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Those Who Laugh at The Drunken Man

Evening Journal (New York), 1918

      How often have you seen a drunken man stagger along the street! 

      His clothes are soiled from falling. His face is bruised. His eyes are dull. Sometimes he curses the boys that tease him. Sometimes he tries to smile in a drunken effort to placate pitiless, childish cruelty. 

      His body, worn out, can stand no more, and he mumbles that he is going home. 

      The children persecute him, throw things at him, laugh at him, running ahead of him. 

      Grown men and women, too, often laugh with the children, nudge each other, and actually find humor in the sight of a human being sunk below the lowest animal. 

      The sight of a drunken man going home should make every other man sad and sympathetic. And horrible as the sight is, it should be useful, by inspiring in those who see it a determination to avoid and to help others avoid that man's fate. 

      That reeling drunkard is going home. 

      He is going home to children who are afraid of him, to a wife whose life he has made miserable.

      He is going home, taking with him the worst curse in the world - to suffer bitter remorse himself after having inflicted suffering on those whom he should protect.

      And as he goes home men and women, knowing what the homecoming means, laugh at him and enjoy the sight.

      In the old days in the arena it occasionally happened that brothers were set to fight each other. When they refused to fight, they were forced to it by red-hot irons applied to their backs. 

      We have progressed beyond the moral condition of human beings guilty of such brutality as that. But we cannot call ourselves civilized while our imaginations and sympathies are so dull that the reeling drunkard is thought an amusing spectacle. 

From:  American Press Opinion - Allan Nevins (Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1928), pp. 543-544.