May 26, 1940 (p. 221)
The cause of England in this war can be said to be just only in-so-far as it is somewhat less unjust than that of the Nazis, who quite clearly wanted the war, and started it, and England has a natural right to defend herself. She has been atacked, yes, and she is defending herself it is true. Whether what she is defending is, in any other than a very superficial sense, just, is quite another matter.
And if we go into the war, it will be first of all to defend our investments, our business, our money. In certain terms it may be useful to defend all these things, an expedient to protect our business so that everybody may have jobs, but if anybody holds up American business as a shining example of justice, or American politics as a shining example of honesty and purity, that is really quite a joke!
And if this is a joke, it is also a bit blasphemous to get up and say that just because Germany started the actual fighting, ultimately Germany is to blame for everything, and God is on the side of England and the democracies and all enemies of Germany. That would make God the defender of more kinds of dishonesty and trickery and avarice and bribery and hypocrisy than a person with a tender conscience can bear to think
June 16, 1940. Olean, New York (p 231)
...It is possible to imagine a man coming silently out of these woods into the open grass space before me and aiming a gun and shooting me dead in this chair, and going away again.
Even though there is sunlight, the woods might well fill, all at once, with the clack and roar of tanks. The airplane that went by an hour ago might have been filled with bombs, but it just wasn't. There is nothing too fantastic to believe any more, because everything is fantastic. There is no fighting here now, but there could very well be plenty tomorrow.
The valley is full of oil storage tanks, and oil is for feeding bombers, and once they are fed they have to bomb something, and they generally pick on oil tanks.
Wherever you have oil tanks, or factories, or railroads or any of the comforts of home and manifestations of progress, in this century, you are sure to get bombers, sooner or later.
Therefore, if I don't pretend, like other people, to understand the war, I do know this much: that the knowledge of what is going on only makes it seem desperately important to be voluntarily poor, to get rid of all possessions this instant. I am scared, sometimes, to own anything, even a name, let alone a coin, or shares in the oil, the munitions, the airplane factories. I am scared to take a proprietary interest in anything, for fear that my love of what I own may be killing somebody somewhere.
Even then, though, property is not the only thing wars are waged for...
June 25, 1940. St. Bonaventure, New York (p.233)
If we are ever going to have peace again, we will have to hate war for some better reason than that we fear to lose our houses, or our refrigerators, or our cars, or our legs, or our lives. If we are ever to get peace, we have got to desire something more than reefers and anaesthetics: but that is all we seem to want: anything to avoid pain.
It is terrifying that the world doesn't wake up to this irony: that at a time when all our desire is nothing but to have pleasant sensations and avoid painful sensations there should be almost more pain, and suffering and brutality and horror, and more helplessness to do anything about it than there ever was before!
The last passage was written 64 years ago, almost to the day. How do you think we're doing?