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Freedom in the Shadows

ISSUE:  Winter 1945

“Men live by symbols,” we have been told; and it is a deep truth, provided only that the symbol stands for something that is substance and not sham. So it is with freedom, and that body of freedoms which Americans call their “civil liberties.” We often pay homage to our revolutionary fathers as the authors of our freedom, and with a graceful word for their living and dying and a sigh for their memories, we dismiss the whole subject. But those men who fought to be free men did not fight for a word or a memory. They fought for a present image in their hearts, which had been given a living reality by hardship and bloodshed and the experience of a new continent.

What was the source of that image? It is often called the “American dream,” yet I venture to say that it was far more the imprint of the European dream on the American reality. That dream took many forms, as anyone knows who has studied the intellectual history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was the child of God showing his faith by works, the good husbandman seeking to cultivate not only his garden but his soul, the fearless sailor finding his Utopia in an imaginary voyage, the seeker after Nature’s essence who finds it finally away from the corruptions of “civilization,” the Plutarchian hero transposed into eighteenth-century Europe who dies with courage because he has lived for his community, the paradoxical fellow who worships Nature but studies her laws of motion so that he may tame her and out of that taming grow rich and great. Dr. Faustus was part of that composite European dream, and Francis Bacon, and Jean Jacques Rousseau; Candide, and Robinson Crusoe, and the Greek tyrannicides. Professor Becker has named that dream better than anyone else when he called it the “heavenly city.”

Without the “heavenly city” the image of American freedom would have been impossible. The European brought his dream to the American soil. It is in the nature of a dream to be spun in imagination by those who cannot enact it in their waking life. The European went through feudalism and the agony of meaningless wars; he lived through religious persecutions; he knew tyrants and priestly hierarchies; crowded into a small compass, tilling an often exhausted soil, he generated an earth hunger that never left him; he saw the rainbow of limitless profit only to be denied it by iron mercantilist restrictions on his enterprise. He lived, in short, in what had become in effect a closed society. In America the soil was rich, the restrictions were gone, there was a direct relation between a man’s effort and his reward, and—whether illusion or not—one had the sense of starting with an institutional clean slate. The deepest element in the American image of freedom was the consciousness of the difference between the closed society of an old culture and the open society of a new one.

That consciousness has never been wholly erased from the American mind. Remember that America is a cultural deposit left by successive waves of immigration. There can be little quarrel with the classic Turner stress on the importance of the sustained frontier in keeping alive men’s sense of the possible; but one must add to it the importance of sustained immigration in keeping alive men’s yearning to stretch the bounds of the possible. And while it is fashionable to praise the earlier waves of immigration at the expense of those which came later, one must note that the latest immigration of all is that of men and women who wear the image of freedom closest to their hearts because they have seen freedom crumpled beneath a Fascist tank, and have seen also the miracle of its rising again to destroy its destroyer.

Here, then, is the American image of freedom. But an image can also be a sword, and this one was forged in the unsettlement of Europe and the settlement of America, tempered in the great tempering crises of the national existence^—the Revolution, the Civil War, the World Wars—, given a sheath to wear in the code of the Bill of Rights, kept sharp in its /cutting edge by the renewing dreams of the young generations both native and immigrant, and by the struggles waged by nameless men and women against the powers and principalities of darkness.

I do not use the figure of the sword as a rhetorical flourish. The deepest experience of men has shown that either the desire for freedom is a militant and passionate thing or it is nothing. And let me add that any image which moves millions of men to action and passion must be more even than a burning desire. I borrow the words from Alexander Meiklejohn, from his too neglected book “What Does America Mean?,” where you will find that to be effective freedom must be both “desire” and “commitment.” Here I touch on one of the most vulnerable aspects of American life, when I say that while the desire for freedom has by no means slackened, the commitment to freedom has not kept pace with that desire. How many times during the past terrible decade of the world’s history have we heard it said that the struggles for freedom elsewhere in the world were no concern of Americans. How many times within our own country has freedom been interpreted as the freedom to wreak one’s own economic power upon another’s economic helplessness, How many times has the tradition of the American frontier and its individualism been called upon to justify not the freedom of the frontier (which was the freedom of men who valued it because they clung together in a precarious community), but the predacity of the jungle.

When we think of freedom in these latter days we are as likely as not to think of the freedom we want for ourselves, rather than the freedom we are committed to extending to others, and the price we are willing to pay for that commitment. I weigh my words carefully when I say that while the desire for freedom has in some ways grown, the commitment to it has lessened.


This, if it is indeed a fact, is part of what I call the reality of freedom. Let us look more closely at that reality. The tensions of politics, the tenacities of corporate power, the bewildering impact of an expanding world, the flux of institutional forms, and the influx of new and strange idea-patterns are greater today than ever in American culture. And freedom as a reality may seem a tenuous thing buffeted about between these forces.

To get a long perspective on this, we have only to compare our own America with the America of Andrew Jackson’s day, roughly a century ago. I use that as a point of reference not only because it was the seed-ground of our present-day big industrialism, before the seeds had flowered, but also because it was the period of what Professor Matthiessen has called the “American Renaissance.” For it was the time when Emerson was spinning Platonic dreams but also living them with a New England passion, when Hawthorne was seeking to fathom the nature of guilt and Melville pursuing the white whale of evil.

Compared with that day our own has seen cultural changes that go to freedom’s core. The farm as a working and living unit has been replaced by the factory as a working unit and the city as a living unit. People live and work closer together: this begets new tolerances, but also new animosities. A new dependence has set in. The ordinary man— factory worker, white-collar worker, farmer—has become separated from the ownership of soil and tools, and from the sense he once had that—come what might—he would somehow get along. He is uprooted, property less, dependent on vast impersonal aggregates of power for his own slender security.

The home-as-control has been loosened. So also, for a large part, has the church-as-control. The school-as-control, afflicted in most communities and many colleges with a suicidal timidity in the face of controversial issues, has abdicated its function of community leadership. The new opinion agencies which might have assumed this function— the Big Press, the Chain Radio, the Mass Movies—have not done so, both from economic interest and moral cowardice. And without an active leadership in the light against the forces of unfreedom, the reality of freedom cannot thrive.

There were many who thought that it would be wholly snuffed out by the war. The striking thing about civil liberties under World War II, as compared with World War I, is that although the present war comes closer to being a total war, there has been less actual repression of liberties by public governments, whether federal or state. One recalls that during the Great Debate before Pearl Harbor there were warnings, based no doubt on the experience of the “deadly parallel,” that if we entered a total war for freedom, our own freedom would be extinguished and we would become totalitarian. Thus far that has not happened, either in England or America, and the prophets today stand shivering in all the nakedness of doom unfulfilled—a fact that may well serve as a primary datum for future political theorists to mull over, and to extract from it what grave conclusions they can about democracy, war, and freedom.

My own tentative guess is that the relative freedom from state repression—in the sense in which the thousands of arrests and convictions and prison terms during World War I constituted state repression—is due in equal parts to a sadder and wiser federal government and to a less critical attitude toward the war on the part of radical opinion. The government is sadder because the Department of Justice has been made wary by what it did in World War I. The government is wiser because President Roosevelt has a Holmesian skepticism that Wilson lacked. As the whole Debs episode showed, Wilson—being an idealist—hugged his resentments implacably to his breast, whereas Roosevelt has a saving sense of humor and flexibility.

But it must be added that he is less sorely beset than Wilson was by the liberals and the radicals. For this has from the beginning been a liberal’s anti-Fascist war as well as a war for the conservative’s survival. And since the entrance of Russia, even the Communists have adhered to the war, after a period of bitter opposition during which the impact of their hostility was felt in the industries turning out armaments for the Allies, and they in turn felt the impact of the government’s hostility in the Browder prosecution and others. Had the radicals opposed the war after Pearl Harbor, it is a safe guess that the government’s remarkable record on free speech might not have been much better in World War II than it was in World War I. Since it is mainly the reactionary isolationists and the Fascists who oppose the war, and since those who sit at the strategic passes of American opinion have shown how little sympathy they have for calling them to account, only a hundred people have been sent to prison for sedition as compared with thousands in World War I.


But this record cannot be matched in another area of state action. As more liberty has been allowed for wartime utterance, more surveillance has also been imposed on thought and activity. The result is a surveillance or dossier state in which can be found the beginnings of the police state.

One of the curious paradoxes of freedom is that it should be the rise of new ideas which makes things unhealthy for the free discussion of any ideas. The big ideological specter of our time (I call it by its doctrinal name) is socialism. It continues to haunt the men of power in a community even during a war against Fascism, which is, whatever its pretensions, the bitterest enemy of the socialist idea. And it is, I think, largely out of fear of this idea—curiously enough, by a government that is often called socialist—that we are seeing the beginnings of the surveillance state in America.

The central instrument of the surveillance state is a political police, operating with both secrecy and efficiency, as the crucial arm of the existing structure of social power. This is true whether you are speaking of Joseph Fouche’s work in organizing Napoleon’s police and espionage system, or the work of the Okhrana in Czarist and of the GPU in Soviet Russia, or of that most ruthless and nihilist of all police institutions, the Nazi Gestapo. To a greater or lesser degree this form of political policing has been characteristic of every state which has not cherished a strong image of freedom—what we call the civil liberties tradition. It has been the rule rather than the exception in the world’s political history, just as liberty has been the exception rather than the rule.

One of the healthiest and most striking things about England and America, as contrasted with the tradition both of the European Continent and the Orient, has been the absence of a political police. But it would have been a miracle if something of the temper of a political police had not, during the past quarter-century, infiltrated even into our culture. The hunt for radicals and pacifists during the first World War, for radicals among aliens after the war, for racketeers and hi-j ackers and kidnappers during the period of Prohibition, provided the basis for a brilliant machine of federal policing, with exactly the elements of mid-twentieth century efficiency which could be turned to the tasks of j political surveillance. A crucial step was taken when Congress, in passing the 1940 Alien Registration Act, imposed on the federal enforcing agencies the broad task of curbing subversive utterances. Being a peacetime measure, the first in our history for a century and a half, it called for machinery and powers beyond what might be necessary to deal with 1 overt acts of sabotage and actual conspiracy with the enemy.

This has meant a dossier on every writer and commentator in the country, every teacher of prominence, every trade-union official. And so we get many of the accouterments of the Continental police tradition—the secret agents, the police dossier, the secret and often stupid inquiries, the classifying and pigeon-holing of men and women in a way that may hamper their movements, affect their jobs and careers, even blast their lives, on the basis of inquiries over which they have no check or chance for correction and counter-evidence. Supplementing this system of controlling Dangerous Thoughts is a system of alien registration, immigration and emigration control, deportation machinery, enemy alien control, passport control, postoffice censorship, and government job surveillance.

In the latter area especially, but also in the others, we must recognize that we are dealing not only with administrative enforcement agencies—with which we associate the hated term “bureaucrats”—but also with Congress, which coruscates in our political literature as the tribunes of the people and the palladium of the people’s liberties. One of the most startling manifestations of the police state in our time is the campaign of terror against liberal government officials, taking the form of Congressional purges of federal employees, against whom have been leveled charges of dis-loyalty and un-Americanism. I call it startling because there has been nothing like it in the history of the American Republic; because it has operated irresponsibly and even unconstitutionally; because it has ignored the elementary judicial decencies; because it shows how legislative terrorism can function in the shadow-world of political surveillance.

This may sound harsh: I mean it to be just. I am speaking of the entire record of the House Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities. I am speaking of its now famous campaign against the Thirty-Nine, begun in Congress in February, 1943, and whose anabasis has not yet found its adequate Xenophon; I am speaking of the effort to pass a bill of attainder through the expedient of attaching a rider to an appropriation bill precluding the payment of any funds to specific persons, and thus using the power of the purse to achieve wholly unfiscal purposes; I am speaking of the vague and confused definition of what is subversive, on the basis of which the dismissal of devoted public servants was recommended; I am speaking of the instilling of fear into the hearts of tens of thousands of other public officials who felt that they might at any moment be denounced and dismissed, and both their names and careers infected with an ineradicable taint. If their situation were not so tragic, there would be elements of high comedy in it— elements that might have formed the material for a great satire on wartime Washington, if we could find someone with the satiric gifts that Ignazio Silone showed in “Fontemara.”

It is clear that all the functions of surveillance and control that I have mentioned must be carried on to a degree in a wartime state. It is just as clear that they can be grossly abused even in a wartime state, and that they have little place in a peacetime state. In some of them you have a corruption of the administrative process, in others of the legislative process. What ties them all together is that they are directed toward the intangibles of political opinion. This is the surveillance state in esse; it is the police state in posse. Even in the right hands it casts a long shadow; in the wrong hands it could stifle opinion and break down liberty completely. Unfortunately, no one is ever in a position to know whether the power is in the wrong or right hands, and it may be doubted whether one may speak of such a thing as the “right hands” where wholly arbitrary power is concerned. Its operations are secret. Even efficiency, that demi-god whom machine-minded Americans worship as the Greeks worshiped Pan and Dionysos, is no form of insurance. For the use of precision techniques and the latest technology, let us say by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is at its, best only when applied to the tangibles of crime detection. In the area of ideas such a technology is a rough intruder, like Caliban in a library. In the area of ideas freedom thrives best and is most creative when ideas are less sedulously policed.


In the governmental area almost all the surveillances are directed toward liberal and radical opinion. But in the area of mass-violence and terrorism, it is Fascist attitudes and propaganda that are predominant. And moving from one to the other, it is as if one were moving from a synthetic world to an actual one, from the fabricated dangers of liberal opinion to the quick blood spilled by Fascist terrorism, from a world of fantasy to the re-discovery of the reality-principle.

I speak of terrorism advisedly, for what has developed during the years over which Hitler’s shadow hung has been the beginnings of mass-vigilantism, in the name of the Fascist principle of racial inferiority and superiority. I refer to a three-pronged attack. First, the anti-Negro and anti-Mexican riots, from California to New York, from Beaumont to Detroit; and with those riots the whole practice of discrimination against Negroes, in jobs, in the armed services and army camps, in educational opportunity. Second, I refer to the hoodlum terrorism against Jewish children, along with the whole practice of anti-Jewish discrimination and anti-Jewish feeling which has substantially increased since Nazism became a serious factor in world opinion some fifteen or twenty years ago. And third, there is the West Coast hysteria against Japanese-Americans—not only in their forced evacuation from their homes and their segregation in relocation centers, but also in the continued incitements of violence against them if they should seek to return to their homes after the war. I have no comment on the treatment of the Japanese enemy-aliens: the nationals of an enemy are clearly subject to rigorous wartime controls. But I have been dismayed at the similar treatment accorded to American citizens, where the only basis for discrimination, as over against citizens of German or Italian descent, is pigmentation and cranial structure.

In the face of this three-pronged campaign of mass terrorism after a racist pattern, there is a grim meaning to be attached to the passivity of American opinion. This applies to North as well as South, to the East Coast as well as the West Coast, to urban and rural areas alike. It applies to church and school and press, to large sections of labor as to industry, to the small business man as well as to the major areas of Big Management and Big Property. If these were offenses against property, as in the case of the sit-down strikes of 1937, what an outcry would already have been raised against them in Congress and the press. They are, however, only threats against personal liberty and human decency, which may count for much less in an acquisitive society where a respectable status can be translated into money terms, a society, also, where respectability depends on not being in any way identified with the minority groups who are being pushed around in accord with the dominant prejudices of the community. Possibly, also, this passivity may be the expression of a people with a deep subconscious racism of its own, and a people whose capacity to react to crimes against the liberty of the person has been numbed by a decade of Fascist terrorism and war all over the world.


But it would be a mistake to attribute the lack of popular commitment to civil liberties wholly to racist impulses. Part of the context, at least, is economic.

Let us remember that we have moved in the past century from an agrarian economy in which the pursuit of freedom was arduous but not heroic, to a machine economy and a Big Property society where the still, small voice of freedom is often drowned out by the deafening noise of the machines and the tones of authority with which economic power speaks.

Thorstein Veblen used to say in his books that the “unremitting discipline of the machine process” would some day establish an engineering society, and that the machine was undermining what he called the “animistic” or, as we should now say, authoritarian and non-rational elements in our institutions. The animistic images he had in mind were those of unequal property and economic power. But he tended to forget that freedom too is first of all an image in the mind before it can become a reality in society; that it cannot be defended in terms of weight and count and measure, or of personal utilitarianism, but only as it is a primary value in a hierarchy of values. Nor did he see clearly enough that before the ultimate effects of the machine wiped away the social inequalities on which unfreedom thrives, the immediate effects of the machine, at least under the control of Big Property, have been to undermine freedom rather than to strengthen it.

For the few, economic freedom consists of what they call a “free enterprise economy”—that is, freedom of corporate management from community control. But for the many, economic freedom means the freedom of the job—that is, equality of bargaining power, and freedom for the trade-union to become Big Unionism, side by side with Big Management. And here the paradox enters. In order to achieve the equality of bargaining position at which, as Mr. Justice Holmes once put it, freedom of contract begins, the struggle to build up strong trade-unions has roused anti-labor feeling on the part of agrarian and middle-class groups, powerfully abetted by Big Management and by the Big Press and the Chain Radio which express its viewpoint. It is this anti-labor feeling which furnishes the context of industrial violence, in which labor’s organizing efforts clash not only with company police and provocateurs, but also with community resistance. And it is this anti-labor feeling which furnishes the context for the resistance to the enforcement of labor laws, as in the Montgomery Ward case, and for the violations of freedom on the job.

One can find a similar paradox in the question of full employment. It can scarcely be doubted that unless, after this war, we get something approaching full employment, the struggle to maintain freedom and an attitude of mutual tolerance and social decency will require nothing short of social heroism. But here again the paradox enters. Full employment is essential to freedom. But, given the concentration of economic power, the steps that are necessary to achieve full employment will also meet with powerful resistances which will make freedom precarious. I know of no credible body of economic thought which believes that full employment can be achieved without strong fiscal or planning controls, or both. Yet it is hard to see how those controls can be organized without raising again the specters of ideological radicalism, and along with them the forces of repression.

A similar paradox will be found in the international economic situation. The United States cannot legislate postwar prosperity in a world vacuum. We shall need to lend technological skills and extend financial credits to other countries, both to create foreign markets for our own products, and also on the principle that there is an interdependence between expanding economies, and that our own economy cannot expand unless other economies are also moving toward higher wages and higher living standards. But if the governments of Europe and Asia move toward social democracy, the project of extending large credits to them and exchanging technological skills is again likely to encounter heavy resistance, and be exploited by the extremist Fascist elements in our own country.


That means that the great malady of our time is the tropism of contraction in the midst of forces crying out for expansion. I am thinking now of a closed society as a society Which is in danger of losing some of its original dynamic, whose economic rulers have grown fearful of their power, whose channels for the expression of competing ideas have grown constricted, and whose intellectual universe is therefore narrowing. When these forces go far enough, you get the closed society—or, to use John Stuart Mill’s famous phrase from another context in the famous chapter of the “Principles of Political Economy,” the “Stationary State.” Freedom does not thrive in a state with hermetically sealed frontiers, shrunken perspectives, and a closed mind.

America has not been immune to the malady, which has to a far greater degree affected most other peoples. This nation, which was made by the inpouring of human streams from all over the world, now doles out immigration quotas with the most fearful chariness. The people who offered asylum to the oppressed, wherever they might come from, have now virtually closed their doors against the refugees from Hitler’s tyranny, with the prospect that after the war even the thin stream that has thus far been allowed will be shut off. A nation which has grown powerful through its technology, and has almost made a cult of the know-how, denies to skilled men a chance to use their skills because of their color. In a nation that has grown great through education, strong forces fight the efforts of the government to make teaching and books and laboratories accessible through federal aid to every region, income group, population stratum. In a nation whose very life-blood is the circulation of ideas, the opinion industries have become mechanized and monopolized like any other, and the circulation of the blood has become so controlled that it is pumped by mechanical hands through a mechanical heart. Every day there are fewer newspapers in the country, with an ever tighter control of the channels of majority opinion by an ever smaller minority. Every day the powerful broadcasting chains, linked in their interest and their opinions with the owning groups of the country, use their strategic position to narrow the range of permitted ideas. Competition fares as badly in the market of ideas as in any other. This constriction of ideas should be the gravest concern for a free people. For freedom can die as effectively from exhaustion of the air in a closed chamber as from a dagger thrust by an avowed enemy,

The basic impetus for this constriction of opinion comes from the fears of an owning group fighting for privilege and position in the face of the controls necessary for an expanding economy. If we have in the years following the war the same disuse of men and machines and capital that we had in the decade preceding the war, it will mean an economy contracting because of the inability of its masters to Aviden their perspective through the nation’s experience.

The Old Conservative of our time is a surrounded man. Like an Emperor Jones in a jungle, he lives in a terrible fantasy world, fearing enemies that he cannot see because they do not exist. He has become the victim of a paranoiad delusion, the victim of a myth of encirclement.

I call it that because, in political history, the form that deep fears have always taken is the sense of being encircled by enemies. Perhaps that is an inheritance of the centuries of wilderness living and tribal isolation through which mankind has passed, and of which the nation-state that Arnold Toynbee has called the “parochial state” is only the latest expression.

What do the American economic rulers fear as their encircling enemies? They fear new and radical ideas, they fear the growing strength of labor, they fear controls by a popularly elected government: above all else, they have the sense that the world outside is in the throes of revolution, that dangerous forces have been unleashed in Europe and Asia. They conclude that if we can build a wall against them, if we can keep them from invading our shores, and if we can stamp out the ideas that have already infiltrated inside the wall, our movers and shakers can rule in peace. Hence their identification of liberal ideas with foreign doctrine, of aliens with radicalism, of labor with aliens, and of communism with any thought that breaks the hard crust of habit.

That this is largely a world of delusion is attested by the plain experience of recent years. The inertia of institutions and the tenacities of habit are so great that there has never been a threat of a proletarian revolution in America. The threats from within are only threats from the shadows cast by the fears themselves.

There has never been a time during the past seventy-five years when opinion from right to left, including even the new Communist Party line, has been more agreed than now on the proposition that capitalism has to be made to work, and that it can, if wisely handled, yield an economy of full employment. But the psychiatrists tell us that it is useless to re-assure a man suffering from delusions of persecution: every re-assurance serves only to confirm his initial fears.

This myth of encirclement leads logically to witch-hunting within a nation, and to militarist and imperialist adventures without. In the measure that the fearful men grow panicky of the liberal state, they call upon it in the name of encirclement to set up a watch and ward over dangerous thoughts. In fact, the very people who most violently protest against a Domesday Book of entries of wealth, income, wages, profits, are the people who are most passionately in favor of a Domesday Book of entries of ideas and their professors.

What applies to the emergence of the police state applies also to the imperialist thrust. There is nothing incompatible between a sense.of encirclement and imperialism. W. H. Auden has, with shrewd insight, called Rudyard Kipling the poet of encirclement. And it is true that as the English ruling class grew more convinced of the white man’s danger before the yellow and black perils, it grew also more convinced of the need for the white man’s burden. As the German ruling class failed to resolve its internal problems, it too became obsessed with the idea of encirclement by Jews and Bolsheviks; and it is notable that German culture produced not only an Alfred Rosenberg but also an Oswald Spengler, whose “Hour of Decision” is an hysterical warning against the yellow peril. Even in Russia, the myth of capitalist encirclement was largely responsible for the purges, the treason trial, and the rigor of a one-party system. And we in America may yet discover in our own country that witch-hunting isolationism and imperialism are brothers under the skin, and that we shall not medicine ourselves to democratic health until our ruling group has faced its fears, and seen that they are not flesh but fantasy.


Post-war America will be a country of men habituated to the practice of violence and the techniques of military obedience. It will be a country in which the dichotomy between soldiers and civilians will be a new and great source of friction. It will be a country in which there will be millions of men accustomed to the sense of power, and frustrated without it. This is not a social context in which we can expect the sensitive plant of freedom to take care of itself.

What aid can we give it? There are those who say that the crux of freedom is the individual, and that only a return to individualism—economic and moral—will solve the problems of civil liberties.

I agree that the individual is the core of the whole problem of civil liberties. It is for the individual and his dignity that freedom exists: without him it has no meaning. But while freedom exists for the individual alone, it cannot be achieved by the individual alone. That is the nub of the matter, so far as civil liberties are concerned. There must be freedom for the individual. But it can be achieved only by the machinery of community action—whatever may be necessary to accomplish full employment in an expanding economy, equality of bargaining power and of economic and educational opportunity, protection to the religious conscience of each group.

But even this community machinery is not enough. Freedom is not freedom unless it is cemented by a sense of society. I use “society” now in the sense of the comradeship and the organic interdependence of men. In fact, I suspect that the history of Greek and American individualism would show that in both cases the freedom of the individual came to be celebrated in a community which was certain of the ties between individuals. I maintain that the sense of society comes first—without it freedom becomes impossible. You cannot start by being anarchs and end as brothers; you must first have a sense of basic decency of man to man before you can have a freedom that will last.

One of the sad things about the past few years in America has been the passivity of majority opinion in the face of racist terrorism and discrimination against minorities. Whatever the cause of this passivity, the corrosion of the democratic conscience means the removal of the strongest rivet from our tradition of civil liberties. The sense of society is basic to all freedom, and to the willingness to fight for it.

We talk of racist threats as threats to minorities. They are that. But in a deeper sense they are threats to the majorities themselves. I shall breathe more freely for the future of America when I see the democratic conscience of America rising to the defense not of the minorities, but of the common stakes that minorities and majorities alike have in human decency and the expansion of man’s spirit.


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