Virtuosi of Virtue
Chicago, Dec. 2. — [Editor of The Tribune.] — A man of international reputation, a distinguished Chicago physician, has just completed a series of articles in The Tribune on venereal diseases for the purpose of enlightening the public on the real consequences of prostitution and the evils of the double standard of morals.
Dr. Evans has presented the facts in a simple, straightforward manner so all who could read might understand. He is genuinely interested in preserving the purity of American manhood and womanhood. It would seem as if every right minded individual, after reading these articles become a crusader against vice.
Nothing could be more shocking, in light of our present knowledge of the true situation, than the vicious and contemptible article which appeared in this morningís Tribune under the title of "Virtuosi of Virtue."
Ignoring the vile insults which the author hurls at the men and women who have devoted years of untiring effort to suppression of vice — which remark would do justice to the keeper of a brothel — the article should be resented by every person who is interested not only in protecting the young but in saving the whole human race from the ravages of the terrible plague that afflicts thousands upon thousands of the innocent along with the guilty, even unto the third and fourth generation. His ideas are essentially European and materialistic rather than Anglo-Saxon and moral.
Why any one should attempt to heap ridicule and calumny upon people who engage in a humanitarian work, that which there is none more important, is incomprehensible. The agencies through which many of our finest citizens have for years endeavored (not without some measure of success) to eradicate vice are well known, but very few people know who the men and women are who are giving their time to the cause — either without compensation or for so small a salary that they need never worry about getting a better paying position. They have never sought self-advertisement, nor have they received any worth noting. I doubt if any newspaper bureau could furnish clippings for a year back showing the names of ten of the most ardent workers in Chicago for the suppression of vice. Perhaps the writer, Mr. H. L. Mencken, can furnish a list.
It is true that men engaged in reform work are sometimes not moral, but it is also true that the large majority of them are among our best and most moral citizens, who do more for the general good of the community and its moral uplift than any other class. The implication that professional suppressors of vice are prompted by degenerate motives carries its refutation on its face. In their so-called hysterical attacks on vice, which only tend to make "it appear a guady and fascinating thing," they have wiped out the red light district and the west side levee — show places that lured young men by the thousands into immorality and disease.
The whit slave traffic is called a myth. Everybody knows there is such a thing a commercialized vice and that the social lepers who conduct the resorts are constantly on the outlook for new victims. They secure them through deception, gradual degradation, perhaps force — it is all more of less an indirect purchase, and occasionally an outright purchase.
A uniform does not make a man any better or any worse than a civilian. The conditions under which soldiers live, however, are such as to weaken the moral resistance of many men who have never been taught restraint, but who have learned the false teachings and traditions of centuries with reference to prostitution.
Col. Frederick F. Russell, M.C., U.S.A., chief of the laboratory division (Journal American Medical association, Nov. 18, 1917), says: "The third week of the draft army showed an astonishing increase in the number of cases of venereal disease. Whether this means that these diseases are much more common among young men of military age in the civil population than we ever supposed I do not know. Certain it is, however, that we have almost 400 per thousand, whereas our highest rate in the last twenty years in the army has been 162."
"The wholesale shouting and snorting" of the "professional suppressors of vice" "under the cover of war," expressed with so little polish by Mr. Mencken, may not appear so unjustifiable in the light of the above army officerís report.
The mothers and fathers of American soldiers, I am positive, welcome every effort of the "professional purists," such as the Y. M. C.A., Knights of Columbus, Committee of Fifteen, and the Illinois Vigilance association, which latter organization has received requests from army officers and organizations all over the country for nearly one million copies of its pamphlet for soldiers.
If the facts in Col. Russellís report are true the morals and health of our young men and women are at stake, the efficiency of our army is greatly impaired, and the homes of our nations and its future citizens endangered.
Problems such as these strike at our very souls. Are the people engaged in their solution and in the elimination of the greatest curse of mankind to be treated with contempt and abuse in the public press ? If so, then there is no use in striving for decency.
Clara P. Seippel, M.D.