American Writers And The SaccoVanzetti Case — страница 7

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condemned to suffer; these reasons were of the heart, which I believe appears in these pages with emphasis" [italics added]. [26] An editorial in The Nation, August 31, 1927, also affirmed the "heart": "The human heart is not yet so corroded that it can read off the extinction of these two men without a shock to the very roots of its belief in justice and humanity. " But as Porter`s memoir makes clear, this sympathy is problematic in view of the barrier of social class; Porter quotes Vanzetti, who formulated the opposition thus in a letter: "Although we are one heart, unfortunately we represent two opposite class" [italics added] (NEW, 11). As history would prove, social class would take precedence over sentiment, as members of the established,

WASP upper class, nicknamed the Boston Brahmins, joined forces to execute the immigrant workers. But sentiment retains a utopian element, a potential for uniting people, particularly women, across class interests. After describing other women`s reponses to Mrs. Sacco, Porter writes: I was mistaken in my anxiety — their wish to help, to show her their concern was real, their feelings were true and lasting, no matter how awkwardly expressed; their love and tenderness and wish to help were from the heart. All through those last days in Boston, those strangely innocent women enlisted their altar societies, their card clubs, their literary round tables, their music circles, and their various charities in the campaign to save Sacco and Vanzetti…bringing money they had collected in

the endless, wittily devious ways of women`s organizations. They would talk among themselves and to her about how they felt, with tears in their eyes, promising to come again soon with more help. They were known as "sob sisters" by the cynics and the hangers-on of the committee I belonged to who took their money and described their activities as "sentimental orgies." (NEW, 37-38) While identifying to some degree with these women, Porter also attempts to stake out a political stance that is distinct from that of anarchists, communists, and capitalists, but her sympathies shift back and forth throughout the text. The Never-Ending Wrong expresses some of the ambivalence of the fellow traveler while confessing to a "lifelong sympathy for the cause to which

they [Emma Goldman and Peter Kropotkin] devoted their lives–to ameliorate the anguish that human beings inflict on each other–the never-ending wrong, forever incurable" (NEW, 62). Porter describes herself as a "registered member of the Democratic Party, a convinced liberal" (NEW, 14) and as bourgeois; she expresses hostility to both the communists involved in the protests and to the capitalists who celebrate the executions. She expresses an anarchist`s critique of the communist obedience to the party hierarchy : "The air was stiff with the cold, mindless, irrational compliance with orders from `higher up` " (NEW, 13). After the execution, Porter`s wrath is directed at the Brahmins and capitalists. She describes taking the elevator with three entirely

correct old gentlemen looking much alike in their sleekness, pinkness, baldness, glossiness of grooming, such stereotypes as no proletarian novelist of the time would have dared to use as the example of a capitalist monster in his novel … One of them said to the others in a cream-cheese voice, "It is very pleasant to know we may expect things to settle down properly again, " and the others nodded with wise, smug, complacent faces. To this day I can feel again my violent desire just to slap his whole slick face all over at once, hard, with the flat of my hand, or better, some kind of washing bat or any useful domestic appliance being applied where it would really make an impression — a butter paddle — something he would feel through that smug layer of too-well-fed

fat. (NEW, 49) In this incident Porter seems infected with the violence generally attributed to anarchists, who had much the same motive, but her urge takes explicitly gendered terms – "washing bat," " butter paddle" — as if she were pitting the female domestic worker against the male capitalist. Her fantasies become more violent – "pushing him down an endless flight of stairs, or dropping him without warning into a bottomless well, or stringing him up to a stout beam" (NEW, 50). But she is horrified by these thoughts; recognizing that the unfair executions had caused "some incurable wound to her very humanity," she writes: "My conscience stirs as if, in my impulse to do violence to my enemy, I had assisted at his crime"