OVER the past few years, the print and electronic media...

Salmagundi

July 08, 1994

OVER the past few years, the print and electronic media have devoted a good deal of type and air time to remembrances of World War II. All of the looking back at the 50th anniversary of this or that pivotal moment or battle will continue at least through August 1995, with the marking of V-J Day plus 50 years.

As a sort of counterpart, we offer a piece that looked ahead to the Second World War. The writer is the late American essayist E.B. White, and the time is December 1941, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The following passage is taken from one of the monthly columns that White wrote from his Maine farm for Harper's magazine:

"The passionate love of Americans for their America will have a lot to do with winning the war. It is an odd thing though: the very patriotism on which we now rely is the thing that must eventually be in part relinquished if the world is ever to find a lasting peace and an end to these butcheries.

"To hold America in one's thoughts is like holding a love letter in one's hand -- it has so special a meaning. Since I started writing this column snow has begun falling again; I sit in my room watching the re-enactment of this stagy old phenomenon outside the window. For this picture, for this privilege, this cameo of New England with snow falling, I would give everything. Yet all the time I know that this very loyalty, this feeling of being part of a special place, this respect for one's native scene -- I know that such emotions have had a big part in the world's wars. Who is there big enough to love the whole planet? We must find such people for the next society."

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