Letters to the Editor: Twain and Empire

To the Editor:

I was astonished by the paragraph you quoted from "The Mysterious Stranger." I think I read it four decades ago in Japanese translation. But all I can remember is a depressed feeling, with all details being lost in me. Now thanks to you, I have come again in front of the great man. What astonishes me is the greatness of Mark Twain in penetrating into the human nature. The implication of the word "human" is nothing but treacherous and ironical. But I want to believe that the humankind is essentially not so bad.

What makes it bad is the lack of intellect, I believe. The "little monarchs and nobilities" hate intellect, and try to rob us of it. We will have to communicate with each other, and with as many people as possible, to stimulate the human intellect, as your article has just done.

Since Donald Rumsfeld made his first public statement in his post six years ago, I have been denouncing the Bush Administration. But my words have no power at all, and can hardly reach beyond my little house. Thus the only means left to me available to fight the Bush administration and its collaborator, Japanese Government, is terror. But it is just the mirror image of the evil it is meant to fight.

So I return to the common sense. We must discuss honestly, without turning our eyes from inconvenient facts. We must learn in earnest from others, such as you. Our hope rests, I think, on our efforts to increase such interactions and the cooperation emerging therefrom. The Internet may just increase the speed of the mob forming process which Twain described, but at least we can make use of the Internet to extent the reach of our voice.

Please send your voice more loudly to the world. Thank you for your enlightening article.

Keisuke Akita
Kakamigahara, Gifu prefecture

To the Editor:

Excellent article on Mark Twain and The Mysterious Stranger. You may be interested to know that Twain also had Zionism thoroughly pegged.  See the snippet of dialogue pasted below from Tom Sawyer Abroad, published in 1894 (three years before the 1st Zionist Congress).

J.A. Miller

Tom: "A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim."

Huck: "Which Holy Land?"

Tom: Why, the Holy Land — there ain’t but one."

Huck: "What do we want of it?"

Tom: "Why, can’t you understand? It’s in the hands of the paynim, and it’s our duty to take it away from them."

Huck: "How did we come to let them git hold of it?"

Tom: "Why we didn’t let them git hold of it. They always had it."

Huck: "Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don’t it?"

Tom: "Why of course it does. Who said it didn’t?"

Huck (narrating): I studied it over, but couldn’t seem to git at the right of it, no way. I says:

Huck: "It’s too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, and another person wanted it, would it be right for him to–"

Tom (interrupting): "Oh, shucks! You don’t know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn. It ain’t a farm, it’s entirely different. You see, it’s like this. They own the land, just the mere land, and that’s all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven’t any business to be there defiling it. It’s a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them".

Huck: Why, it does seem to me it’s the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now if I had a farm and another person–"

Tom (interrupting again): "Don’t I tell you it hasn’t got anything to do with farming? Farming is business, just common low-down business: that’s all it is, it’s all you can say for it, but this is highter, this is religious, and totally different".

Huck: "Religious to go and take the land away from people that owns it?"

Tom: "Certainly: it’s always been considered so."

Huck (narrating): "I am peaceable, and don’t get up rows with people that ain’t doing nothing to me. I allowed if the paynim was satisfied I was, and we would let it stand at that.

"Now Tom he got all that notion out of Walter Scott’s book, which he was always reading. And it was a wild notion, because in my opinion he never could’ve raised the men, and if he did, as like as not he would’ve got licked. I took the book and read all about it, and as near as I could make it out, most of the folks that shook farming to go crusading had a mighty rocky time of it."

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