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H.L. Mencken on Democracy

From the Smart Set, April 1920 (compiled in The Vintage Mencken):

What I admire most in any man is a serene spirit, a steady freedom from moral indignation, an all-embracing tolerance--in brief, what is commonly called good sportsmanship. Such a man is not be mistaken for one who shirks the hard knocks of life. On the contrary, he is frequently an eager gladiator, vastly enjoying opposition. But when he fights he fights in the manner of a gentleman fighting a duel, not in that of a longshoreman clearing out a waterfront saloon. That is to say, he carefully guards his amour propre by assuming that his opponent is as decent a man as he is, and just as honest--and perhaps, after all, right. Such an attitude is palpably impossible to a democrat. His distinguishing mark is the fact that he always attacks his opponents, not only with all arms, but also with snorts and objurgations--that he is always filled with moral indignation--that he is incapable of imagining honor in an antagonist, and hence incapable of honor himself.

May 27, 2004 in Books | Permalink

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