NOVEMBER 30, 1951
PARIS, Thursday—There was a letter published in the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune the other day that revealed how easy it is "to see through a darkly colored glass." A Mrs. Applegate wrote from Berne, Switzerland, on our Thanksgiving Day and said that in 1947 she was one of the few civilians allowed passports to go to France. She misunderstood the cartoon printed in the Herald Tribune, because you had to read the fine print to understand it and her letter showed how little she understands both the cartoon and the people of France.
She said she has seen people in the United States far less well off and who eat far less than the people she has seen in driving through France. This is undoubtedly true.
First of all, however, she forgets to mention that farmers in any country, both during a war and after a war, are better off than people in the cities. And in France the people will eat and eat better than they do in the United States even if they live in ruins and rubble.
I would agree with her that they eat better here, even in the poorest families. They cook better here, too, even though they seem to put practically everything they have into their food. She does not mention that you can still drive in many areas of France and find people living in cellars. Hundreds of thousands of buildings have been replaced since the war, but there are still hundreds of thousands to be replaced.
We have had great difficulty at home to meet the demands for new housing, but we have not had to replace two million destroyed buildings. We are a vastly greater country with greater productive capacity to produce the materials necessary for the building industry. Of course, there are poor people in our country; there are people who eat much less meat than they do over here. But if Mrs. Applegate, who wrote the letter to the paper, will look at the statistics she will find that the United States has a greater per capita income than France by quite a bit.
She has not been really helpful by setting down a hurried observation, which is not backed by close study.
I am worried by a number of things which are still impressions, but I am trying to find out more about them and get a really accurate picture.
I am not at all uncertain about one impression, however, and that is that much-talked-of number of a certain American magazine which I think was written particularly for the people of the United States to try to make them realize what a war on their own territory might mean. It has, to say the least, had a very bad effect on European opinion. It probably has sold a great many copies of the magazine, which is, of course, what an editor wants to do. On the other hand, however, I wonder whether in the long run it pays to create so much bad feeling toward us in America.
I haven't heard a single person who had a good word for this particular issue and largely because they were frightened by it. They felt, as one French writer puts it, "those who have forgotten that a deep ditch separated American thinking from European thinking discover all of a sudden that this deep ditch has grown infinitely deeper during the last few years. Those who had the greatest confidence in the American desire for peace now have an irresistible desire to cry out and wake up these sleepwalkers and tell them it is high time that they wake and renounce their terrible dream."