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The Spirit of Man Goeth Upward

Research by Laura S. McKee, Berea Sound Fellow, regrading how WW-II era radio and personal histories have shaped the development of "From the Diary of Eve", a narrative series of poems set in Southern Appalachia.

Courier-Journal editor Herbert Agar: "What the War is About," 12-28-40

In this broadcast, Courier Journal Editor Herbert Agar presents an argument for U.S. involvement in WW II, fervently condemning isolationist policies. Agar’s rhetoric and diction are high, doom-ridden, and Biblical.  He stresses that Hitler and Mussolini represent a great evil in unequivocal language and suggests the rise of these figures is a punishment for the sins of the West: “Our democracy was not democratic enough…our Christianity was not Christian…what we really worshipped was success.”

The suggestion of the war as God’s punishment continues as Agar argues what he believes is Germany’s indelible pagan heritage. As an example, he quotes pagan imagery from the German poet Heine: “When once the restraining talisman, the cross, is broken, then we will once again hear the clank of savagery of the old warriors, then will old stone gods rise up out of their rubble and Thor with his hammer will spring forth with his hammer and shatter the Gothic cathedral.”

Agar closes by emphasizing the moral urgency of American intervention: “This is no trivial war of nations wanting each other’s property. This is the great war of all the world waged for the soul of man.”

This broadcast will be key to a number of poems that establish Patrick’s desire to join the war effort. In terms of language, Agar’s rhetoric underlines the moral imperative of U.S. involvement for those who viewed Hitler’s rise and military aggression as not only a threat to European peace but also to the foundation of western democratic ideals and the very idea of freedom itself.  Bits of Agar’s language will inspire sections of poems meant to establish the terrible shadow of war and the psychological pressure it exerts on Eve and Patrick as well as their family and community.

 


Courier-Journal editor Herbert Agar. "What the War is About." 12-28-40
WS-ET-40118. WHAS Historical Radio Collection, 1936-1967, HC 41.