KABLAM! World War II
Excerpts from “Nightmare at Noon” by Stephen Vincent Benet, 1940
Our seminar is scheduled for _____________. This document must be read and annotated when you come to class.
Your seminar writing must also be complete, remember you MUST use quotes from the document in the response
for each question.
1. Describe the mood established in the first stanza. What is like in the last stanza?
2. What does this poem tell us about American nature?
3. How does this poem connect to our topic of isolationism?
There are no trenches dug in the park, not yet. There are no soldiers falling out of the sky.
It's a fine, clear day, in the park. It is bright and hot. The trees are in full, green, summer-heavy leaf. An airplane
drones overhead but no one's afraid. There's no reason to be afraid, in a fine, big city that was not built for a war.
There is time and time.
There was time in Norway and time, and the thing fell,
When they woke, they saw the planes with the black crosses. When they woke, they heard the guns rolling in the
street. They could not believe, at first. It was hard to believe.
They had been friendly and thriving and inventive.
They had had good arts, decent living, peace for years.
Those were not enough, it seems.
There were people there who wrote books and painted pictures, Worked, came home tired, liked to be let alone.
They made fun of the strut and the stamp and the stained salute, They made fun of the would-be Caesars who howl
and foam. That was not enough, it seems. It was not enough.
When they woke, they saw the planes with the black crosses.
They tried in Spain but the tanks and the planes won out. They fought very well and long.
They fought to be free but it seems that was not enough. They did not have the equipment. So they lost.
They tried in Finland. The resistance was shrewd,
Skillful, intelligent, waged by a free folk.
They tried in Greece, and they threw them back for a while By the soul and spirit and passion of common men.
Call the roll of fourteen nations. Call the roll
Of the blacked-out lands, the lands that used to be free.
But do not call it loud. There is plenty of time.
There is plenty of time, while the bombs on London fall
And turn the world to wind and water and fire.
There is time to sleep while the firebombs fall on London. They are stubborn people in London.
We are slow to wake, good-natured as a country. (It is our fault and our virtue.) We like to raise
A man to the highest power and then throw bricks at him. We don't like war and we like to speak our minds.
We're used to speaking our minds. There are certain words, Our own and others', we're used to - words we've used,
Heard, had to recite, forgotten,
rubbed shiny in the pocket, left home for keepsakes, Inherited, stuck away in the back-drawer,
In the locked trunk, at the back of the quiet mind.
Liberty, equality, fraternity.
To none will we sell, refuse or deny, right or justice.
We hold these truths to be self-evident.
I am merely saying - what if these words pass? What if they pass and are gone and are no more, eviscerated, blotted
out of the world?
We're used to them, so used that we half-forget, the way you forget the looks of your own house And yet you can
walk around it, in the darkness. You can't put a price on sunlight or the air,
You can't put a price on these, so they must be easy.
The boys in their shirtsleeves here, the big, flowering girls, the bicycle-riders, the kids with the model planes,
The lovers who lie on the grass, uncaring of eyes,
As if they lay on an island out of time,
The tough kids, squirting the water at the fountain, Whistled at by the cop.
The dopes who write "Jimmy's a dope" on the tunnel walls. These are all quite safe and nothing will happen to them,
Nothing will happen, of course.
Go tell Frank the Yanks aren't coming, in Union Square.
Go tell the new brokers' story about the President. Whatever it is. That's going to help a lot.
There's time to drink your highball - plenty of time.
Go tell fire it only burns in another country,
Go tell the bombers this is the wrong address,
The hurricane to pass on the other side.
Go tell the earthquake it must not shake the ground.
The bell has rung in the night and the air quakes with it.
I shall not sleep tonight when I hear the plane.
Our second seminar will be over both the Roosevelt and Mussolini readings. All reading, annotating and
writing are due on ____________.
Please use these questions to provide guide your reading and annotating.
1. What are the four freedoms? How do they define the United States at the this time period?
3. Which of the four freedoms do you find the most important? Why?
2. According to Mussolini, what are the virtues of fascism?
4. How does this reading help to address our topic on how WWII was an ideological conflict?
Franklin D. Roosevelt, The Four Freedoms, 1941
President Roosevelt used his State of the Union address in January 1941 to formulate an American response to the
spreading world war. The sense of urgency had grown with the recent fall of France; only Great Britain continued
to resist the Nazi onslaught. In this speech Roosevelt in effect prepared the nation for at least a limited involvement
in the war, and he defined the ideals for which he believed the nation was willing to fight.
SOURCE: Public Papers and Documents of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Vol. 9 (1941).
..I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every
point of the world-assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to
destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace..
Our national policy is this:
First, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed
to all-inclusive national defense.
Second, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are
committed to full support of all those resolute people everywhere
who are resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away from our hemisphere. By this support we express our
determination that the democratic cause shall prevail, and we strengthen the defense and the security of our own
Third, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed
to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to
acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers. We know that enduring peace cannot be
bought at the cost of other people's freedom....
Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our armament production....
Let us say to the democracies: "We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are
putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a
free world. We shall send you in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. That is our purpose and our
As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses and
those behind them who build our defenses must have the stamina and the courage which come from an unshakable
belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a
disregard of all the things worth fighting for.
The nation takes great satisfaction and much strength from the things which have been done to make its
people conscious of their individual stake in the preservation of democratic life in America. Those things have
toughened the fiber of our people, have renewed their faith and strengthened their devotion to the institutions we
make ready to protect.
Certainly this is no time for any of us to stop thinking about the social and economic problems which are
the root cause of the social revolution which is today a supreme factor in the world. For there is nothing mysterious
about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy.
The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider
and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of
our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the
degree to which they fulfill these expectations....
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential
The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want-which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which
will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of
armaments to such a point and in such a thorough manner that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of
physical aggression against any neighbor-anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time
and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators
seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception-the moral order. A good society is able to face
schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful
revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the con-
centration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the co-operation of free countries,
working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands, heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and
its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our
support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is in our unity of purpose.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
Benito Mussolini: The Doctrine of Fascism,
The following is a collection of passages from an article Mussolini wrote in 1932 and had published in the
1. Thus many of the practical expression of Fascism, such as party organization, educational systems,
discipline, can only be understood when considered in relation to its general attitude towards life. Fascism
does not see in the world only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as a self-centered
individual , standing alone….it does not only see the individual, but also the nation and the country;
individuals and generations bound together by a moral law…
2. Fascism wants men to be active and to engage in activity with all their energy; it requires that they should
be manfully aware of the difficulties of besetting them and ready to face them.
3. The fascist disdains an easygoing life.
4. Being anti-individualistic, the Fascism system of like stresses the importance of the State and recognizes
the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the
consciousness and the universality of man as an historic entity. It is opposed to classic Liberalism
….Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; fascisms reasserts the rights of the State as
expressing the real essence of the individual….The fascist conception of the stat is all –encompassing;
outside of it no human or spiritual values may exist, much less have any value. Thus understood, Fascism
is a totalitarian state…
5. Fascism, in short, is not only a lawgiver and a founder of institutions, but an educator and a promoter of
6. The State educates its members to citizenship, makes them aware of their mission, urges them to unity; its
justice harmonizes their divergent interests; it hands down to future generations the conquests of the mind I
the fields of science, art , law, human solidarity; it leads them up from primitive tribal life to imperial rule,
the expression of human power.
7. If Liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells collectivism. The Fascist State, however, is an unique
and original creation. It is not reactionary but revolutionary, for it anticipates the solution of certain
universal problems which have been raised elsewhere in the political field by the disgregation of parties,…
8. Today I hold that Fascism as an idea, a doctrine, a realization, is universal; it is Italian in its particular
institutions, but is universal by reason of its nature. Therefore anyone may foresee a Fascist Europe
drawing inspiration for her institutions from the doctrine and practice of Fascism; Europe in other words,
giving a Fascist turn to the solution of problems which beset the modern State, the Twentieth Century State
which is very different from the States existing before 1789, and the States formed immediately after.
Today Fascism answers to universal requirements.