13. A Limb Of The Law
"Look here," said the policeman, tapping me on the chest, "Mrs. Trotsky used to live up here above on Simpson Avenue, in three rooms. And then see what happens-she turns up in Stockholm with two million roubles."
"Oh, I don't blame her. But ain't we all human-Socialists, Democrats, Republicans? All we need is a chance."
"I admit, Socialism has beautiful ideas. But are they practical? That's what I ask. Now, pardon me, just a minute! Just one minute, please! Socialism is a fine theory, but look at Emma Goldman. That woman had seven lovers. Free love. Yes, many a time I've heard them, preaching the children belonged to the state. Here's their argument, see, they say that a man and a woman wants to get married but the man figures, have I enough to support her? and the woman figures, how much has he got? and the only thing for them to do in that case is to turn the children over to the state. Now, I ask you, is that human?"
"You say, a lot of these women in limousines practice free love without preaching it. Oh, I don't deny it. And, look't here, I'm surprised there isn't more bombs at that. Right here on the Avenue you see the cars in one long procession all day, like every one was a millionaire, and three blocks over you see people who haven't the means of livelihood, without a shirt to their backs. I'm a public officer, as you might say, and maybe it sounds queer what I'm going to say, but I'm afraid to have my own children on the steps of the apartment house. I takes the night-stick to them and I says, 'Beat it out of here, don't let the landlord see you, or he'll raise the rent again.'"
"You said it, something's rotten somewhere. What do you think of the government holding back all that meat, just because the packers want it fixed that way, and plenty of people on the Lower East Side there willing to buy it all up-and at good prices too? But, no, it has to be held back to suit the packers. And then they lower the price a little. Because why? The government lets them have all that meat for what they like."
"It's the same way with the ice. Did you see what they done? The mayor gets them all together, to prevent them boosting the price on it, and it's fixed; they can't raise the price this summer to more than five fifty a ton. They wait two days at the old price, and then they put it at five fifty. Two days they wait, that's all."
"Of course this is the best government in the world. I'll tell you what proves it-all these foreigners coming over here. Look at that soda-fountain man there. You heard him talk up for the Bolsheviki, didn't you? Well, he hasn't much gray matter in here, but just the same that fellow makes as much in three months as I get for a whole lousy year. Three months, and he hasn't been here ten years. And my people been here two hundred. But these immigrants come over ignorant and uneducated, and only down in Kentucky and Tennessee are our people not able to read and write. I hear down there they are regular tribes, fighting each other and all that. Of course that soda-fountain man, he couldn't associate with lots of the people I go with. If he walked in, they'd look at him as much as to say, 'Who have we here?' But he rolls up the coin just the same."
"But the trouble with the Russian people, I'll tell you. Why, eighty per cent of them can't read or write. Now I'll tell you what it's like. It's like this: the Russian people is like a dog was tied up in the back-yard, see, and then he was let loose and he run wild with joy all over the place, and then it depended who was the first to whistle to him, whee-whee, and Lenin and Trotsky they whistled, whee-whee, and the Russian people came right to them. Of course I don't think it'll work. They want to do away with money over there. You know, you want to buy a shoeshine and you give a man a head of cabbage. That's impractical. And then again the government can't own everything. It's all right for public utilities, but you take and try to control everything and what'll happen? It can't be done. What I say is, let a man earn a million or so, and then say to him, anything over and above that million we take away, see? And when he has his million he doesn't go on trying to monopolize everything. But now, you have all these uneducated people around here, and the more money they earn the worse they are."
"I'll tell you. Right across the hall from where my wife and me live there's a lovely woman, a Jewess, one of the nicest people you could want to meet, and I'm in her house and she's in mine all the time, until her husband comes home. But he's one of that kind, you know! The other night he comes home with three friends and he says to me, 'Say, Charlie, come on down to Long Island with us in the car for a week. I'll pay all your expenses!' 'You will, eh,' I says. 'Now I'll tell you something. That sort of thing don't go with me. In the first place, you know I can't get leave to be away from the police department for a week; in the second place, you know I can't leave my wife here; in the third place, you know damn well I can't afford to go with you. I know your kind! You have your three friends here and you want them to see what a great guy you are. Well, I'll tell you what you are,' and I told him. Now he'll be the same if he has a million. And I'll tell you another kind that hasn't respectability. No, I mean decency. She was a big fat woman and her baby was crying here the other day, and she opened her dress right there and leaned down to feed the child. You know, just like that statue, I forget the name. And all the little boys rubbering around. That's the class of people you have to contend with around here in this place, with the air full of fish guts they throw out of the windows, and everything."
"But the German ones are different. Not that I want to praise the Germans or the like of that, but they're self-respectful, you know. It's the lack of education with them others-those others."
"But you put the Socialists in power and what difference will it make? I'm-I'm not against Socialism, I want you to understand. But there's human nature!"