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The Elements Of Freedom

June 2024
1min read

E. B. WHITE SUMS UP WHAT DEMOCRACY MEANS TO AMERICANS

This September 11, welcome books will publish The Little Big Book of America (352 pages, $24.95), an illustrated compendium of things that make our country great. The anthology is edited by Lena Tabori and Natasha Tabori Fried, of the family that makes up the middle third of Stewart, Tabori and Chang (a publishing house whose very name encapsulates several centuries of American history). The editors have chosen letters by such diverse figures as Abigail Adams and Groucho Marx; recipes for what has come to be known as “comfort food”; songs ranging from “Yankee Doodle” and “My Darling Clementine” to “American Pie” and “Born in the U.S.A.”; and literary selections, including the following, written by E. B. White and originally published in The New Yorker :

“We received a letter from the Writers’ War Board the other day asking for a statement on The Meaning of Democracy.’ It presumably is our duty to comply with such a request, and it certainly is our pleasure.

“Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don’t in Don’t Shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn’t been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It’s the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of a morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is.—July 3, 1944”

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