PATRIOTISM BY PROXY
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Oak Leaves ~ May 25, 1918
There are several kinds of patriotism and each is good. There is patriotism
of the head, patriotism of the heart, patriotism of the feet, patriotism
of the entire body patriotism of the soul, and patriotism of the pocketbook.
Some men have one kind, some several and some all of them -- these last
are the true patriots; all wool and a yard wide. These are the men who
give up high-salaried positions and go across to fight in the trenches
as common soldiers for love of their country. In them, patriotism of the
heart and soul has risen to its highest and noblest pinnacle.
Patriotism of the head prompts a man to invest in four and one-half
per cent Gold Liberty Bonds. No, I am not belittling this kind of patriotism
-- it is better than none; but it should never mark the full measure of
any man's willingness to do for his country. It is only a starter -- and,
too, do not overlook the fact that it has ever been used by your enemies
and traitors at home to purchase immunity from suspicion and ostracism.
I am just a trifle skeptical of the man who has done nothing more than
buy Liberty Bonds.
You give to the Red Cross and you combine patriotism of the heart and
pocketbook which is mighty good patriotism, no matter which is the larger;
but don't stop there. There is patriotism of the soul, of the hands, of
the feet and of the entire body. These come under the general head of sacrificing
How much service are you rendering your country which requires a sacrifice?
And now I'm getting close to my title, "Patriotism by Proxy," which
will lead up to what I really wish to start Oak Park men, women, too, thinking
Service! In service lies the truest patriotism. There are many
kinds of service one may render. He who renders such service as he can
is a true patriot, whether that service be in the ship yards or upon the
farm, at a desk or in the trenches -- so it is the best of the only service
he be fitted for, or able to give.
Are you in the service of your country? If you are not and might be,
you are either a traitor or a slacker -- and the higher your social position
and the greater your wealth, the worse you are, since these things entail
greater responsibilities to the community in which you live. It is our
example that is followed by others less fortunate than you.
"But, my dear man," you say, "Oak Park has fourteen hundred men in the
service. We have more than done our share. We should be very proud of that
Well, we are proud - of those fourteen hundred men -- mighty proud of
them; but we are not proud of you, you patriot by proxy. It is these fourteen
hundred men who are giving the service -- not you. If I were not doing
all that I am permitted to do, I would not peep about those fourteen hundred
men in service from Oak Park. I should be ashamed to publish the fact that
there are fourteen hundred men from my home town actually in service while
I was giving no service whatever, or less than I might give.
Possibly you do not know just how you may give service to your country.
I'll tell you. You can enlist in the Illinois Reserve Militia and turn
out for drill twice a week -- sometimes oftener -- and possibly once a
week for target practice, and then if you are called on for some more,
you may thank your God that you have at last found a way to serve your
country with your head and hands and your feet and your whole body and
your pocketbook, throwing in our heart for good measure.
And you are serving your country if you enlist in the reserve militia,
because the time is here, right now, when every man in the reserve may
feel that he is actually releasing a federal soldier for service overseas.
Were it not for the reserve militia of the country, a very considerable
number of regular troops would have to be held on this side in readiness
to do the work the reserve militia has been trained to do. The very fact
of the presence in each community of these trained, uniformed and armed
troops discourages disorder and lawlessness and permits the withdrawal
of government soldiers.
Possibly you think you are too big a man for the reserve militia. Forget
it. There are privates in some of the Oak Park companies who could buy
and sell you several times with about the same concern with which you purchase
a newspaper. Their private secretaries are of more importance in the business
world than are you. And, furthermore, the bigger you think you are, the
smaller you really are.
It may be that you think of the "home guard" as tin soldiers. All right,
I'd rather be a tin soldier when my country is at war than to be none at
all. Let me tell you something of what these men have done and who they
are, ad then, unless your yellow streak reaches way around to your belly,
you'll wish to join them and help them in shouldering the most thankless
job that any American is doing today.
The reserve militia in Oak Park is the most democratic of bodies. It
is composed of high school boys, millionaires, clerks, business men and
professional men; of men 18 years old and men 45 years old, and of every
age between. There is neither politics nor pull in this battalion. Merit
These men have, largely, paid for their own equipment. They have sacrificed
time from their leisure and their business to give this service to their
state and thus to their country. They work by day at their vocations, they
subscribe to the Liberty loans, they give to the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A.
War Fund, and still they are ready to give more service at drills and special
formations when they are ordered out for patriotic rallies and parades.
You see them at parades and think that that is all they do -- all that
they joined for. I know some think that. I cannot believe that many think
so. I cannot believe that I live in a community in which any considerable
proportion of the men are so narrow or so ignorant as to believe that.
Some express that opinion who do not really entertain it. They express
it because in some remote corner of their little souls they harbor a vast
shame for their own slacking and they believe that by professing contempt
for the reserve they are explaining why they, courageous lions that they
are, have accepted no military service whatever.
The reserve militiamen are working hard and working conscientiously
to give what service they can now and to prepare themselves to give whatever
they are called upon to give in the way of service. They did not join in
order to wear a uniform. I am speaking of them as a body. Of course, there
have been some foolish boys who abused the privilege of the cloth, but
they were few and have been largely eliminated.