Repeal Robs Pegler of Target For Hate; Casts About For Substitute

Westbrook Pegler

Quad City Times/December 12, 1933

 

Decides ‘Money Changers’ Won’t Do; Tammany Also Out

New York, Dec. 12.—Not until the repeal of Prohibition did I realize how I loved to hate that law and the people who were behind it, and the present moment finds me with almost a week’s accumulation of the most cordial ill-will and no really worthy proposition or group to use it on. The money-changers might do for the period of the emergency until a really first-class substitute comes along but the money-changers are not quite varsity after all. The boys in Wall Street did no worse than they should have been expected to do under the circumstances, considering that larceny is an important ingredient in the human race, and my annoyance at them is tempered or seasoned, or some such word, by my knowledge that they would have been honest if the people had made them be. The same objection applies to Tammany for here again the boys have only yielded to a popular instinct to steal as much as the citizens would let them get away with.

I am sure I do not exaggerate the popularity of the larcenous instinct. It may be gauged by the vigilance of one and all to nail down or guard their rights and possessions by legal documents or personal watchfulness. The insurance and mortgage companies deal with more people of all classes than any other agencies and a reading of the contracts by which they do business with their clients will prove that, from long experience with people, they have learned to assume that people will cheat them if they can. I am not sure that they do not, in some cases, beat the people to the punch with little “standard” clauses by means of which they are able to prove, when the showdown comes, that the plaintiff’s claim was subject to an obscure exception and that that which he conceives to be a withholding of his honest due amounts only to a careless and unfortunate neglect on his part to study the letter of the agreement.

Hates Are More Active

It is odd that honesty and friendship, both, are held in such tender, sentimental regard, considering that both are so little patronized and that their opposites have by far the greater appeal. For myself I will say that my hates always occupied my mind much more actively and have given me greater spiritual satisfaction than my friendships. Of friends I will venture to say that I have had a few but the wish to favor a friend is not as active as the instinct to annoy some person or institution which I detest. I think I would go much further out of my way to inflict such annoyance under ordinary circumstances than to remind a friend, for no particular reason, that I had been thinking of him and advise him that I was sending him a ham. And my friends, I am sure, are less alert to make me feel good than to make their enemies feel otherwise.

I never thought that the Anti-Saloon league, for instance, was inspired by a wish to fill the dry citizens with happiness. On the contrary. It struck me, in my interviews with the boys and girls of the Movement and in my reading of their side of the quarrel, that they were in it for the pleasure of hurting and exasperating, even of killing a few of the people whose ideas and tastes were opposed to their own. Certainly their Bishop Cannon never wasted any of his great energy on loving works and words of his side but devoted himself with a joy and zeal, which I thoroughly understood, to making life as miserable and dangerous as possible for the people who loved to hate him and vice versa. He was grand and I am going to miss him now but this appreciation denotes no change of heart on my part and I hope nothing occurs in his attitude to mar a wonderful relationship of 13 years.

Tit for Tat

But, though the prohibitionists deserve great credit for their all-around, freestyle cussedness I would like to insist that we, on our side of the question, managed to hold up our end and to deserve nothing but the most enthusiastic hatred, too. For every dirty trick that they played us we played them a dirty trick back and we were generally worthy of all the meanness which they lavished upon us over a period which now seems but a day. I think that Mrs. Ella Boole, if she is fair about it, would have to admit that I made her as miserable, in my modest but enthusiastic way, as she ever made me. There was a time there, early in the game, when she made me more wretched than I could then make her but that was the time of my greatest hate and there was pleasure in that. Then, toward the end of Prohibition our side was giving Mrs. Boole a corresponding misery, and she must have felt pretty sore at us. This would square things, wouldn’t it?

They were much more satisfactory than the money-changers or Tammany because we were not in any way to blame for them and their law. We didn’t bring our grievance on ourselves and consequently there was no sneaking thought that in hating them we were biting ourselves on the arm.

Good-bye, boys and girls, and worst wishes from yours maliciously.

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