(The following letter was written by George Anastaplo while studying at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, to Frank Ledbetter, Publisher and Editor, The Carterville Herald, Carterville, Illinois. It was published in The Carterville Herald, April 27, 1951.)
12, rue Pierre Mille – Paris 15, France – 18 April 1951
Dear Mr. Ledbetter:
I am writing this letter with the hope that you will see fit to publish it.
More and more I have been disturbed by the callous treatment by the Congress of the United States of the proposed bill whereby India is to receive the shipments of wheat for which she has asked.
Reports are increasing about the deterioration of conditions in India; those people are starving, and we are the only ones in a position to help them. It is as simple as that; that is the crux of the matter and everything else is incidental.
We, the American people, are known as a generous people. We have often answered the call of other people in distress. Still, we cannot be expected to help on every occasion and in every way requested. Calls for help have come and will continue to come which we cannot be reasonably expected to answer.
But that is not the case here. If it were just a matter of selfishness on our part, that could be accepted; if it were just a matter of stupidity, we could try to learn in the future; if it were just a matter of greed, we could hope for improvement. But something more vital is at the root of this matter: we are punishing a starving people by refusing to give them wheat because their government, acting sincerely (whether correctly or incorrectly is irrelevant) did not vote the way we wanted them to in the Security Council of the United Nations last year. And that I say is immoral in the light of what we profess to believe.
They have asked for bread, and we not only refuse them bread but we are not honest enough even to give them the stone: we just delay and refuse to act by keeping the bill in committees. There has been some criticism of this refusal on our part in the American press, but almost all has been on the basis of what is good for our name and reputation abroad. While we stress reputation and name and good-will, we are forgetting our own integrity and moral stamina. For there is the crucial point: by this type of action we are destroying the moral fibre without which we are nothing in the long run. We can withstand mistakes by government officials, by generals, by leaders of all facets of our life; these can be corrected or compensated for. But a corruption of the moral strength of the nation is something else again; when that happens we have only a power that is physical and not spiritual. And that is the first step to self-destruction.
The American people are acquiescing in this action. It is a reflection upon them that their representatives feel that they can adopt such an attitude without fear of repudiation by the electorate. Unless the American people protest, and protest quickly, they must be deemed to have had expressed for them in this most callous manner their sentiments on this matter.
I fervently hope that your readers will take it upon themselves to communicate with their Senators and Representatives expressing their intense disapproval of this attitude on the part of the Congress. Only in this way can souls—their own—be saved.
I repeat: the important thing is that people are starving to death and we, the only ones in a position to help them, refuse to give them wheat because their government last year voted in the Security Council in opposition to us on an important issue. And that, I repeat, is immoral.