36 / CHRONICLESnOn ‘Guns, Butter,nand Guilt’nYour review of my book, To the Edge,nin the February ’86 issue of Chroniclesnhas only now been brought to mynattention, and I do want you to knownhow deeply I appreciate your comments.nYour critic (Lee Congdon), in hisn”Guns, Butter, and Guilt” article, saidneverything I could wish and hope fornabout the meaning of the book. Yes, Indo see National Socialism as the manifestationnof the nihilistic instincts thatnare always lurking beneath the thinncrust of civilization and that were firstnlet loose by the Jacobins during theirnreign of terror, and I do believe that itnis the sacrifice of the few which redeemsnthe many.nThe question of collective responsibilitynand collective guilt is, of course,ncomplicated. Frankly, I believe that asnindividuals we can only be held guiltynof things which we ourselves havendone or which we have failed to preventnif we had the chance to preventnthem.nOf course, we all feel tainted bynterrible things done in our name—butnguilty? I am thinking of the victims ofnYalta, of the two million people whonwere turned over to their murderernStalin. Surely we are all sickened bynthe thought, but we know—every onenof us, I trust!—that we would havennever consented had we been asked.nGuilty as individuals? No.nLee Congdon’s article as a whole isnreally like a breath of fresh air. It saysnso much that one hopes to hear; it doesnaway with all those silly cliches wenhave been hearing far too long; itnstands for right reason and commonnsense.n—Kay HeriotnPOLEMICS & EXCHANGESnOn Tlain People’nYour editorial on “Plain People”n{Chronicles, November 1986) makesnexcellent sense to me as an argumentnfor personal correspondence. Why listennto our “literary betters,” those fewnamong us who have access to thenpodium of the press, when we can talknto each other through letters?nIt’s clear that what we write to eachnother in letters, or at least 99 percent ofnit, isn’t fit for publication. The harebrained,nobnoxious, and unbearablyntrivial far outweigh all the rest that wenscrawl between the Dear and the Yoursntruly. In this, we’re right up there withnHank Jr.nBut like you say about him andnCharlie Daniels and Merle, plain peoplendo manage to get in their licks ofnsense. We get enough into our plain,nmostly trivial, everyday letters to makenup for many shortcomings, and morenthan enough to make up for what wenmiss by not attending too seriously tonthe professional writing of our betters.n”Jerkwater America,” as you say,ncan’t fight the great cultural institutionsnof our time, and so many of usn”have quietly walked away.” Many ofnus, indeed, now attend more to thenhomespun writing we send to eachnother through the mail than to thensecond- and third-class material sentndown from the heights of the publicnpress.nWhile I am writing this letter I thinknof our past.nSing it. Merle.n—Steve SikoranAlbany, CalifornianYou aptly lament the lack of influencenordinary people have had onnmodern culture, but Zbigniew Fitz’snnndrawing says it all. Ascendancy holdsnminimum priority for us plain folk:nWe are too busy providing food, inspiration,nand tax funds for the nonplainnset.nPlain people spend an inordinatenamount of time at hopelessly plainnendeavors like fishing, gardening,nprayer, bringing up the next generation,nand just plain keeping on. Thisnleaves little time for loftier pursuits,nsuch as debating whether some longdeadnphilosopher was a sodomite or anparasite. These higher questions mustnbe left for less cumbered souls to ponder.nThat’s not to say we are without ourntranscendent moments. I have a plainnacquaintance who ventures a landscapennow and then, but the paintings’nsubjects always seem to be plainlynperceivable at first view — disqualifyingnthem, of course, as truenculture. I even know a plain poet orntwo, but plain speaking—especially ifnit’s in metered rhyme—can’t really bentaken seriously by higher minds. (Unfortunately,nhigher minds can’t takenthe price of wheat seriously either, butnthat’s another matter.)nAs long as the moguls of culturencontinue to convince large numbers ofnpeople that plainness and ordinarinessnare always blemishes, and ambiguitynand innovation are always virtues, theynwill maintain their oligarchy. Truth is,nthough, as far as many of us plain folknare concerned, they can keep it. Wenhave our hands full these days justnmaintaining our ordinary status.n—Charlotte WilcoxnHarris, Minnesotan