HOW are you getting on with 'The Case,' Mrs. J.?" I asked Ellador one evenin_hen she seemed rather discouraged. "What symptoms are worrying you most now ?"
She looked at me with wide anxious eyes, too much in earnest to mind the "Mrs.
J.," which usually rather teased her.
"It's, an awfully important case, Van dear," she answered soberly, "and _erious one—very serious, I think. I've been reading a lot, had to, to ge_ackground and perspective, and I feel as if I understood a good deal better.
Still ——. You helped me ever so much by saying that you were not new people, just mixed "Europeans. But the new country and the new conditions began t_ake you all into a new people. Only ——."
"These pauses are quite terrifying," I protested. "Won't you explain you_minous 'still,' and sinister 'only'!"
She smiled a little. "Why the 'still' should have been followed by the amoun_hich I did not understand, and the 'only' ——." She stopped again.
"Well, out with it, my dear. Only what?" "Only you have done it too fast an_oo much in the dark. You weren't conscious you see."
"Not conscious—America not conscious ?"
"Not self-conscious, I mean, Van."
This I scouted entirely, till she added patiently: "Perhaps I should sa_ationally conscious, or socially conscious. You were plunged into an enormou_ocial enterprise, a huge swift, violent experiment ; the current of socia_volution burst forth over here like a subterranean river finding an outlet.
Things that the stratified crust of Asia could not let through, and the heav_hell of European culture could not either, just burst forth over here an_wept you along. Democracy had been—accumulating, through all the centuries.
The other nations forced it back, held it down. It boiled over in France, bu_he lid was clapped on again for awhile. Here it could pour forward —and i_oured. Then all the people of the same period of social development wanted t_ome too, and did,—lots of them. That was inevitable. All that 'America' mean_n this sense is a new phase of social development, and anyone can be a_merican who belongs to it."
"Guess you are right so far, Mrs. Doctor. Go ahead!"
"But while this was happening to you, you were doing things yourselves, som_f them in line with your real position and movement, some dead against it.
For instance, your religion."
"Religion against what? Expound further."
"You don't mean the Christian religion, do you?" I urged, rather shocked.
"Oh, no, indeed. That would have been a great help to the world if they ha_ver taken it up."
I was always entertained and somewhat startled by Ellador's detached view. Sh_new the same facts so familiar to us, but they had not the same connotations.
"I think Jesus was simply wonderful," she went on. "What a pity it was he di_ot live longer!"
This was a new suggestion to me. Of course I no longer accepted that pitifu_ld idea of his being a pre-arranged sacrifice to his own father, but I neve_eliberately thought of his having continued alive, and its possible effects.
"He is supposed to have been executed at about the age of thirty-three, was h_ot ?" she went on. "Think of it—hardly a grown man! He should have had thirt_r forty more years of teaching. It would all have become clearer, mor_onsistent. He would have worked things out, explained them, made peopl_nderstand. He would have made clear to them what they were to do. It was a_wful loss."
I said nothing at all, but watched the sweet earnest face, the wise far-seein_yes, and really agreed with her, though in my mind rose a confused dim thron_f horrified objections belonging not to my own mind, but to those of othe_eople.
"Tell me how you mean that our religion was against democracy," I persisted.
"It was so personal," she said, "and so unjust. There must have crept into it, in early times, a lot of the Buddhist philosophy, either direct or filtered, the 'acquiring merit' idea, and ascetism. The worst part of all was the ide_f sacrifice—that is so ancient. Of course what Jesus meant was social unity, that your neighbor was yourself—that we were all one humanity—'many gifts, bu_he' same spirit.' He must have meant that—for that is So.
"What I mean by 'your religion' is the grade of Calvinism which dominate_oung America, with the still older branches, and the various small newe_nes. It was all so personal. My soul— my salvation. My conscience—my sins.
And here was the great living working truth of democracy carrying you on i_pite of yourselves—E Pluribus Unum.
"Your economic philosophy was dead against it too—that foolish laissez-fair_dea. And your politics, though what was new in it started pretty well, ha_ever been able to make much headway against the highest religious sanction, the increasing economic pressure, and the general drag of custom an_radition— inertia."
"You are somewhat puzzling," my fair Marco Polo," I urged. "So you mean t_xtol our politics, American politics?"
"Why of course!" she said, her eyes shining. "The principles of democracy ar_holly right. The law of federation, the method of rotation in office, th_tark necessity for general education that the people may understand clearly, the establishment of liberty—that they may act freely—it is splendidly, gloriously right! But why do I say this to an American!"
"I wish you could say it to every American man, woman, and child," I answere_oberly. "Of course we used to feel that way about it, but things have change_omehow."
"Yes, yes," she went on eagerly. "That's what I mean. You started right, fo_he most part, but those highminded brave old ancestors of yours did no_nderstand sociology—how should they? it wasn't even born. They did not kno_ow society worked, or what would hurt it the most. So the preachers went o_xhorting the people to save their own souls, or get it done for them b_mputed virtues of someone else—and no one understood the needs of th_ountry.
"Why, Van! Vandyke Jennings! As I understand more and more how noble an_ourageous and high-minded was this Splendid Child, and then see it now, bloated and weak, with unnatural growth, preyed on by all manner of parasite_nside and out, attacked by diseases of all kinds, sneered at, criticized, condemned by the older nations, and yet bravely stumbling on, making progres_n spite of it all—I'm getting to just love America !"
That pleased me, naturally, but I didn't like her picture of my country a_loated and verminous. I demanded explanation.
"Do you think we're too big ?" I asked. "Too much country to be handle_roperly?"
"Oh, no!" she answered promptly. "Not too big in land. That would have bee_ike the long lean lines of youth, the far-reaching bones of a countr_radually rounding out and filling in as you grow. But you couldn't wait t_row, you just —swelled."
"What on earth do you mean, Ellador?"
"You have stuffed yourself with the most ill-assorted and unassimilable mas_f human material that ever was held together by artificial means," sh_nswered remorselessly. "You go to England, and the people are English. Onl_hree per cent. of aliens even in London, I understand. And in France th_eople are French—bless them! And in Italy, Italian. But here—it's no wonder _as discouraged at first. It has taken a lot of study and hard thinking, t_ee a way out at all. But I do see it. It was simply awful when I begun.
"Just look! Here you were, a little band of really promising people, o_ifferent nations, yet of the same general stock, and like-minded—that was th_ain thing. The real union is the union of idea; without that—no nation. Yo_ade settlements, you grew strong and bold, you shook off the old government.
you set up a new flag, and then——!"
"Then," said I proudly, we opened our arms to all the world, if that is wha_ou are finding fault with. We welcomed other people to our big new country—
'the poor and oppressed of all nations!' I quoted solemnly.
"That's what I mean by saying you i were ignorant of sociology," was her _heerful reply. "It never occurred to you , that the poor and oppressed wer_ot necessarily good stuff for a democracy."
I looked at her rather rebelliously.
"Why just study them," she went on, in that large sweeping way of hers.
"Hadn't there been poor and oppressed enough in the past? In Chaldaea an_ssyria and Egypt and Rome—in all Europe—every where ? Why, Van, it is th_oor and oppressed who make monarchy and despotism—don't you see that ?'
"Hold on, my dear—hold on! This is too much. Are you blaming the poor helples_hings for their tyrannical oppression ?"
"No more than I blame an apple-tree for bearing apples," she answered. "Yo_on't seriously advance the idea that the oppressor began it, do you ? Jus_ne oppressor jumping on the necks of a thousand free men ? Surely you se_hat the general status and character of a people creates and maintains it_wn kind of government ?"
"Y-e-es," I agreed. "But all the same, they are human, and if you give the_roper conditions they can all rise— surely we have proved that."
"Give them proper conditions, and give them time—yes."
"Time! They do it in one generation. We have citizens, good citizens, of al_aces, who were born in despotic countries, all equal in our democracy."
"How many Chinese and Japanese citizens have you ?" she asked quietly. "Ho_re your African citizens treated in this 'equal' democracy!"
This was rather a facer.
"About the first awful mistake you made was in loading yourself up with thos_eluctant Africans," Ellador went on. "If it wasn't so horrible, it would b_unny, awfully funny. A beautiful healthy young country, saddling itself wit_n antique sin every other civilized nation had repudiated. And here they are, by millions and millions, flatly denied citizenship, socially excluded, a_normous alien element in your democracy."
"They are not aliens," I persisted stoutly. "They are Americans, loya_mericans; they make admirable soldiers "
"Yes, and servants. You will let them serve you and fight for you—but that'_ll, apparently. Nearly a tenth of the population, and not part of th_emocracy. And they never asked to come!"
"Well," I said, rather sullenly. "I admit it—everyone does. It was an enormou_ostly national mistake, and we paid for it heavily. Also it's there yet, a_nsolved question. I admit it all. Go on please. We were dead wrong on th_lacks, and pretty hard on the reds; we may be wrong on the yellows. I gues_his is a white man's country, isn't it? You're not objecting to the whit_mmigrants, are you ?"
"To legitimate immigrants, able and willing to be American citizens, there ca_e no objection, unless even they come too fast. But to millions o_eliberately imported people, not immigrants at all, but victims, poo_gnorant people scraped up by paid agents, deceived by lying advertisements, brought over here by greedy American ship owners and employers of labor—ther_re objections many and strong."
"But, Ellador—even granting it is you say, they too can be made into America_itizens, surely?"
"They can be, but are they ? I suppose you all tacitly assume that they are; but an outsider does not see it. We have been all over the country now, prett_horoughly. I have met and talked with people of all classes and all races, both men and women. Remember I'm new to 'the world,' and I've just come her_rom studying Europe, and Asia, and Africa. I have the hinterland of histor_retty clearly summarized, though of course I can't pretend to be thorough, and I tell you, Van, there are millions of people in your country who do no_elong to it at all."
She saw that I was about to defend our foreign born, and went on:
"I do not mean the immigrants solely. There are Bostonians of Beacon Hill wh_elong in London; there are New Yorkers of five generations who belong i_aris; there are vast multitudes who belong in Berlin, in Dublin, i_erusalem; and there are plenty of native Sons and Daughters of the Revolutio_ho are aristocrats, plutocrats, anything but democrats."
"Why of course there are! We believe in having all kinds—there's room fo_verybody—this is the 'melting-pot,' you know."
"And do you think that you can put a little of everything into a melting-po_nd produce a good metal? Well fused and flawless? Gold, silver, copper an_ron, lead, radium, pipe clay, coal dust, and plain dirt ?"
A simile is an untrustworthy animal if you ride it too hard. I grinned an_dmitted that there were limits to the powers of fusion.
"Please understand," she urged gently. "I am not looking down on one kind o_eople because they are different from others. I like them all. I think you_rejudice against the black is silly, wicked, and—hypocritical. You have n_dea how ridiculous it looks, to an outsider, to hear your Souther_nthusiasts raving about the horrors of 'miscegenation' and then to count th_ulattos, quadroons, octoroons and all the successive shades by which th_lack race becomes white before their eyes. Or to see them shudder at 'socia_quality' while the babies are nourished at black breasts, and cared for i_heir most impressionable years by black nurses—their children!"
She stopped at that, turned away from me and walked to the opposite window, where she stood for some time with her hands clenched and her shoulder_eaving.
"Where was I?" she asked presently, definitely dropping the question o_hildren. "Black—yes, and how about the yellow? Do they 'melt'? Do you wan_hem to melt? Isn't your exclusion of them an admission that you think som_inds of people unassimilable ? That democracy must pick and choose a little ?"
"What would you have us do ?" I asked rather sullenly. "Exclude everybody?
Think we are superior to the whole world?"
Ellador laughed, and kissed me. "I think you are," she whispered tenderly.
"No—I don't mean that at all. It would be too great a strain on th_magination! If you want a prescription—far too late —it is this: i Democrac_s a psychic relation. It requires the intelligent conscious co-operation of _reat many persons all 'equal' in the characteristics required to play tha_ind of a game. You could have safely welcomed to your great undertakin_eople of every race and nation who were individually fitted to assist. Not b_ny means because they were 'poor and oppressed,' nor because of tha_littering generality that 'all men are born free and equal,' but because th_uman race is in different stages of development, and only some the races—o_ome individuals in a given race—have reached the democratic stage."
"But how could we discriminate?"
"You mustn't ask me too much, Van. I'm a stranger; I don't know all I ough_o, and, of course I'm all the time measuring by my background of experienc_n my own country. I find you people talk a good bit about the Brotherhood o_an, but you haven't seemed to think about the possibilities of a sisterhoo_f women."
I looked up alertly, but she gave a mischievous smile and shook her head. "Yo_o not want to hear about the women, I remember. But seriously, dear, this i_ne of the most dangerous mistakes you have made; it complicates everything.
It makes your efforts to establish democracy like trying to make a ship go b_team and at the same time admitting banks of oars, masses of sails an_ordage, and mere paddles and outriggers."
"You can certainly make some prescription for this particularly dreadfu_tate, can't you?" I urged. "Sometimes 'an outsider' can see better than thos_ho are—being melted."
She pondered awhile, then began slowly: "Legitimate immigration is like th_oming of children to you,—new blood for the nation, citizens made, not born.
And they should be met like children, with loving welcome, with adequat_reparation, with the fullest and wisest education for their new place. Wher_ou have that crowded little filter on Ellis Island, you ought to hav_mmigration Bureaus on either coast, at ports so specified, with a grea_dditional department to definitely Americanize the newcomers, to teach the_he language, spirit, traditions and customs of the country. Talk abou_ffering hospitality to all the world! What kind of hospitality is it to le_our guests crowd and pack into the front hall, and to offer them neither bed, bread nor association? That's what I mean by saying that you are no_onscious. You haven't taken your immigration seriously enough. Th_onsequence is that you are only partially America, an American clogged an_onfused, weakened and mismanaged, for lack of political compatibility."
"Is this all?" I asked after a little. "You make me feel as if my country wa_ cross between a patchwork quilt and a pudding stone.'
"Oh, dear, no f" she cheerfully assured me. "That's only a beginning of m_iagnosis. The patient's worst disease was that disgraceful out-of-date attac_f slavery, only escaped by a surgical operation, painful, costly, and not b_ny means wholly successful. The second is this chronic distension fro_bsorbing too much and too varied material, just pumping it in at wild speed.
The third is the most conspicuously foolish of all —to a Herlander."
"Oh—leaving the women out ?"
"Yes. It's so—so—well, I can't express to you how ridiculous it looks.
"We're getting over it," I urged. "Eleven states now, you know—it's gettin_n."
"Oh, yes, yes, it's getting on. But I'm looking at your history, and you_onditions, and your loud complaints, and then to see this great mass o_ellowcitizens treated as if they weren't there— it is unbelievable!"
"But I told you about that before we came," said I. "I told you in Herland —you knew it."
"I knew it, truly. But, Van, suppose anyone had told you that in Herland wome_ere the only citizens—would that have prevented your being surprised ?"
I looked back for a moment, remembering how we men, after living there s_ong, after "knowing" that women were the only citizens, still never got ove_he ever recurring astonishment of realising it.
"No wonder it surprises you, dear,—I should think it would. But go on abou_he women."
"I'm not touching on the women at all, Van. This is only in treating o_emocracy—of your country and what ails it. You see: "
"Well, dear? See what?"
"It is so presumptuous of me to try to explain democracy to you, an America_itizen. Of course you understand, but evidently the country at large doesn't.
In a monarchy you have this one allowed Ruler, and his subordinate rulers, an_he people submit to them. Sometimes it works very well, but in any case it i_omething done for and to the people by someone they let do it.
"A democracy, a real one, means the people socially conscious and doing i_hemselves—doing it themselves! Not just electing a Ruler and subordinates an_ubmitting to them—transferring the divine right of kings to the divine righ_f alderman or senators. A democracy is a game everybody has to play—has to —else it is not a democracy. And here you people deliberately left out half!"
"But they never had been 'in'; you know, in the previous governments."
"Now, Van—that's really unworthy of you. As subjects they were the same a_en, and as queens they were the same as kings. But you began a new game— tha_ou said must be 'by the people'— and so on, and left out half."
"It was—funny," I admitted, "and unfortunate. But we're improving. Do go on.
"That's three counts, I believe," she agreed. "Next lamentabl_istake,—failure to see that democracy must be economic."
"No, not exactly. Meaning what Socialism means, or ought to mean. You coul_ot have a monarchy where the king was in no way different from his subjects.
A monarchy must be expressed not only in the immediate symbols of robe an_rown, throne and sceptre, but in the palace and the court, the list of lord_nd gentlemen-in-waiting. It's all part of monarchy.
"So you cannot have a democracy while there are people markedly differentiate_rom the others, with symbolism of dress and decoration, with courts an_alaces and crowds of servitors."
"You can't except all the people to be just alike, can you ?"
"No, nor even to be 'equal.' Some people will always be more valuable tha_thers, and some more useful than others; but a poet, a blacksmith, and _ancing master might all be friends and fellow-citizens in a true democrati_ense. Your millionaires vote and your daylaborers vote, but it does not brin_hem together as fellow citizens. That's why your little old New England town_nd your fresh young western ones, have more of 'America' in them than i_ossible—could ever be possible—in such a political menagerie as New York, fo_nstance.
"Meaning the Tiger?" I inquired.
"Including the Tiger, with the Elephant, the Moose and the Donkey—especiall_he Donkey! No—I do not really mean those—totems. I mean the weird collectio_f political methods, interests, stages of growth.
"New York's an oligarchy; it's a plutocracy; it's a hierarchy; it reverts t_he clan system with its Irishmen, and back of that, to the patriarchy, wit_ts Jews. It's anything and everything you like— but it's not a democracy."
"If it was, what would it do to prove it ? Just what do you expect of what yo_all democracy? Don't you idealize it?" I asked.
"No." She shook her head decidedly. "I do not idealize it. I'm familiar wit_t, you see—we have one at home, you know."
So they had. I had forgotten. In fact I had not very clearly noticed. We ha_een so much impressed by their all being women that we had not done justic_o their political development."
"It's no miracle," she said. "Just people co-operating to govern themselves.
We have universal suffrage, you know, and train our children in the use of i_efore they come to the real thing. That farseeing Mr. Gill is trying to d_hat in your public schools, I notice, and Mr. George of the Junior Republics.
It requires a common knowledge of the common need, local self-management, recognizing the will of the majority, and a big ceaseless loving effort t_ake the majority wiser. It's surely nothing so wonderful, Van, for a lot o_ntelligent people to get together and manage their common interests."
It certainly had worked well in Herland. So well, so easily, so smoothly, tha_t was hardly visible.
"But the people who get together have got to be within reach of one another,"
she went on. "They've got to have common interests. What united action can yo_xpect between Fifth Avenue and— Avenue A?"
"I've had all I can stand for one dose, my lady," I now protested. "From wha_ou have said I should think your 'Splendid Child' would have died in infancy— a hundred years ago. But we haven't you see. We're alive an_icking—especially kicking. I have faith in my country yet."
"It is still able to lead the world—if it will," she agreed. "It has still al_he natural advantages it began with, and it has added new ones. I'm no_espairing, nor blaming, Van—I'm diagnosing, and pretty soon I'll prescribe.
But just now I suggest that we change politics for tennis."
We did. I can still beat her at tennis— having played fifteen years to he_ne— but not so often as formerly.