THE PENALTY OF OUR FAULT
By W. J. CAMERON, of Ford Motor Co.
Broadcast over the Nation-Wide Network of the Columbia Broadcasting System from Detroit, September 29, 1940
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 10-11
TONIGHT we open the Seventh Season of the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, and for the seventh time it is our fate to open amid disquieting conditions. As you can bear witness, we have tried from the first to reassert the things most surely known among us and we have tried to rally our people to stand by them. In the intervening period, national sobriety of thought has returned in some degree, but always it has been accompanied by increasing distractions from Europe, until tonight our Seventh Series opens on a grim and critical scene. We in America know what is going on; in some respects e are, perhaps, more fully and accurately informed than the peoples directly involved. But merely to hear what may be heard is not enough. Loud events are so notoriously impertinent and deceitful that, if we are not to be deluded by them, we need some clue to their meaning. What we think today and where we stand depends upon our knowledge of the world and our total philosophy of life. The time for debate is past; the roll of ultimate convictions is being called.
On the one hand we are told that this new military might in the world is the prophet of a new order, that what we see occurring is a new dawn for humanity breaking lurid and thunder-muttering over the world. Some are so deeply impressed by a few extra thousand tons of steel that they warn us to acquiesce in the new system, tolerate its brutality and prepare to live with it as the principle of the new age. Others take the view that what we see is the threshing wrath and fury of an ancient evil being expelled in a cataclysm of its own making, being overthrown as evil always is overthrown, by its own weapons.
What we see, however, is precisely what we might have expected to see. Let a nation give itself to the religion of aggression, and for years take the means of aggression out of the very souls and bodies of its people, it is only naturallaw that in the day of action, that nation will reap the fruits of its investment of labor and self-denial on the plane to which it belongs and for the time that natural law rigorously determines. And another nation in that orbit, not so abysmal in its purpose, will reap on the same plane and for the same time the fruits of its descent and civilized neglect We see that occurring now. But to say that on that plane or in that time anything of human importance has been or can be permanently settled, is several degrees below infantile chatter.
Now, if we know this, we know it; if we do not know it, it is probably too late for this present period to learn it Each stands now on what he knows.
One year ago, in opening our Sixth Season, we said: "No one yet knows what kind of a war this is or will become. No one knows which alleged friends will be enemies six months from now, or which enemies friends." And that still holds. Since this Hour suspended for the summer we have seen strange things, and yet not so strange, for it has only been birds of a feather flocking together; only those who see no more than the outer shell of events were astounded. Equally strange things are yet ahead. We ought not to fear them with a craven fear; though because of the element of Judgment in them, they may well evoke in us a solemn awe akin to the Fear of God. The present phase of struggle may end more suddenly and with greater finality than we think— the principles intact on which our civilization is being built, and the people vindicated that stand by them.
What we see today is not History, but the interruption of History. A bull in a china shop is a very distracting and stubborn fact, but he is not History. He is not symbolic of a time when bulls shall be general managers of china shops. Nor is this war prophetic of a militarized future when family firesides will be bomb-proof holes in the ground. Its meaningis that evils we have let to live and grow by common consent, or at least without effective common protest, have simply given effect to the law by which one evil breeds another evil to be its nemesis. That is not History, it is "time out" from History to pay the penalty of our fault. The fire now burning, and that on which it feeds, shall both sink in ashes. But that is not progress. There was a point where we stopped making History and began to make disorder. No country is an exception to this. We had neither the courage nor the
decency to put away by civilized means the disorder that accumulated—hence the present conflagration. We now approach the point—more rapidly than we think—where that disorder shall have consumed itself. And then we shall resume, if we are wise, the making of proper History, which is the record of human advance toward that morality whereon is built the Just and Good Society. Among the free peoples this is the view that gains ascendancy; this is their firmly announced intention for the immediate future.