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and during the war I was variously denounced. Abroad, especially
in England, I am sometimes put to the torture for my intolerable
Americanism. The two views are less far apart than they seem to be.
The fact is that I am superficially so American, in ways of speech
and thought, that the foreigner is deceived, whereas the native, more
familiar with the true signs, sees that under the surface there is
incurable antagonism to most of the ideas that Americans hold to be
sound. Thus I all between two stools--but it is more comfortable there
on the floor than sitting up tightly. I am wholly devoid of public
spirit or moral purpose. This is incomprehensible to many men, and they
seek to remedy the defect by crediting me with purposes of their own.
The only thing I respect is intellectual honesty, of which, of course,
intellectual courage is a necessary part. A Socialist who goes to jail
for his opinions seems to me a much finer man than the judge who sends
him there, though I disagree with all the ideas of the Socialist and
agree with some of those of the judge. But though he is fine, the
Socialist is nevertheless foolish, for he suffers for what is untrue.
If I knew what was true, I'd probably be willing to sweat and strive for
it, and maybe even to die for it to the tune of bugle-blasts. But so far
I have not found it.
H. L. Mencken
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