rather a sense that whatever was happening was a part of angreat destiny that was unique to America and not to benopposed lightly.nThe war gave immense impetus to this conviction.nBefore the war was even finished, there was a national sensenthat the Americans, Our Boys, Over There, were the truenwinners of the holy war against the Beast of Berlin. ThatnAmerican entrance into the war made a difference is not tonbe denied. But that Our Boys possessed a native KnownHow, Can Do, and No Fault in battle, outstandinglynsuperior to European soldiers was, well, a little somethingnelse. Still, Mark Twain had prepared Americans for thisnfeeling of inherent, ingrained superiority to the Europeansnin his Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court andnInnocents Abroad in which, with side-slapping humor, hendemonstrated how American homespun had it all overnmonarchical valor. The American people loved it, and whenna good war came along like that of 1917-1918, it was a goodntime for dilating once again on the native genius ofnAmericans.nThus the appearance of the Great American Myth inn1918: that Our Boys — with minimum training in thencamps, with short notice, unfamiliarity with the topographynof Flanders Fields — had nevertheless outfought man tonman the German and also the Allied soldiers. I have nondifficulty whatever in remembering conversations amongnelders which would begin as follows: “The reason Our Boysnwere so superior to European soldiers was …” and thennwould follow any one of a dozen possible reasons rangingnfrom the fact that they fought with the strength of 10nbecause their hearts were pure all the way to the alleged factnthat all of Our Boys grew up on farms where they not onlynhad good fresh milk and eggs but also, from boyhood,nsquirrel rifles which made them expert riflemen before theynwere out of high school. The European fuddy-duddies justndidn’t have a chance. (May I say parenthetically here, if youndon’t believe me, do, as I did nostalgically some years ago,ngo to bound volumes of some of the most popular magazinesnof wartime and through the 1920’s, such as: ThenLiterary Digest, Everybody’s, American, The SaturdaynEvening Post, Review of Reviews, and for the young at thentime, American Boy and Youth’s Companion. But therenwere many others.)nIt was, to repeat, a good war for America; good politically,nor so it was widely felt; good economically; and goodnpsychologically, spiritually. America was at last inside modernity;nit had in effect been dragged in by the Wilson warngovernment and by the sheer impact of the war onntraditional American values. Not again would the UnitednStates be as culturally separated from the rest of the world,nas intellectually parochial.nThe pores of American society had been opened. A newnkind of individualism was to be seen; directed not againstnthe national government as of yore but against the moralncodes of family, local community, and church. There wasngreater informality in public; language became less formal,nless stilted. Dress for both sexes relaxed considerably in itsnprewar dictates. Gin flowed in the 20’s, flappers werenendlessly photographed, cigarettes omnipresent, and, Freudnhaving become popular, much discussion of repressions,ncomplexes, and the relativity of morals.nSo did the idea of progress flourish in the 20’s. It maynhave become moribund in Europe after the war and itsndevastating assault there, but not in America — neithernamong intellectuals nor the laity. Marxism, which, likenFreudianism, was permeating intellectual life in the 20’s,nhad its guarantee of progress for the proletariat at least,nprovided a little blood was spilled at the barricades; liberalsnwere still ringing changes on Herbert Groly’s prewar bookntitle. The Promise of American Life; and as far as thenordinary American was concerned, plaques hung fromncountless walls, at office and in home with the wordsnThus the appearance of the Great American Myth inn1918: that Our Boys—with minimum training in thencamps, with short notice, unfamiliarity with the topographynof Flanders Fields—had nevertheless outfought mannto man the German and also the Allied soldiers.n”Don’t Knock Progress.” To help out, the French exported,nno doubt gladly, Coueism to America, and millions couldnbe heard, privately or publicly, repeating: “Day by day innevery way I am becoming better and better.”nAs if to confirm the reality of progress in America, ancultural renaissance took place in the 20’s; a genuinenrenaissance. Some wars seem to produce cultural renaissances.nThere were the Persian Wars at the beginning of thenfifth century B.C. in Greece, the later Punic Wars out ofnwhich came Rome’s grandeur, the Spanish war precedingnand attending England’s Age of Elizabeth, and so on.nThere is certainly nothing automatic or foreordained aboutnwar and cultural renaissance, but the larger truth is thatnthere has been a reasonably close relation throughoutnhistory between war and civilization just as between war andnthe state. The hold that war and its disciplines have uponnthe individual can’t help but lessen the weight of old andnpossibly constricting conventions and thus liberate thencreative mind for at least a short period. Ever since thenFrench Enlightenment, when so many philosophes werenwriting their plans for perpetual peace, war has had a badnpress. Perhaps today in the nuclear age, it’s better that way.nBut it is indisputable in comparative history that wars andncivilization’s advances — its spurts — are closely connected.nThe 1920’s was technologically resplendent, of course,nwith the automobile and radio making immense changes innsocial and cultural respects. But equally notable was theneruption of genius and high talent in the arts. The 20’s wasnthe best decade for the creative imagination since the 1850’sn(when Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, and Whitmannproduced their classics): in the novel, Faulkner, Hemingway,nFitzgerald, Dos Passos, Dreiser, and many others ofnlike talent; in poetry, Wallace Stevens, Frost, Robinson,nWilliams, and living abroad mostly, Eliot and Pound.nMencken was at his height; so was O’Neill in the drama.nAnd nowhere did renaissance lights shine more brillianflynthan in jazz and in the film, in each of which Americancommenced a world influence that has only recenfly shownnsigns of waning. Finally, it was in the 20’s that AmericannnJUNE 19881 13n