The Charlotte News
Wednesday, June 5, 1940
Site Ed. Note: The first two editorials of this date could well have been written shortly after September 11, 2001 as easily as 61 years earlier. The issues in war both as to the attackers, those innocents who only share a common origin or ethnic background with the attackers, and the victims of the attack remain remarkably unchanged; perhaps, they are timeless. Unfortunately, so too apparently, at least at this juncture of history, is the megalomania and insistence on one way--our way--which ultimately leads to open warfare between peoples of different cultures, nations, socio-economic and religious backgrounds. In the summer of 2001, in one of these editorial notes, we asked the sadly rhetorical question which carries now far more gravity and currency than it did just a few short months ago: Will it ever end?
Cash refers in "Hysteria" to Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre radio broadcast of October 31, 1938,"War of the Worlds", which some confused souls not accustomed to the distinction between theatre and reality took to be the real thing, causing various and sundry bizarre conduct toward their fellows in the immediate aftermath. Little known factum regarding Welles: He hailed from Wisconsin and when another son of Wisconsin, a war veteran name Joseph McCarthy ran for the Senate seat in 1946, defeating editorial target of Cash, isolationist Robert LaFollette for the Republican nomination, many prominent Democrats came to Welles to try to persuade him to lend his liberal values and articulate and dramatic voice to an anti-McCarthy candidacy, his own. Welles declined the invitation and was later to remark that it was one of his great regrets, given the outcome.
It Means More Than a Printed Figure
Five million. It is only a figure and means nothing concrete to you or to us. It will mean more if we recall that it is the total population of more than 50 cities like Charlotte. Or have you seen a football stadium with, say, 25,000 packed in it? Then it is equivalent of 200 such packed stadia.
Think of them hurrying out of those 50 cities, as the cities are burned and destroyed behind them, fleeing along all the roads southward while brute hordes sweep down from the clouds and roar up in tanks and trucks to bomb and machine-gun them down. And you will have the picture of what has happened in France.
They are people, not shadows. Their feet bleed much as ours would bleed on that trek. The children have the same fragile, pink pathetic bodies as those we dote on. The women, the old men, the wide-eyed little girls and boys are like those passing there in the streets of Charlotte. They scream when they are terrified, they weep for the dead, they bleed and die when they are shot. They need food, shelter, clothing, medical care. They have none of them. And unhappy France cannot give them now as she battles for her life.
It makes you furious to think about it? It makes your muscles tense and ache to do something about it? Certainly. It does the same thing to us. But there is one thing we can do about it now, something entirely practical and unheroic. We can contribute to the Red Cross Drive--to the Red Cross which alone can save these five million from death. Ten thousand dollars for Mecklenburg's quota, roughly some seven cents for each person in the county. It is small enough in all truth. And if we can't and don't raise it--well, there's something written somewhere about tinkling cymbals and sounding brasses.
This Injures Innocents, Not Fifth Columnists
In Shelby yesterday an obviously harmless vagrant of German birth was picked up, clapped in jail, fingerprinted.
In Chapel Hill a few days ago a harmless German student, who works his way through the University, set out to look for a job for the Summer, was picked up by an automobilist, opened his mouth to talk.
"Are you a German?"
The motorist flung open the door, commanded:
In Texas, a large group of religious crackpots (native) were jailed after citizens had tried to mob them--for distributing crackpot literature which had nothing to do with Nazism.
In short the country is reacting to the Fifth Column scare almost as idiotically as it reacted to the Invasion from Mars scare. Fifth Columnists are not vagrants; if they are students, they are (if German) easily spotted and are unlikely to be working their way; and religious crackpots have a perfect right to distribute their crackpot literature without interference, are the last people the Nazis are likely to be interested in.
The body of Germans and Italians in this country are loyal enough, and the spotting of Fifth Columnists had, in general, better be left to experts in the business--as the agents of the FBI and intelligence services of the Army and Navy. Else we are in danger of creating a vast new core of ripe candidates for Fifth Columnist by indiscriminately harrying people who are innocent to begin with.
This Threatens Us More Than Any Fifth Column
The most dangerous thing in America at the moment is the defeatist psychology over the prospect of the Allies. Adolf Hitler's utterances from Berlin are coolly calculated to the purpose of breeding and increasing that psychology among us. It is eagerly propagated in this country by the Red and Nazi agents, their sympathizers, and the professional isolationists and bitter-end partisans who had rather pull down the temple about their ears than confess they have been wrong.
But it is also given aid and comfort by all sorts of entirely innocent people.
It is dangerous because it tends to make us fold our hands and conclude that there is nothing we can really do about aiding the Allies--which is precisely what Adolf Hitler has planned and wants. Because it makes us talk vaguely to the effect that all we can do now is to defend ourselves, without ever troubling to examine what we mean by that.
The Allies are in a bad way--we have no illusions about that. And new Nazi victories are in the cards. But the spirit of man is a strange thing, and when the necessity arises it can be capable of more than human feats. It was so at Thermopylae when a few hundred Spartans held back the incredible host of Persians. And it was so this last week when, against what everybody thought to be the possibilities, the Allied Armies in France were rescued under the guns of that British Navy which Adolf Hitler has so often sneered at.
As Mr. Lippman has pointed out, the Allied peoples fight now literally for their existence. The price of failure for France is the extinction of her treasured culture, the wholesale murder of the elected leaders of which he has been so proud, the deportation of great masses of the peasants to Africa, the complete enslavement of the remaining population. For Britain the prospect is even more dreadful.
The British islands can support only a fourth of the British population. With the empire gone, there will be no choice for more than 30,000,000 people but to emigrate or to die
With the knowledge before us, it is idle to believe that the French or the British are going to surrender after a few battles, after a dozen battles. Frenchmen and Englishmen will keep on fighting so long as the population has not been reduced to a remnant of cowards, if only there is a glimpse of hope--perhaps if there is none.
But in the end they will be defeated--unless the whole great might of the American industrial system is hurled into action to produce machines, which are the secret of Hitler's power, in far vaster quantities that he can dream. And that swiftly.
As Mr. Lippman points out, it is no use saying that that will bring the vengeance of the Nazis down upon us if the Allies still lose. They are not going to lose if we go at the matter with the requisite energy and decision. And in any case we are already candidates for that vengeance, both because of our actions and because of our great wealth.
To talk of "defense" is idle. We cannot, to save us, halt the Fifth Columns from taking over South America when Hitler wins in Europe. And granting that we are given time to get ready, the fact still remains that we can put ourselves in position to ward off an attack by the Nazi military power only by ourselves becoming a totalitarian nation for good and all.
The choice is plain and inescapable. Either Hitlerism must be destroyed from the earth, or democracy will be destroyed.
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