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The Daily Worker - May 31, 1956
The Current Scene

The Madmen

Howard Fast

A reporter who was watching, wrote: "It was as if one were experiencing a nightmare with wide open eyes in broad daylight." And we all experienced the same nightmare, and all over the world, the people of mankind whispered that we were madmen and evil beyond redemption. But we are not madmen, and we have our own prayers and we weep our own tears – and we are no better and no worse than other people.
But something has happened to us, because we are numb and sick with the impotence and hopelessness of death – so each evening we prayed to our television screens that the winds would continue their rebellious turbulence, for in ourselves there was no rebellious turbulence left, no hope and no knowledge of how to block or halt the horror that was already a part of our lives, our national being, and the face we turned toward the opinion of mankind.
God made the winds and caused them to blow, we said to ourselves, plucking at an image of moral splendor half-forgotten and as successfully interdicted as any lowly red, and perhaps God will continue to lash the air with His winds, and then day after day will go by and they will not be able to explode the horror that we fear and the whole world fears. But even if our prayers were the collated whispers of 160,000,000, it became evident to those who believed, that God had closed his ears to us and that we had become, as the old book which so few open today puts it, and abomination and a stench to His nostrils.

* * *

For we were told that the winds became quiet, and then the glory that is America – equivalent to one million tons of TNT – was unfolded for the edification of mankind. Our prayers then died in our throats, and some of us crawled into bed to live our own nightmares, and others wept, and mothers held their children tightly and fathers looked at their sons – for thy son is my pledge of immortality – and swore futile and whimpering oaths. A whole nation looked at itself, sick with fear and guilt and remorse, but impotent, and made bright mental images of Cadillacs and washing machines and pastel-colored deep freezers, so that the permanent intimacy with death might sparkle a little, glitter a little. And possibly here and there, a voice said, I will anoint myself with Coca Cola, and then all will be well.
But the winds are never stilled for long, and out of a far-off land called Japan came the agonizing cry that the winds that blew in their faces were loaded with death and that death washed its shore in great tidal waves. They too prayed, and their prayers were no better answered than the prayers of 160,000,000 in another land. But the fish that swim in their coastal waters are unable even to pray, and it's better to be hungry than to eat the food of death – that is, if you know the meaning of invisible death.
Not all know. Throughout the South Sea atolls, the people will spear their fish unknowing, and this is a death that has no taste; and it is even said that the great schools of Tuna swim a circle to the California shores. Nor do the American mothers, who give the American way of life to their children between two soft slices of white bread – nor do they know. Leave it to those who take care of things, and we will produce road maps and sea maps, each attached to a can of Tuna fish.

* * *

But not everywhere is there weeping and fear. Big Jim Farley, who never forgets a face, and as president of Coca Cola operates as one of the great lords of the earth, has specified the dollar bill as a messenger of God. They built a great white temple to this slim and rectangular successor to Jesus of Nazareth, and it stands more peacefully located than Jerusalem, namely between Virginia and Maryland, where the streets are paved with pious and unctuous blasphemy. And the priesthood who serve this great white temple are filled with manly joy and devotion.
They are known as "government," and their religion is the merry creed of "free world." Their power lies in the fact that they have cut themselves loose from every hope and dream and fear and aspiration of normal men and women. Dedicated to what they call their "spiritual outlook," they live with one hope and one direction – the day when they may use their atomic weapons to remove all traces of life from the earth. And thus, even if the world moans with horror and disgust when they test their toys, they themselves rock with laughter and glee.
This is not to say that they have no anxieties. Their major fear is that when the moment of "glory" arrives, they may miss a shred of grass, sheltered somewhere in some lonely crevice. To this end, they have launched somber debates on matters of great moment to them – to wit, how many bombs they can drop before the bombs of the enemy puts an end to their bombing. They vie nobly and bravely with the enemy for the "Christian" privilege of ending life upon the earth. They have "missile" debates and "H-bomb" debates and "X-bomb" debates, and in the public interest, each branch of their mighty "life prevention" machine debates the other branches, each charging that the others lack the power to kill as many and as much as should be killed.

* * *

But such debates do not really divide them; since there is a greater unity in which they are single-mindedly dedicated to death. Their frankness and democratic-mindedness is readily revealed by the far-reaching goals of their plans. They have reached the point where they need not kill this one or that one, this nation or that nation – they can kill all and everything in one fell swoop. But since it is apparent that their enemy can do the same, they are now dedicated to doubling their strength.
"Love thy brother as thyself?"
Subversion disguised as morality. There is only one practical creed and one simple expression of it.
"Blessed are the dead, for they shall inherit the earth, even if it is only a cinder."