Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Mark Twain's words.

From a review by Shelley Fisher Fishkin (in the Globe & Mail, 13nov2010) of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith, University of California Press.
(The University of California presents a version that preserves Twain's dictations as he left them, a huge volume of recollections arranged not chronologically but rather as they came to mind, ranging from his earliest memories to his last years. Seattle Times)

Reading this book is a bit like sitting at the breakfast table alongside Mark Twain as he fulminates excitedly about what he has just read in the morning paper. Take his comments on the massacre of Muslim Filipinos by U.S. troops on March 12, 1906: Twain quotes the president's cable to the commanding U.S. officer: "I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag."
Twain writes that Roosevelt "knew perfectly well that to pen six hundred helpless and weaponless savages in a hole like rats in a trap and massacre them in detail during a stretch of a day and a half, from a safe position on the heights above, was no brilliant feat of arms - and would not have been a brilliant feat of arms even if Christian America, represented by its salaried soldiers, had shot them down with Bibles and the Golden Rule instead of bullets. He knew perfectly well that our uniformed assassins had not upheld the honor of the American flag, but had done as they have been doing...for eight years in the Philippines - that is to say, they had dishonored it."

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