Quote of the week

This dates back almost a hundred years, and in so doing has dated not a whit:

The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if the motto “In God we trust” were one day expunged from the coins of the republic by the Junkers at Washington, and the far more appropriate word, “verboten,” substituted. Nor would it astound any save the most romantic if, at the same time, the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

(From The American Credo: A Contribution toward the Interpretation of the National Mind, by H. L. Mencken, 1920.)

1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    23 May 2014 · 10:01 am

    Oddly, the observation that Mencken was an optimist was popular twenty years ago or so — but I haven’t seen it in use lately.

    Perhaps because the humor has been drained from it in the intervening years.

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