by Ellis Parker Butler
Mr. Peter Hibbs hurried into the courtroom of our admirable Justice of the Peace, Judge Hooper, and after a nod to Court Officer Durfey, spoke briefly with the Judge and hurried out again. "Durfey," said Judge Hooper, "did you see that man?"
"Sure, I did, Judge," said Durfey; "anything wrong with him?"
"He's an American," said Judge Hooper in his severest tone. "That man, Durfey, is a typical American. What do you think he just refused?"
"I could never guess it," said Durfey.
"He refused two tickets -- two free tickets -- for the meeting at the town hall tonight where that eminent Hindu patriot, Dungo Bungo Dass, is going to explain just what are the political and economical troubles of the ancient realm of India. And why do you think he refused those tickets, Durfey?"
"I could not guess that either, Judge," said Mr. Durfey.
"That man," said Judge Hooper in his most sarcastic tone, "absolutely refused those tickets and actually gave as a reason that he wanted to stay at home with his wife and boy and listen to the boy's radio machine pick a concert or something out of the air. Yes, Durfey! And he went so far as to say he did not care a whoop what was the matter with India's inwards, or who Gandhi was, or what the eminent Dungo Bungo Dass was trying to put over.
"Durfey, I am appalled when I note the frightful condition in which the American people allow their minds to
repose! Consider this man Hibbs. Does he lie awake at night and worry over the downtrodden Hindu who goes
shoeless to bed while his heartless British oppressors dance in boots with spurs on them?
Does his heartache for the perishing inhabitants of India who were a happy multitude of one hundred million
when the cruel Sassenach marched in and who have now dwindled to a mere three hundred million? Does he moan with sorrow over the criminal work Of the Englishman who has ruthlessly built dams and irrigation systems to prevent the Hindu from peacefully starving to death in independence? No; he does not, Durfey! He does not know and he does not want to know. 'Quit kidding me, Judge,' he says; 'I've a wife and family of my own and that's enough for me to look after. If I ever have any spare time I want to paint my ice-box -- my own ice-box, you understand; it's a shame how I have neglected that ice-box.'
"Durfey, the indifference of the American man to the woes of far lands distresses me. There are dozens of foreign peoples, some with names we can pronounce and some with names we can't, who are crying for our love and sympathy and cash, and we go home and help Sammy tune up his radio! Is that broad? Is that intellectual? Here we are, Durfey, selfishly earning shoes for the wife and kids, while nations that -- most of the time -- are so busy fighting each other that they have no time to do any work, hold out their appealing hands, palms up. And what do we do, Durfey? We say nothing and saw wood. Is that the altruistic spirit?
"The statistics show that there are now in the United States, Durfey, just about eight thousand six hundred and forty-four propagandizing foreigners, of assorted colors, some on one side and some on the other side of every foreign muss, and all talking eighteen hours a day. That shows the need is great. Some of the patriots' treasuries are so low that their sweet-voiced propagandizes cannot live at the Ritz, but have to put up with the food and accommodations of the Waldorf-Astoria. My heart bleeds for them. Some of their cash-boxes are so empty that they cannot buy rifles to shoot each other in the back. Is it right to ignore them as we do?
"I estimate, Durfey, that it would take a bright American man only twenty-five hours a day, three hundred and sixty-nine days in the year, to learn to misunderstand the complications of all the foreign ructions, and yet we begrudge the time. We turn a deaf ear, Durfey, to the woes of Europe, Asia, and Mesopotamia, and try to earn enough to feed our goldfish and our canary and have enough left to pay our own taxes. And do so!
"I am different, Durfey. Ever since I bought these tortoise-shell rimmed spectacles I have been an intelligentsia. I have sought to understand and to sympathize. For weeks my soul was racked with sorrow for the injustice done one gang in Fiume, and then a different dago in a long-tailed coat came along and my soul was racked for weeks for the other Fiume gang. And so it went, back and forth, now one side and then the other getting my tears until my soul was so racked it looked like a corkscrew and felt like a raw boil. And then the two gangs got together and forgot they ever had a falling out. So that was settled. And it was lucky for me it was, Durfey, for if the ruction had kept on much longer over there I might have been impeached for not attending to my business.
"I often wonder what would happen, Durfey, if everybody in Europe and Asia woke up some morning and went to work. I wonder what would happen if their folks rounded up all the criss-cross breeds of patriots and held their heads under water until there were no more bubbles. And I often wonder, Durfey, what would happen to America if all the people here got as excited over those foreign doings as the well-paid propagandists would like us to be, Durfey --"
"Yes, your honor?"
"Do you want these two tickets for the Dungo Bungo Dass meeting at the town hall?"
"I do not, Judge," said Durfey frankly. "Tonight I weed my garden."
"And there you are!" exclaimed Judge Hooper. "You are a crassly materialistic American, Durfey. You want to make a living first, no matter what happens to India or Patagonia. You are typically American; you don't care a whoop for any foreign country unless you can get something out of it!"
"And how about them foreign countries, Judge?" asked Durfey.
"Well, Durfey," said Judge Hooper, with his customary grin; "I have not noticed that they care a whoop for us, either, unless they can get something out of us."