N.B.: What follows assumes a good deal of familiarity with the television series it discusses; it is also quite likely impertinent. Anyhow, if you’ve not seen Dexter, bear in mind that, when three years old, he witnessed his mother’s murder—in a shipping container. The weapon? A chainsaw. The boy (and his older brother) sat in a pool of their mother’s blood for three days, until the police turned up. The first cop on the scene, Harry Morgan, adopted Dexter. As the boy grew up, it became clear that the bloodbath in the shipping container had so traumatized him that he’d been left psychopathic. Harry—in concert, as we now know, with a neurobiologist and student of psychopathy—taught the young Dexter a rigorous “code,” whereby his need to kill would be directed only at murderers who had, for one reason or another, escaped “justice.” Dexter would kill only those who had themselves murdered people who did not deserve to die. He followed his father into law enforcement, not as a cop, but as a forensic blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. On the job, and on the sly, he avails himself of the resources of the forensics lab, the evidence room, and criminal databases, to insure that the men and women on his “kill list” are, in fact, guilty as sin—and at large. And then he gets to work, at times misleading the homicide detectives the better to beat the law to the punch. Our Wikipedians offer a detailed overview of Dexter here.
I’ve now seen the first three episodes of the last season of Showtime’s Dexter, wherein, again, we watch, and listen intimately to the beguiling interior monologue of, America’s favorite, family-friendly serial killer, Dexter Morgan, as wonderfully (and athletically) played by Michael C. Hall.
I see what I see in season eight so far, and it is familiar from all the foregoing seasons: a hint of what we get (say) in the movie Just Cause, to the effect that, our “official” American affection for “due process” notwithstanding, we often prefer, and find more deeply satisfying, forms of “justice” delivered outside the juridical system to ones operating entirely within it (especially, it would seem, in Florida).†
America will simply never happily agree to Mirandize itself. The extraordinary popularity of the Dirty Harry films; or of scores of Hollywood movies involving intrepid protagonists (policemen, doctors, “special ops” soldiers, politicians) who bend or break the rules to achieve their ends (imagine a fist-pumping Yes!); or of films involving institutions (whether juridical, medical or political) that must somehow forever be gotten round;—all of these things attest to the fact just stated. The brave new world that America is may flirt with Miranda, may go steady her, may even embark on a prolonged engagement, but it will never marry her. Having watched, as I say, only the first three hours of the last season of Dexter, I must wait to see whether the writers rebuke themselves for having introduced and affirmed this idea, and for having entertained us with it all these years, and then affirm, at the close—as our civil religion requires that we do—the Unimpeachable Virtue of Due Process. (I write on 21 November 2013, titrating my Dexter via iTunes.)
Actually, Americans hate due process, and yet must always tell themselves that they don’t hate it. Consider our Predator drones: the summa of America’s vexed relation to “justice” and “due process” (“justice”: what a Janus-faced word, as deployed in American speech). Part of America—and “America” is agent in us as an idea—says it hates Predator drones, just as it speaks of the Unimpeachable Virtue of Due Process; and part of America is in undying love with its badass Predator drones. Just so are we in love with our predator nonpareil, Dexter Morgan, an unmanned—by which I mean inhuman, because sociopathic/psychopathic—but totally awesome drone who kills “surgically” but not without collateral damage of the kind Americans (truth be told) are pretty generally willing to take for granted—except when it comes to the American family. The American family (with its values) is that sacrosanct arena which must be protected at any cost, to hell with due process, but which, in Dexter, has been made at once the means whereby it preserves, and also destroys, itself. See, for example, the scene at the close of episode three, season eight, in which Dexter’s sister Deb first attempts to kill both her brother and herself, and then, when a bystander saves her, she just as quickly saves Dexter—whom she has both loved, familially and otherwise, and also hated. Deb, a very good American, especially in the genius of her beautifully crass idiom, just doesn’t know how she feels about her predator drone; twice she’s had the chance to kill her adopted blood brother, and twice she’s stepped back. At the haunted heart of their “family,” be it remembered, is Harry Morgan, deceased, Dexter’s adoptive father, a ghost of a good murder cop who stepped outside the law for (and with) his son, trying to make good for his family and thinking he failed (killed himself, as it happens). Let no good deed go unpunished, and let Dexter avenge all the bad deeds. Evil will bless, and ice will burn. America is on Dexter’s table, looking at pictures of itself, but also unpacking its knives. Time to watch. A guess: if Dexter is rebuked by his writers and fans (who are the same), it will chiefly be for having collaterally damaged his sister, his family.
President Obama, we now say on air, maintains a “kill list,” and though that’s no term of art the White House would ever deploy through the talking head of Jay Carney, journalists and their readers and watchers immediately absorb the undue process of the Predator drone program into a highly legible, pop-cultural vocabulary: the (badass) “kill list,” a thing Dexter might maintain and speak of (indeed, he does). This is his language; his is their language; we are that language.
The White House, in fact, refers to its Predator drone program, which is also a video program (we’ve all seen the shots now on YouTube), as Disposition Matrix, a name that might well grace the marquee at your local multiplex, given how readily political/military discourses now mingle with pop-cultural ones in America after twelve years of continuous war. The same might be said for the terms of art White House officials do use in speaking of their showtime program behind closed doors: it involves a “next-generation capture/kill list.” Next-generation: what immortalizing phrase is more familiar, now, than that?
Here’s the blunt style of talk Americans both love but often affect to detest:
“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do.. . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’”
A necessary part of what we do: That’s the straight, realpolitik dope, and America is down with it. As is Dr. Vogel, a character introduced, diabolus ex medica, in season eight of Dexter: she had a hand in making him, in imbuing him with his extrajudicial “code” (the first, echt American tenet of which is: never get caught). And she is here now to tell Dexter that he is both a necessary part of what we do and “perfect” in his ways and means. Yes, sociopathy may be sublimated. Consider Goldman Sachs. And Paul Ryan Ayn Randianism.
So there’s our political “subtext” for season eight of Dexter. Or, no, better to say: Dexter (seasons one through eight) is a “media event,” a medium, wherein we Americans may readily find the vocabularies we prefer for everything like our extra-judicial, stealthy Predator drone “kills.” It’s all super-clean, like Dexter, sitting in his kitchen on a Smith & Wesson stool, cooled by an air-conditioner stocked with blood. (Google “dexter smith & wesson stool” and you’ll find a site, maintained by the gun manufacturer, inviting you to join the NRA.)
The Predator drone “program,” which we are all watching, because, as I’ve hinted, it generates the kind of video America is surpassingly good at producing, is only the latest and baddest-ass incarnation of off-the-books American might, off-the-books American shock and awe.
If I have any insight to offer out of the hundreds of hours of video and film I’ve watched these past thirty years or so, here it is: America will never really “close Guantanamo,” even if it departs wholesale from Cuba. Because “Guantanamo” is where Dexter Morgan lives and does his “deceptively innocuous” work, “nefarious or otherwise,” and “with the utmost precision,” whether in a South Beach pastel shirt and linen trousers, or in a “kill shirt” (price: $34.95)—beloved. Streaming on Netflix, 24/7. ”Guantanamo” is part of our package, always has been.
And yes, Dex, you bet I’m an American fan. What this may mean, I don’t know any better than Deb.
Joyce Carol Oates has just published, in Harpers, a short-story in which Robert Frost figures, monstrously. I will soon write here a detailed account of how the story works, and of how Oates tendentiously distorts the biographical record. She tacks on a coy note at the close of the story to the effect that, although “Lovely, Dark, and Deep” is fiction, it is “based on (limited, selected) historical research. See Robert Frost: A Biography by Jeffery Meyers (1996).” This book is widely acknowledged among scholars of Frost (and of American poetry) as one of the worst biographies ever done on the poet. In her review of it, Helen Vendler condemned the book, suggesting that the sooner it was pulped, the better. Dabbling in it in a “limited, selected” way hardly amounts to “research.” I should hope Oates has some other scholarship in mind besides what’s on offer in Meyers. She ambiguously gives her reader to understand that she does; reading a third-rate biography is not historical inquiry.
Today I will discuss one passage in Oates’ tale. The story is quasi-gothic in genre, tricked out with sly narrative manoeuvres that appear to insulate—in bad faith, I think—its author from the appalling portrait rendered of the poet, which led, in the blogosphere, to such headlines as this: “Joyce Carol Oates skewers Robert Frost as a sexist, racist old bore.” Worth noting in connection with this is a remark Oates made on Twitter in February 2013:
What we know of Robert Frost’s life suggests that a demon had somehow come to inhabit a brilliant poet; or, the reverse.
Anyway, the passage I have in mind illustrates very well Oates’ procedures (which aren’t clever enough to be called demonic); the reader may judge of its integrity.
In the tale, a 30-year old would-be poet (with a strange interest in Frost’s body and also in her own) goes up to Bread Loaf to interview Frost. She is, as we learn a few pages into the story, chimerical, unreal, insubstantial; eventually she evaporates into a third-person narrator who leaves the reader with the curious impression (unstably so) that Frost, in bad conscience, has suffered something like a nightmare while trying to get some “rest” (Oates’ third-person narrator’s term). But during the course of the “interview” that never actually happens, the young woman, now no longer the narrator but the subject, with Frost, of the narration, lodges this charge against Frost, referring to his daughter Irma who, as did Frost’s sister Jeanie, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia:
Why was poor Irma so obsessed with being kidnapped and raped? Forced into prostitution? You were scornful of Irma’s terrors. You’d told her bluntly when she was just a girl that she was so unattractive she needn’t fear being raped, no man would be interested in her sexually, she wasn’t worth “twenty cents a throw.” Later, to Robert Lowell, you said laughingly that Irma Frost couldn’t “make a whorehouse.”
The fictive Frost replies:
That is not true. That is—a lie, slander . . . Lowell was a sick, distressed person. I spoke to him in a way to lift his spirits, to entertain him. He’d thought that he was bad, but old Frost was badder. But none of it was meant to be taken literally.
What is a reader to make of this, a reader, say, unschooled in the long history of scholarship that attends biographical accounts of Frost? The first thing to point out is that the answer to the first two questions here put to Frost is self-evident: paranoid schizophrenia. The second thing is that Oates’ fictive Frost’s rejoinder is, in a certain sense, correct. This is a lie, a slander. But what unwitting readers will not know is that the remark about Irma not being worth twenty cents a throw traces back to Meyers and is very dubiously sourced. Nor will most readers know, unless they are schooled not only in Frost but in Lowell, that Oates has here introduced a surpassingly weird and invidious anachronism.
Had Frost ever laughingly said that Irma “couldn’t make a whorehouse”? Bear the following in mind. Oates’ tale is set in 1951. The only record of Frost’s ever having said such a thing, if it constitutes a record, is a poem Robert Lowell wrote in the late 1960s, the details of which derive (it would appear) from a conversation he recalled having had with Frost in November 1962, the last year Frost saw full to its end in a hospital bed at Peter Bent Brigham in Boston. This is but one of the anachronisms laid into the tale, and it is typical of Oates’ narrative tricks. Here is Lowell’s poem:
Robert Frost at midnight, the audience gone
to vapor, the great act laid on the shelf in mothballs,
his voice musical, raw and raw—he writes in the flyleaf:
“Robert Lowell from Robert Frost, his friend in the art.”
“Sometimes I feel too full of myself,” I say.
And he, misunderstanding, “When I am low,
I stray away. My son wasn’t your kind. The night
we told him Merrill Moore would come to treat him,
he said, ‘I’ll kill him first.’ One of my daughters thought things,
knew every male she met was out to make her;
the way she dresses, she couldn’t make a whorehouse.”
And I, “Sometimes I’m so happy I can’t stand myself.”
And he, “When I am too full of joy, I think
how little good my health did anyone near me.”
Merrill Moore was the psychiatrist Frost consulted, again and again, over two decades (in connection with his son Carol and his daughter Irma). He served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, and was a poet himself. Frost wrote a tribute to him when he died. Lowell was also close to Moore and a friend of Frost (who, generally speaking, regarded the younger poet warmly).
Did Frost say what Lowell has him saying? We don’t really know; the poem is a work of art, and far better than anything Oates’ could ever give us on Frost and whatever haunted him. But in the poem the damning phrase is no “laughing” matter. The note Lowell registers, in closing, is one of rueful regret. If there’s humor in it, well, it smacks of the gallows. I’ve seen depression enough to hear that note. God knows Lowell had. “My son wasn’t your kind”: interesting (and artful) that he gets that in of himself from Frost.
Most of Oates’ readers won’t see how she abuses Lowell’s poem, which is, I think, a fine thing. She can’t pawn this one off on the chimerical “interviewer” who interrogates Frost, for reasons that should be obvious. The poet might have been haunted by many a thing in 1951, but among them couldn’t be the phrasing of a poem written after he died, or remarks he may have made in confidence to Robert Lowell in the dying fall of November 1962. Oates works dubiously with what any party to the affair could have been conscious or “unconscious” of at the time (that last term pops up at the end of the tall tale). She has her “limited, selected” way with the intersecting “histories” of two dead poets.
Whistle in a literary graveyard, sure, but never cackle.
~ ~ ~
Postscript: Alice Robb, at the New Republic, has now written an article about the controversies associated with Oates’ short story.
If you ask neuroscientists why understanding the brain is so difficult, they give you very intellectually unsatisfying answers, like that the brain has billions of cells, and we can’t record from all of them, and so on.
Chomsky: There’s something to that. If you take a look at the progress of science, the sciences are kind of a continuum, but they’re broken up into fields. The greatest progress is in the sciences that study the simplest systems. So take, say physics — greatest progress there. But one of the reasons is that the physicists have an advantage that no other branch of sciences has. If something gets too complicated, they hand it to someone else.
Like the chemists?
Chomsky: If a molecule is too big, you give it to the chemists. The chemists, for them, if the molecule is too big or the system gets too big, you give it to the biologists. And if it gets too big for them, they give it to the psychologists, and finally it ends up in the hands of the literary critic, and so on.
As my friend Mark Scott puts it: “The bigger the system, the more literary.”
I wonder what lies beyond literary criticism in Chomsky’s charming “and so on.” Surely we’ve already passed through the social sciences before we ever set our iambic feet—dimeter: accent on the metatarsal ball—in the English Department (whose corridors lead to an un-alarmed door marked “Exit”).
But whom do literary critics hand their systems off to? Follow that line out far enough and you may wind up in politics. In a 1938 letter to R.P.T. Coffin, Robert Frost says: “A real artist delights in roughness for what he can do to it. He’s the brute who can knock the corners off the marble block and drag the unbedded beauty out of bed. The statesman (politician) is no different except that he works in a protean mass of material that hardly holds the shape he gives it long enough for him to get credit for it. His material is the rolling mob.”
* * *
I used to think Wild Cherry hailed from Scotland. Why? Wild Cherry hailed from Steubenville, Ohio. Peanut butter and crackers delight me. Fourteen years ago I underwent a surgical procedure called retro-peritoneal lymph-node dissection. I’ve been costive ever since. It concerns me daily. I spend hours worrying about it. I once rented a PT Cruiser; I hated it; you might as well drive around in a hat-box. Usually I need to have things pointed out to me. Occasionally I think of myself as everyone’s kid brother; that’s the role I play. My job requires that I consult WorldCat Identities daily; I looked myself up on it once. On the title page of The World as Will and Representation (Dover edition, volume two), I copied out the following sentences: “How man deals with man is seen, for example, in Negro slavery, the ultimate object of which is sugar and coffee,” and “Death is for the species what sleep is for the individual.” I like to think the species, such as it is, will wake up refreshed after I die; my chronic insomnia will then have meant something. Convivial drunkards sadden me. Sometimes I withhold information from persons who ought to know it. One night, driving from Columbia, SC, to Augusta, GA, I got my 1975 Honda Civic up to 105 mph, west of the Aiken County line. It was 3 AM. I enjoyed that. I’m not easily hurt; on the other hand, I want people to like me more than I probably should. Lately I noticed that my eyebrows are unruly; that doesn’t augur well. I never read books people lend me unsolicited; likewise, I never heed advice. Vladimir Putin makes me feel safe. Like Robert Trivers, I lie to myself; nevertheless, things usually work out; that fact seems salient. Bob Dylan didn’t throw it all away. He gave it all away. To Jimi Hendrix and Richard Manuel, for example. Only once have I dated a woman whose taste in music I fully shared. I find it distasteful that ordinary Americans now call gunmen “shooters” and criminals “perps.” The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term “autoportrait” to 1825: “In addition to this general collection, there is an equally numerous one of the auto-portraits of painters” (Edinburgh Magazine). I have gardened at night (under compulsion). I have failed to report a crime. When I was in high-school, I placed first in a state-wide competition in percussion. Money means nothing to me, but I love to have it; eventually this will get me in trouble. I moved into a duplex in 1984. In the crawl space under the house I discovered a dog, chained to a stanchion. I called the Humane Society; they took the dog away and put it down; it was too sick to live. I have a theory about parties: no one should ever bring a guitar to one. I have never been embittered. I always lose umbrellas. I find it heartening that philosophers concern themselves with “the paradox of future individuals.” Poems of the Past and Present (1902) is cautiously optimistic; in Late Lyrics and Earlier (1922), Thomas Hardy set the matter right. On or about November 14, 1865, Charles Woodbury met Ralph Waldo Emerson. Woodbury took notes. So did Emerson, but not about Woodbury: I checked. I don’t cultivate the talents I have. I let them stand just as they are. I love my friends without condition; I deserve no credit for this; it comes too easy. I wonder: did advertisers invent “plaque”? I know they invented “body odor”; I saw the ads (while collating serial and trade editions of Edith Wharton’s Old New York). I have tried to find in myself evidence that I fear death, but none is forthcoming; this strikes me as unduly cavalier. Read more…
In the summer of 1921, Robert Frost accepted a post at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. President Marion LeRoy Burton had tendered the offer, partly at the suggestion of the poet and dramatist Percy MacKaye, who held a similar post at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Frost was to be, for a year, a fellow in the creative arts on a stipend of $5,000, a sum underwritten by the industrialist and former Governor of Michigan Chase S. Osborne. The fellowship carried little to no formal teaching responsibilities. (Incidentally, the inflation calculator at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics tells me that a $5,000 stipend in 1921 had the same “buying power” as $64,194.13 would today.)
On October 1, Frost boarded a train with his family, and left Vermont—where he’d bought a pre-Revolutionary stone cottage—for Michigan and a house at 1523 Washtenaw Avenue in central Ann Arbor. A public reception held on November 15 formally welcomed the poet to the university. But he’d already been at work, as the item reprinted below from the Washtenaw Post, dated 27 October 1921, makes clear. I reprint it here partly as an example of how not to read or listen to Frost. But I find in it also the note of resentment conservatives (chiefly religious) often register now, and have registered for two decades or more, whenever funding for the National Endowment of the Arts comes up for review. In short, I see, in this short article from 1921, some of the elements of what would later be called “the culture wars.” We have, here, a poet enjoying a posh (for the time) fellowship at a major university, saying things in public fora that irritate religious conservatives—conservatives who pretty clearly harbor suspicions about the moral probity of intellectuals.
Bear in mind, in reading the item below, that if Frost said anything at all about God or Divine Providence, the article stating that he did provides no evidence of it whatsoever. Indeed, Frost almost certainly said nothing about “divine providence” in October 1921, unless in an ironic aside the mischief of which was lost on the Washtenaw Post. The article gives us instead a Malthusian sort of Frost. What sort of Frost lies behind this report is not, to my knowledge, recoverable (no good record of the talk he gave survives, so far as I know).
Anyway, in letters dating from the period of the Great War and after, Frost never advances a Malthusian theory of its cause, and most certainly not a “providential” one. He may have gotten the politics wrong, from time to time, especially when he predicted the outcome of the Russian Revolution (about which, in the very early going, he was badly mistaken: in 1917 he thought Kerensky’s government would almost certainly prevail). But he generally saw the Great War largely for what it was: a nationalist political affair, associated with rivalry for colonies and economic power.
The Washtenaw Post fetches God in, on the assumption, it would appear, that no one can speak (as Frost appeared to here) of large, self-regulating systems (however appalling their operations) without speaking also of the Christian Deity. “Nature’s way,” says Frost, and the Washtenaw Post hears, “God’s way.”
Finally, a note of some interest on the paper in question. A history of Washtenaw County published in 1881 credits one L.J. Leisemer with founding the Washtenaw Post in October 1879 as the first German-language paper in Washtenaw county. Earlier that year, Leisemer had married Emma H. Helber. ArborWiki, a site devoted to the history of Ann Arbor and its environs, dates the origins of the Post instead to 1894 and to Eugene J. Helber, whom I assume was related to Leisemer’s wife. Likely what occurred was a simple transfer of editorship within the extended family; that the Post had been in operation at least since 1880 is certain. Anyway, Helber was charged with sedition during the Great War, owing to pro-German editorials his paper had published. Answering a subpoena from Washington, he was interrogated, and, ultimately, denied use of the mails. Whereupon he handed the reins over to his son, James Helber, whom the Federal Government allowed to continue publishing the paper, but in English only, not German.†
I mention this because it may explain the bitter reaction against what the Post mistook for an intimation (by Frost) that Germany’s defeat in the war—and subsequent humiliation through the Treaty of Versailles?—was a thing ordained, if not by God, then by Nature. The editorialist doesn’t spell that out, of course. But the inference is there to be drawn, given the paper’s pro-German character (at the time). How dare this pampered “New England” poet speak in such a way about war, at a moment when Germany had suffered so unjust a defeat and so unjust a peace. Maybe some of that’s behind it, and couldn’t be spoken of more directly owing to censures the paper had endured for its writing about the war. Then again, maybe not. Who knows? Such records as I’ve seen also suggest that The Washtenaw Post treated the University of Michigan with wariness. In October 1917, the university fired a member of its German Department (Carl Eggert) for entertaining pro-German sentiments. The German-American community in Ann Arbor was still smarting. That some elements within the university had supported Prohibition, which the local German-American community opposed, probably didn’t help matters.††
Did all these affairs, or merely some of them, lead the Post snidely to suggest that Frost’s august (and well-financed) presence on campus might inspire, if it inspired anything at all, one or two of the university’s 11,000 students to write lyrics of the kind sung by barbershop quartets (e.g., Silver Threads Among the Gold)? Perhaps. Were it not for the religious high-dudgeon and the very dubious characterization of Frost’s views as to the cause of WW I—”the great world war was nothing to be regretted, but simply God’s way of thinning us out!”—I might suppose this to be garden-variety grumbling about the uselessness of scribblers (a possibility a friend mentioned to me).
In short, we have, here, a highly refracted report of what would appear to have been a mischievous, Malthusian-Darwinian bit of Frostian foolery about the squirrels of Ann Arbor, and about what their little struggles implied. And it is a report from a newspaper with (it would appear) a vexed relation to the Great War and a history of contentious relations to the University of Michigan—a university that had just hired Frost at $5,000 to do less than “twirl his thumbs.”
In Ann Arbor, it was harder, in 1921, to engage in whimsical thought-experiments about war than Frost may have supposed.
≈ ≈ ≈
The Washtenaw Post
27 October 1921
ROBERT FROST’S OPINION OF A MERCIFUL GOD
HE LOOKS UPON PESTILENCE, DISEASE AND WARS AS INTERPOSITIONS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
Robert Frost, called “the best loved of New England’s poets,” is in Ann Arbor for a year, by invitation of the University of Michigan. He is not asked to do anything, not even twirl his thumbs, if he does not so desire. And for his presence he is presented with a [sic] honorarium of $5,000.
Mr. Frost may be worth it. Far be it from the Washtenaw Post to question the wisdom of President Burton and the U. of M. board of regents. His presence may be such an inspiration that some of the 11,000 students here may blossom out into writers of verse that will stir the world as did that marvelous poem entitled: “Down Went McGinty to the Bottom of the Sea,” or “Silver Threads Among the Gold,” or “Tommy Trott’s Toothsome Tomato.”
The attention of Mr. Frost was drawn to the fact that some of the squirrels in Ann Arbor were dying; that a mysterious disease was carrying them to “timely” graves; “timely,” because they were getting too numerous. So speaking of the lessening number of squirrels he remarked:
“That’s nature’s way. Animals breeding rapidly after a time become a menace for one reason or another. Then comes a scourge and they die off. It is true of humans. When the world becomes so over-populated that its organizations can no longer protect its peoples there will come a pestilence, a famine, a scourge of disease—possibly a war—and men die by the thousands or are killed by the hundred [sic] of thousands; and then once more organization is able to care for the people of a great world.”
How simple. The great world war was nothing to be regretted, but simple [sic] God’s way of thinning us out! Poor, ignorant man may think he blundered, but Mr. Frost doesn’t think so. The black plague, tuberculosis, gripp [sic], smallpox, scarlet fever—these must be looked upon as God’s blessings in disguise to prevent over population.
God first creates too many stomachs and backs to get along comfortably, and then He sends His servants in the shape of wars and pestilence to thin us out!
One might well argue that man has no right to try to interfere with God by endeavoring to cure diseases, or to prevent wars. Doesn’t God know best?
The University of Michigan is welcome to Mr. Frost and his theory of God’s ways; but there will still be those who believe that it is the ignorance of man rather than the goodness of God that brings these scourges upon us.
≈ ≈ ≈
† N.B.: There are details about the paper’s history of which I am doubtless unaware. I offer only what I’ve been able to gather from such archival resources as a few hours poking around the web turned up. I’d be grateful for anything anyone reading this entry at The Era of Casual Fridays has to add to the tale.
†† From A HISTORY OF THE GERMAN SETTLERS IN WASHTENAW COUNTY 1830 to 1930, by Dale R. Herter and Terry Stollsteimer:
After a pro-war bond rally in Ann Arbor on the evening of April 15, 1918, several German-owned businesses and offices were smeared with yellow paint, supposedly to identify the disloyal Americans. Even churches came under suspicion of disloyalty during and just after World War I. In 1919, West Side United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor was forced to close for a few months. Upon reopening, the congregation gave up German language services and changed its name to West Side Methodist Episcopal Church for a while. Loyalty toward America was high, however, and many German descendants in Washtenaw County went off to the war in Europe, serving their country along-side their fellow Americans.
With the end of the war, pressures on German-American citizens in the Washtenaw County lessened, but the community was changed forever. English became the language of everyday use, so that children of German-American families no longer learned German, even at church schools. Children born during and after WWI could not fully understand their historic tongue, even though their parents often used it at home or among other descendants. The community was becoming part of mainstream America now, and most neither knew nor remembered relatives in Germany, and had never seen, nor now felt great passion for the land of their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. These feelings were only heightened during WWII, when Germany was only thought of as the enemy.
From the same:
The Prohibition Movement drew speakers and rallies to Ann Arbor from the late 1880’s through 1920 when national prohibition of alcohol was eventually enacted. Factions of students from the University of Michigan sometimes echoed the chant and joined in the marches. In 1888 when students entered the 2nd Ward to protest the many saloons, ‘a few heads were broken’ by the local Germans who didn’t like being told they shouldn’t have their beer!