Hoi polloi*

In Minnesota one does not hear (from the superior Yankees whom one questions about that sort of thing) that the Scandinavians are a comic people, but rather that they are surly, that they are Socialistic, that they “won’t Americanize.” Manufacturers and employing lumbermen speak of their Swedish employees precisely as wealthy Seattleites speak of the Japs, Bostonians of the Irish, Southwesterners of the Mexicans, New Yorkers of the Jews, marine officers of the Haitians, and Mr. Rudyard Kipling of the nationalist Hindus—or nationalist Americans. Unconsciously, all of them give away the Inferior Race Theory, which is this: An inferior race is one whose members work for me. They are treacherous, ungrateful, ignorant, lazy, and agitator-ridden because they ask for higher wages and thus seek to rob me of the dollars which I desire for my wife’s frocks and for the charities which glorify me. This inferiority is inherent. Never can they become Good Americans (or English Gentlemen, or High-wellborn Prussians). I know that this is so because all my university classmates and bridge-partners agree with me.

The truth is that Scandinavians Americanize only too quickly. They Americanize more quickly that Americans. For generation after generation there is a remnant of stubborn American abolitionist stock which either supports forlorn causes and sings low jail ballads in a Harvard accent, or else upholds, like Lodge, an Adams tradition which is as poisonous as Communism to a joy in brotherly boosting. (8-9)

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Posted by Jeff at August 10, 2007 1:24 PM

August 2007 (1)