What is needed is a crusade. Not a war. Dr. Boli is opposed to wars on the deeply personal grounds that they inconvenience him. No, what we need is a moral crusade, a common enemy that we can fight together. Furthermore, it must be an enemy with very unusual properties. It must have the ability to persist indefinitely, so that the crusade can also go on indefinitely; but it must never pose a serious threat to our existence, so that we are never tempted to give up. It must give us victory after victory and yet it must never be defeated. This is the kind of enemy we need. Where shall we find it?
After diligent research and no little cogitation, Dr. Boli has determined that the enemy we need is beauty.
Why beauty? If we look at the extremes of left and right, we see that they are two varieties of the same species. The old puritan virus that has infected Americans since 1620 has mutated into two main variants, but they are still recognizable as variants of the same thing. Now, the thing a puritan hates and fears most is beauty, and particularly beauty in art. Art has no business existing unless it is useful. This is a principle accepted by every American worthy of the name, from fascist to communist and anywhere in between. A hammer is the tool that drives home nails, and art is the tool that drives home moral lessons. Beauty in art is a deviation, a distraction from the mission, and what is worse is that it makes us suspect that beauty alone was the artist’s primary motivation—or, to put it in proper American Puritan terms, that the artist was in league with Satan.
There was a time, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, when the United States had formed an elite class of artists and architects who were determined that beauty would be forced down the throats of the puritan yokels. (See the illustration, which is part of Giuseppe Moretti’s Welcome group from 1896 at the entrance to Highland Park in Pittsburgh.) This would supposedly turn them into something less yokelish. The yokels fought back; and though they lost many battles, as the monuments in some of our great cities attest, they won the war, assisted by a wave of artistic puritanism from abroad.
But the artistic instinct is hard to suppress entirely, and rebels rise in every generation to raise the flag of Beauty. What Dr. Boli proposes is that the puritans on the right and the puritans on the left should unite in a common crusade to hunt down these rebels and squash them like cockroaches.
You can see the many advantages of this plan at once. There will always be a small number of artistic souls willing to be martyrs for Beauty; in fact the martyrdom, for many of these deluded individuals, is Beauty’s chief attraction. They do not carry weapons, so they pose no danger to our moral crusaders. The most violent thing they ever do is stand in front of a bulldozer, and some states have already made vehicular homicide legal in the case of a demonstrator who is in the way. We can simply apply those ready-made laws nationally. Yet no matter how many of the partisans of beauty we squash, it is a genetic defect of the human species that it is always producing more of them. There is always a minority of individuals tainted with the artistic temperament. We can be confident that we will win every battle, yet the war will never be finished. This is the formula for a permanently successful crusade, and we can look forward to an era of renewed prosperity and good feeling under our crusaders’ motto,