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The Human Touch

My Dear Sir:

It is the Quixotic part of me that writes this note to you. My practical common sense tells me that you have travelled too great a distance to be reached by the sound of my (I hope) reasonable voice. Still I believe that you are far more amenable to good sense and reason than the German rabble-rousers under whose spell you very probably are. You at least haven’t had your banalities returned to you many thousand-fold with the approbation implied in the cheers of mobs. It seems to me that your mind—I believe you have a mind—can be reached, at least, even if the possibility of persuasion is remote. Of course either one of two possibilities would make communication between us impossible. If you have made up your mind to make out of the issue of anti-Semitism a ladder by which you hope to arrive at political preferment, in the South, say, or if you ##ve succeeded in persuading your### that you are engaged in a mission inspired or directed from above, then consider this attempt to reach you as broken off.

I persist in assuming, however, that your case is not as hopeless as the existence of either alternative would imply.

You seem to be suffering from two delusions. The first is that vulgarity is a Jewish quality and refinement is a non-Jewish quality; the second is, that if a Jew obtains an important position he obtains it, and holds it, primarily as a Jew, and not as a member of the human race; nor as a citizen of his nation, state or city. You assume that the loyalty of the Jew is limited only to his people, and that the loyalty of the Gentile—except when he is a creature of the Jewish influence—is generous and unshackled.

You have swallowed whole, without the smallest doubt or attempt to check the facts, the discredited nonsense of the Elders of Zion protocols, which The London Times (surely not a Jewish journal) exposed as a base forgery. These “protocols” had been published originally as part of an anonymous attack on Napoleon III.

You have disseminated such ridiculous nonsense as that Al Smith and Ramsay MacDonald are half-Jews and that because Mr. MacDonald has a Jewish secretary therefore the British Empire is in the palm of Judaism. In fact, the more I think of the nonsensical perversions you have printed the more I am tempted to abandon this note. But the hope of “reaching” what I consider your mind, albeit a little dimmer, persists. The world is not so simple either as the rabid anti-Semites or the rabid pro-Semites make it. And after all, it is such as you who intensify in Jews that consciousness of belonging to a people which tends to be dissipated in a world which accepts the Jew as a citizen-member of the community. This fact is cold potatoes to us Jews, but it may be news to you.

You take offense at the vulgarity of Walter Winchell and Eddie Cantor, and assume, by implication at least, that the vulgarity which they express is a Jewish quality. Does it not occur to you that there may be Jews who, no less than you, take offense at the Winchells and the Cantors? Do Jews who disapprove of the Winchell note in journalism and the Cantor note in the theatre make themselves Gentiles and do the Gentiles who take delight in the antics of these men, become Jews? And does it not occur to you that you would not have heard of these Jews had not Gentile approbation expanded their influence to the point at which you became aware of it. Vulgarity in humor, or vulgarity in slander is an age-old characteristic which the cave-man and the cave-woman guffawed over before religion came into the world to divide their descendants into religious camps, or don’t you believe there were cave-men and cave-women?

The best way in which you can impose upon the world your disapprobation of vulgarity is to give it a vacuum in which to wither and die, and while men and women, Gentile and Jew, desire vulgarity enough, they will reward, out of proportion to their merit, the gentry who provide them with that staple. And if you dislike jazz music—which you say Jews give the world—why don’t you see to it that that music does not awake the slightest twitter of a response in a Gentile breast?

Your diatribe suggests that you would destroy humor in your onslaught on vulgarity, because, for better or worse, one is embedded in the other, and the man who hates jazz music may hate not the jazz, but the music which is embedded in jazz.

What you are, my dear Sir, is not necessarily an anti-Semite but an old-fashioned Puritan to whom life is so bitter and earnest that there is no room in it either for humor or music. For better or for worse you must take our Eddie Cantor with our Charlie Chaplin, and bear in mind that even the Prince of Wales—whom not even you would dare to call a half-Jew, or even a quarter-Jew—was not too proud to dine with the well-beloved Charlie. I fear that you would expel humor from the world without realizing that a good laugh is the world’s greatest purgative for spitefulness bigotry, meanness and even vulgarity. It is in the bellies of those who do not or cannot laugh that the vulgarity you honestly hate festers and poisons the whole spiritual system. There are few things so foul as the unpurged mind of the man who cannot laugh and who will not hear, or sing, music.

You must also bear in mind that jazz music—that is the music without the words—has an honest Biblical origin. It comes to us out of the Negroes of the South, out of their spirituals, the subject matter of which they derived from the itinerant preachers who brought the word of God to them when they were slaves. And to the stories of the Old and of the New Testament in which the word was implicit they added this music which has come to us directly as spirituals and, transmuted, as jazz music. In your attack on Bernard Baruch you are simply preposterous. In fact, should you succeed in making Mr. Baruch Jew-conscious you will have succeeded in a cause which will earn for you the applause of many American Jews. Mr. Baruch is more an American than you realize. If he is ready to serve a President Wilson or a President Roosevelt, he is willing to do so not as a Jew, but as an American. In your simplification of motives you have rather dramatized his function and place in what you call “international Jewry.” It doesn’t occur to you that if the United States must pay interest on its war debt, it must pay it to bankers of all denominations; that interest, per se, is not a “plot” devised by Jews for the benefit of Jews.

President Roosevelt was elected by a majority approaching so close to national unanimity that it is fantastic to suggest that he must repay Jews, as Jews, for his election, without obligation to the bulk of the American people which elected him.

If there is anything fundamentally un-American in wanting to reorganize the structure of our national economy to the end that depression shall cease, that the unemployed shall become employed, that the employed shall have a higher wage, that child slavery shall be abolished in the cotton mills of the South, then President Roosevelt and Mr. Baruch are un-American. And if, contrariwise, your hostility to President Roosevelt and Mr. Baruch makes you an American, then, my dear Sir, you are giving the wrong names to things.

Sincerely,

Harry Salpeter.

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