On the eve of the new year

Herewith, thoughts occasioned on this page in an earlier year, as the turn of the calendar found the nation

wearied by a conflict in a distant land. Any similarity

to current events, issues or debates is entirely coincidental – or maybe not.

* * * * *

Last week’s Review was filled with messages from your business and professional friends on the island, wishing you a “Merry Christmas.” This issue has a number of similar advertisements and this time the message is “Happy New Year.”

The same people at the Review who turned cold type into those warm messages also took other type and, in the news columns, wrote fateful accounts of how war had claimed this and that island boy, of how war had turned mass suspicion on a large group of our one-time island neighbors, of how war in many different ways had done everything to make us forget what the Prince of Peace said.

We got to thinking what a mockery those good wishes seemed to be. “Merry Christmas” must be an awful mockery for nice Mrs. Mager, whose young husband, Steve, lies dead in France. “Happy New Year” must be a miserable mockery to Johnny Nakata, one of our finest citizens, who sits down there in Manzanar, a pall of suspicion on him and his kind. How can anybody – except the very young who don’t know any better – see anything in this world to make them “merry” or to give them hope for future happiness?

That was our outlook until last Saturday, when we heard a New Zealander, in fact the minister to this nation, speak on the radio. We were about to turn him off when we became intrigued by his pronunciation of “failure” as “fileyoor.” So we got to listening to what he was saying.

He told us that a lot of time was being spent on the form which the forthcoming international organization of free nations would take. He said the form wasn’t important. He said lots of folks used to worry about the form of the League of Nations, but he said the league’s form wasn’t what smashed it. He said there was only one thing that caused success or failure in international peace plans.

He said – and we were mighty thrilled to hear his words – that the separate nations must adopt the same kind of morals that are adopted by individuals who live together in more or less peace within their own nations. He explained that he meant that there could not be one code for individuals and another for nations. Civilized individuals, he said, live together under a code based on right and wrong. Nations can too. He said he didn’t hold any hope for an international peace organization which lived by appeasement and power politics. He said the hope of the world lies in nations getting together on a basis of right and wrong.

It wasn’t a particularly emotional speech. It sounds less thrilling in the words we have used to condense it. But to us, it means everything. The kind of international philosophy the New Zealander described can only come from the individuals who make up the peace-loving nations. That means you and me and the next fellow. It doesn’t mean an ambiguous, mysterious leaving it up to “leaders.” For the leaders of this and every other democracy reflect only the temper of their people.

So we feel a little calmer in our troubled mind; we think less of the mockery there could be in those messages of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year.” We think of what those messages have meant down through the ages as mankind has struggled and continues to struggle for the things that he knows are right and fair and just. We think there is a hope in the death of Steve Mager and the evacuation of Johnny Nakata.

We think there still is hope as 1945 approaches; hope for a world where enough individuals shall insist on the Golden Rule; hope for merry Christmases and happier new years to come.

Editorial, Bainbridge Island Review, Dec. 29, 1944

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