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At the Waldorf

In response to:

Witnesses from the June 10, 1976 issue

To the Editors:

Murray Kempton, whom I revere as the best practitioner of our journalistic trade, seems to want a history of the Henry Wallace movement from Lillian Hellman. A good one is available—Norman Markowitz’s Rise and Fall of the People’s Century; but those who have read it may still want something else, more personal, which they will find in Scoundrel Time.

Kempton commends the account of the Waldorf Conference in Cedric Belfrage’s The American Inquisition; and I concur. He finds the quotes from Norman Mailer and others interesting, and they are. Indeed, having read a complete transcript of the exchanges from which Belfrage quotes, I admire him for finding sentences that are coherent. But the longest and most interesting quote included by Belfrage addresses the real problem of that time, as of ours:

It no longer matters whose fault it is. It matters that this game be stopped. Only four years ago millions upon millions of people died, yet today men talk of death and war as they talk of going to dinner. He who has seen a war and plans another must be either a villain or a madman. This group of intellectuals can do no worse than statesmen. We want to declare that there still are men and women in the world who do not think it dangerous or radical to declare themselves for the continuation of life…. We place ourselves among those who wish to live, think and breathe, to eat and play and raise their children, among the millions who want to be a little use and have a little pleasure and bear a little sorrow and die a little death, close to someone who has loved them in decency and in peace.

The speaker was Lillian Hellman.

Garry Wills

Baltimore, Maryland

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