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The Human Touch

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A Man who writes a column must reconcile himself occasionally to the fate of making no impression whatsoever. Not that he isn’t making an impression, but no one tells him that he is, and how is he to know that he is unless someone tells him so? Again and again he rings a bell, but the echo isn’t reported. It isn’t until the fan mail begins coming in that he is aware that some where, he has struck a gong.

At the present moment I feel almost as virtuous as a boy scout who has helped a blind old lady cross the street. I feel almost as if I had done more than one old blind lady a good turn. I have received a letter which says in part, in reference to my last week’s “Note to an Anti-Semite”:

“It is needless for me to tell you that your remarks are not only true, but are full of wisdom and higher education. (Hear! Hear!) If the anti-Semite and all other bigots would only read this letter with clear heads, they would publicly atone for their persecutions and sins, so wrongfully committed.” There is more to the letter than this, but this gives you the idea.

But I have received another letter from a man who believes that fire should be fought, not with higher education, but with fire. His letter reads in part:

“The stories one hears (from a man of former position in Germany, now here) are more and more appalling. Among the measures which should be taken in order to paralyze as much as possible the Nazi propaganda, the renewal of the word Hun would be useful, I think. Continuously one should refer to Hitler the Hun, Goering the Hun, Goebbels the Hun, Rosenberg the Hun. It may do some good. Refined criticism falls flat on the criminals and insane.”

Our friend’s letter carries within it its own contradiction. Huns or the ideas we have of them, were wholesome beasts. They were virile and could kill at a blow. They had no refined aesthetic of hatred. They were not paranoiacs. Perhaps I am oversimplifying the Huns. I do not oppose the technique of my correspondent, but calling Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Rosenberg Huns day in and day out is not the only weapon which ought to be employed.

I recommend to the attention of my correspondent the guest editorial we are publishing this week, from the trenchant pen of the brilliant Rabbi of Cleveland, Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.

I have just read in Sir Laurence Binyon’s biography, “Akbar”, a brief piece of testimony to the effect that large-mindedness and magnanimity belong to no one people and are not peculiar to any period in history. This anecdote, which Sir Laurence himself quotes from the record of one of the earliest Elizabethan travellers, Tom Coryat, illustrates also the age-old tendency among people to attempt ### enemy by degrading the Book which is the symbol of its creed, much in the way the Nazis recently made known to the world, by the burning of certain books, what they thought of Jews, pacifists, Marxists, internationalists, Communists, Social Democrats, or what have you.

The Portuguese, in the early part of the sixteenth century, had penetrated along the West coast of India and they proselytized no less earnestly than they traded or perhaps it was the other way around. Their missionary zeal brought them into contact with the ardent Moslems who believed in their old-time religion. Just to show what they thought of that religion a couple of Portuguese tied a Koran around a dog’s neck and beat the animal through the streets of the town of Ormuz. The mother of the then Emperor of the Moguls, Akbar, urged him to tie a Bible around a donkey’s neck, but he refused, and though the following phrase was not written by Sir Laurence with reference to the Nazis, we quote it for its application to those gentry. “It did not become him [Akbar, that is] to take revenge on an innocent book, or to requite ill for ill.”

Akbar, incidentally, was a very curious kind of an Emperor; he had the strange notion that if good men believed in a religion that religion had to have some good in it. In fact he built the 16th century equivalent of a Divinity School, wherein no one religion was taught but the believers in various religions at that time extant in the East and West could dispute with one another. Needless to say it was a noisy place, at best, and he heard out those who believed in Sun-worshipping, Zoroaster, Mohammed, Jesus Christ and the Jewish God, not to mention a dozen other creeds.

He was rather friendly with the Jesuits whom he had invited to his court and when the Jesuits and the Mohammedans got into a clinch, the ordeal by fire was suggested as a way to a decision. That is, a Mohammedan carrying a Koran and a Christian carrying a Bible would pass through a fire and whichever book was unharmed would receive the victory. One of the Jesuits sought out Akbar privately and said “they were quite willing to ascend the pyre, if he ordered them [they had come to the capital of Akbar expecting to die for their faith] though they did not expect any miracle to be performed on their behalf.” But Akbar informed the Jesuits that he had a particular scheme up his sleeve. “There was a certain Mullah, who professed great sanctity but was really a depraved wicked fellow; and Akbar’s design was that this man should mount the pyre and perish in the flames.” After that it would not be necessary for the Jesuits to follow in the Mullah’s footsteps. But these refused to bring about the death of the Mullah through deception and wondered why the all-powerful Akbar didn’t kill his Mullah in a straightforward manner.

Out of Dr. Conrad Henry Moehlman’s “The Christian Jewish Tragedy,” I quote another little tid-bit of history which tends to show in even what little ways history has a habit of repeating itself. The march of Christianity from the eastern part of the Roman Empire to the West was impeded by what the Christians regarded as slanderous and scandalous misinterpretation of their rites—a misinterpretation to which all new religons are subject. The new religion created commercial antagonism—one of the motivations today in the Nazi drive on Jewry. For example, when Paul came to Ephesus and preached Christianity the silversmith Demitrius staged a riot against him, because he derived a god deal of his profit from the manufacture of silver shrines of Artemis and if this new-fangled religion was going to have its way the Ephesians weren’t going to order silver shrines for Artemis. And way off in Bithnyia, Dr. Moehlman tells us, Pliny noticed that every time he acted against the spread of the new religion, stocks in the cattle market went up. Apparently the early Christians were vegetarians.

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