Source: Socialist Spirit
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Higher Way”
Author(s): Wentworth, Marion Craig
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 2
|Wentworth, Marion Craig. “The Higher Way.” Socialist Spirit Oct. 1901 v1n2: pp. 19-20.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response: socialists); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); society (criticism); McKinley assassination (religious response); society (impact on Czolgosz).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Gautama Buddha; Victor Hugo; Jesus Christ; Jean Valjean [misspelled below].|
The Higher Way
“Cast him from us! Spurn him! Spit at him! Kill
him! Kill him!” cries an infuriated people at one who breaks the law; and when
vengeance is done—justice they call it, but they wrong the word—they are satisfied,
Some day we shall greet the evil-doer with, “Save him! Reclaim him! Reach the helping, kindly hand! He had great need of love, else he had not sinned. Give him love and save him!”—and the outlaw, utterly disarmed, touched to the heart, will feel his nobler self stir to life and the people will know the deep, mystic joy of saving a soul. In this way, splendid and unearthly as it seems, is evil changed to good. So Hugo’s great Bishop redeemed Jean Val Jean. “Only a story!” you say. But so, ages ago, did the gentle Sidhartha [sic] save men as he passed up and down India preaching, “Give love to him who hates thee, for if he hates thee he has need of love.” They called him “the Buddha” and worshiped him.
And so, centuries later, did the man of Judea care for the fallen and outcast, inspiring all with new hope and new life. It was the same strange gospel of love that he preached, urging men to love their enemies, “for,” said he, “if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye?” One day he told his meaning in a parable, for he wished it made clear that his concern was for the lost.
If a man have a hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety-and-nine and goeth into the mountains and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety-and-nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Men worshiped him and called him the Christ,
for this preachment voiced their highest ideals. “Forgive! forgive!” was the
burden of his message. Even on the cross he cried out, “Father, forgive them;
they know not what they do!” He loved his enemies to the last; they may not
have deserved his love, but he did not consider that; he knew they needed it,
and so he gave it, generous and without measure.
In the light of this love and our faith in it, one needs must bespeak pity for the man upon whom is heaped to-day the execration and wrath of a whole nation. Leon Czolgosz needs love. He has always needed it. His mad act was a lightning-flash revelation of a miserable, loveless, beaten life. We cannot recoil in horror from him, for he is our brother; neither can we cast him from us, for we are still our brother’s keeper, bound eternally together by deep, mysterious laws. What is in us is in him—the same soul-needs and desires, the same noble possibilities. And what is in him is in us, for do we not uphold violence, and murder, and war, in the guise of army and navy conquering nations? and assassinate a little people’s freedom and gloss the horror with fine-sounding phrases of “the white man’s duty” and “civilization?” and glorify brilliant deeds of brute force, man against man, man against beast, and teach our children these things, through song and through story, from babyhood up? Do we count life, the best and the lowest, as equally sacred, each of infinite value?
It is plain: We are all of one piece.
We, society, sit in judgment. It is well before judging to listen to questions our conscience is asking, our social conscience. Had we no part in this tragedy? No share in molding and forming and driving this boy to his crime? Our civilization rests on privilege and inequality, luxury and want; it  grows a beautiful, parasitic orchid class, which absorbs all the joy and freedom out of the coarser, homelier class which supports it; one idle, the other toiling, forever toiling. Inequalities, drudgery, squalor and want—just the things to breed discontent and rebellion!
And looking about us we stand self-accused, fearing to judge, for until we have built our world on a foundation of justice and freedom and love, until we have given every man, even the worst, abundant opportunity and temptation to live a free, useful, healthy, happy, unfearing life, until we have done all this we have no right to judge.
Love is what men need most. It must first work itself out on the plane of fiscal adjustments, in co-operation, in common ownership of the economic resources of life. This material expression of love, with all the enlightenment, growth and intelligence, all the finer loves of home and God that spring from it, is the love that Leon Czolgosz and the millions who might have done what he did most need.
Sweep the curse of poverty from our rich, bounteous earth; take away the power of some men to own the bread and souls of other men; give to those who produce, the things they produce; take away the power to exploit, and murderous instincts will vanish from both classes at once.
There is nothing that men so adore as the concept of a great love, a love that can soar far above earthly desires for revenge, a love that can forgive enemies. And yet there is nothing in life so hard to realize! It is so easy to be the brute and obey the instincts of hate; so hard to be men and forgive! Our laws are “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.” Some day we shall have sufficient faith in our Faith to make laws for the forgiveness of men; we shall believe the humblest, the most monstrous among us worth helping, worth lifting to a truer understanding of life and the rights of others, worth being given chance after chance to redeem his manhood, and we shall save with purposeful, intelligent, pitying kindness. Do this we must, or else repudiate the teachings of saints we hold dear, call Jesus a visionary and ourselves what we are—dwellers in the underbrush.
It takes us so long to learn that the taking of life is a crime, whether done by judicial, personal or national act, so long to learn that force begets force, that they who take up the sword must perish by the sword; so long to learn that only love awakens love. But some day we shall know these things; know that “do good to them who hate you” is the greatest practical wisdom man can conceive, the surest and greatest spiritual tactics in saving men and changing hate to love, and know that there is no law in the universe so radiant with transcendent life-giving beauty.
Would that we and our institutions had reached this point of realization so that our chief servant might never have been shot, so that his noble words, “Let no one hurt him,” might be taken literally, so that Leon Czolgosz might not be put to death, but given a chance to redeem and fulfill his manhood! Would that instead of the desire to kill and avenge we had the zeal to save and forgive and create!
Life forces are ever ready to heal the ax-cut on the tree. The sun shines on the good and the evil; the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It is nature’s way—God’s way. Let it be our way.