H.L. Mencken on "the Anglo-Saxon American" | Bleader

H.L. Mencken on "the Anglo-Saxon American"


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Next time you're watching coverage of the anti-Obama "birther" movement, the health care reform "town hall" brawls, or the latest outrageous comments by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, etc., consider what H.L. Mencken wrote in 1923: "The Anglo-Saxon American['s] history is a history of recurrent outbreaks of blind rage against peoples who have begun to worst him. . . . Theoretically launched against some imaginary inferiority in the non-Anglo-Saxon man, either as patriot, as democrat or as Christian, they are actually launched at his general superiority, his greater fitness to survive in the national environment. The effort is always to penalize him for winning in fair fight, to handicap him in such a manner that he will sink to the general level of the Anglo-Saxon population and, if possible, even below it.

"Such devices, of course, never have the countenance of the Anglo-Saxon minority that is authentically superior, and hence self-confident and tolerant. But that minority is pathetically small, and it tends steadily to grow smaller and feebler. The communal laws and the communal mores are made by the folk, and they offer all the proof that is necessary, not only of its general inferiority, but also of its alarmed awareness of that inferiority. The normal American of the 'pure-blooded' majority goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a burglar under the bed, and he gets up every morning with a sickening fear that his underwear has been stolen. . . .

"His political ideas are crude and shallow. He is almost wholly devoid of esthetic feeling. The most elementary facts about the visible universe alarm him, and incite him to put them down. Educate him, make a professor of him, teach him how to express his soul, and he still remains palpably third-rate. He fears ideas almost more cravenly than he fears men." —H.L. Mencken, "Americans," first published in the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 16, 1923

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