This Is Not What I Wished For...
I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.
Meanwhile, Megan McArdle at The Atlantic cast a skeptical eye on yesterday's other big anti-jubilation quote. This one--"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy"--has been attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Her conclusion? Perhaps they only wanted to say this thing, and knew that no one would pay attention unless it came from someone else. This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire. We want to hear what you think about this article.
(don't) I Wish | Definition of (don't) I Wish by Merriam-Webster
Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Skip to content. Sign in Subscribe. The Atlantic Crossword. Greater is it in some sense,—but it is different. For the Spartan mother to arm her son and send him forth with the injunction to come home bringing his shield or borne upon it, and then wait during the long and weary days to know which way he is to come,—this requires, surely, a heroism not less than his: but it is not the same heroism; higher in some sense it is—but it is not the same. In his courage are pride and combativeness and animal passion, sometimes well-nigh devilish passion; a strange joy in giving and receiving wounds, a music that grows inspiring in the singing of the bullets, an almost brutal indifference to the wounded and the dying all about him, which she could never get and remain woman.
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True to her woman's nature is Lady Macbeth's prayer,—. For until she had been unsexed, until she had ceased to be woman, she could not play the part which her destiny and her ambition assigned to her. For like reason society exempts woman from police functions. She is not called to be sheriff or constable or night watchman.
Why Women Do Not Wish the Suffrage
She bears no truncheon and wears no revolver. She answers not to the summons when peace officers call for the posse comitatus.
She is not received into the National Guard when bloody riot fills the city with peril and alarms. Why not? Is she not the equal of man? Is she not as loyal? All of these is she. But it is not her function to protect the state when foreign foes attack it; it is the function of the state to protect her. It is not her function to protect the persons and property of the community against riot; it is man's function to protect her. Here at least the functional difference between the sexes is too plain to be denied, doubted, or ignored.
Here at least no man or woman from the claims of equality of character jumps to the illogical conclusion that there is an identity of function. Second, that the basis of the family, and therefore of society, is the difference between the sexes,—a difference which is inherent, temperamental, functional. Third, that the military function, all its forms and phases, belongs to man that he has no right to thrust it upon woman or to ask her to share it with him; that it is his duty, and his exclusively, to do that battling with the elements which wrests livelihood from a reluctant or resisting Nature, and which is therefore the pre-requisite to all productive industry; and that battling with the enemies of society which compels them to respect its rights, and which is therefore the primary condition of government.
For the object of government is the protection of person, property, and reputation from the foes which assail them. Government may do other things: it may carry the mails, run the express, own and operate the railroads; but its fundamental function is to furnish protection from open violence or secret fraud. If it adequately protects person, property, and reputation, it is a just government, though it do nothing else; if it fails to protect these primary rights, if the person is left to defend himself, his property, his reputation by his own strong arm, there is no government.
The question, "Shall woman vote? Let us not here make any mistake. Nothing is law which has not authority behind it; and there is no real authority where there is not power to compel obedience. It is this power to compel which distinguishes law from advice. Behind every law stands the sheriff, and behind the sheriff the militia, and behind the militia the whole military power of the Federal government. No legislature ever ought to enact a statute unless it is ready to pledge all the power of government—local, state, and Federal—to its enforcement, if the statute is disregarded.
A ballot is not a mere expression of opinion; it is an act of the will; and behind this act of the will must be power to compel obedience. Women do not wish authority to compel the obedience of their husbands, sons, and brothers to their will. This fact that the ballot is explicitly an act of the will, and implicitly an expression of power or force, is indicated not only by the general function of government, but also by special illustrations.
Politics is pacific war. A corrupt ring gets the control of New York city, or Minneapolis, or St. The first duty of the citizens is to make war on this corrupt ring. The ballot is not merely an expression of opinion that this ring ought not to control; it is the resolve that it shall not control. A capitalistic trust gets, or tries to get, a monopoly which is perilous to commercial freedom; or a labor trust gets, or tries to get, a monopoly which is perilous to industrial freedom. A vote is not a protest against such control,—it is not a mere opinion that it ought not to be allowed.
It is a decree. The voter says, "We will not suffer this monopoly to continue. If the vote does not mean this, it is nothing more than a resolution passed in a parlor meeting. The great elections are called, and not improperly called, campaigns. For they are more than a great debate. A debate is a clash of opinions. But an election is a clash of wills. One party says, " We will have Mr. Blaine President;" the other says, " We will have Mr. Cleveland President.
And if the defeated will refuses to accept the decision, as it did when Mr. Lincoln was elected President, war is the necessary result. From such an encounter of wills woman instinctively shrinks. She shrinks from it exactly as she shrinks from the encounter of opposing wills on a battlefield, and for the same reason.
She is glad to counsel; she is loath to command. She does not wish to arm herself, and, as police or soldier, enforce her will on the community. Nor does she wish to register her will, and leave her son, her brother, or her husband to enforce it. If she can persuade them by womanly influence she will; but just in the measure in which she is womanly, she is unwilling to say to her son, to her brother, or to her husband, "I have decreed this; you must see that my decree is enforced on the reluctant or the resisting.
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And yet this is just what suffrage always may and sometimes must involve. The question, Shall woman vote, if translated into actual and practical form, reads thus: Shall woman decide what are the rights of the citizen to be protected and what are the duties of the citizen to be enforced, and then are her son and her brother and her husband to go forth, armed, if need be, to enforce her decision? Is this where the functional line between the sexes is to be drawn? Are women to make the laws and men to enforce them?
Are women to decree, and men to execute? Is woman never to act as a private, but only as a commander-in-chief? Is this right? Is it right that one sex shall alone enforce authority, but the other sex determine when and how it shall be exercised? Is this expedient? Will it promote peace, order, prosperity? Is it practicable? Will it in fact be done? Suppose that in New York city the women should vote for prohibition and the men should vote against it; is it to be expected that the men would arm themselves to enforce against their fellow men a law which they themselves condemned as neither wise nor just?
To ask these questions is to answer them.
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The functions of government cannot be thus divided. In a democratic community the duty of enforcing the law must devolve on those who determine what the law shall be that is to be enforced. It cannot be decreed by one class and enforced by another. It is inconceivable that it should be decreed by one sex and enforced by the other. This is the negative reason why woman does not wish the ballot: she does not wish to engage in that conflict of wills which is the essence of politics; she does not wish to assume the responsibility for protecting person and property which is the essence of government.
The affirmative reason is that she has other, and in some sense, more important work to do. It is more important than the work of government because it is the work for the protection of which governments are organized among men.