," NYT, 19 June 1989, D13).

3. On January 17, 1947, Attorney General Tom Clark indicted Carl A. Marzani (1912?–1994) under the "fraud statute" (U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 80), charging eleven counts of false statements made to the US government in order to obtain a position in the State Department. On May 22, 1947, the federal district court found Marzani guilty on all eleven charges. The appeals court, however, only upheld two of the eleven counts in February of 1948. The Supreme Court reviewed the case in June 1948 ruling that Marzani's civil rights had not been violated and upholding the original decision. Surprisingly, the Court agreed to a second review, but in December of 1948 again affirmed the decision. For his failure to disclose Communist Party membership in his original federal loyalty test, the federal district sentenced Marzani to serve a prison sentence of one to three years. He served more than two years. Throughout all of the trials, Marzani maintained his innocence. Upon his death, however, Marzani's son confirmed that his father had been a member of the Communist Party for two years and had resigned in 1941 ("Carl Marzani, 82, 'Loyalty Case' Defendant, Dies," NYT, 14 December 1994, B8; "Marzani Guilty of Hiding Red Link; ExGovernment Man Faces Prison," NYT, 23 May 1947, 1; "Marzani's Term Upheld," NYT, 3 February 1948, 16; "Marzani Wins a Review," NYT, 22 June 1948, 12; "Marzani's Conviction Affirmed By Court," NYT, 20 December 1948, 20; "Review Is Granted in Marzani's Case," NYT, 8 February 1949, 5; "Marzini Conviction Upheld Second Time," NYT, 8 March 1949, 22).

On Federal Aid to Parochial Schools

On February 10, 1947, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the defendant in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing TP, a case involving the use of public funds for the transportation of schoolchildren attending parochial schools. The majority opinion, written by Justice Hugo Black, equated the busing program in Ewing Township, New Jersey, with "general government services," therefore preventing the school board from singling out anyone "because of their faith, or lack of it, from receiving the benefits of public welfare legislation."1

Several groups, particularly Protestant associations, spoke out against the court ruling. ER expressed her concerns about the Court's decision in her My Day column of July 25:

… I do not advocate a change in our old-time theory of division between church and state. We have a right to send our children to private schools or to religious schools of any denomination. But such schools should be on an entirely different basis from the public schools, which are free to all children.2

Mrs. Philip McMahon of St. Bernard, Ohio, wrote to ER on August 14, 1947, to express her disagreement with ER's criticism of the decision:

As for the allowance of bus transportation, how can that be interpreted as an aid to religious schools; that means treating the religious school child as any other child, precaution against accident on the public highways, looking after the child's health; isn't it the duty of the government to take care of its citizens, these children are our future citizens, or are they?3

ER responded with the following letter, which she instructed McMahon not to make public.

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