The Charlotte News
Friday, May 22, 1953
Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the Big Three meeting between President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Churchill, and the Premier of France, when a successor to deposed Premier René Mayer was chosen, to be held in June, probably in Bermuda, would face a critical test of the leaders' ability to forge new Allied unity for firm dealing with Russia, that unless they could close ranks, some observers in Washington doubted that they would dare undertake a subsequent Big Four conference with Russia and give it the opportunity to exploit their differences. The White House had declined to link the Big Three meeting with any prospect of a Big Four meeting later. It was disclosed that the President had initiated the idea for the meeting, and that the idea had crystallized only the prior Wednesday.
Senator Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed in an interview this date that the President head off possible Congressional criticism of the proposed Big Three conference decisions by taking along members of Congress from both parties.
Representative Sam Yorty of California, future Mayor of Los Angeles, attacked the proposed cuts to the Air Force budget this date as not making any sense and suggested that Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson resign. Another critic of the budget, Representative Tom Steed of Oklahoma, called for elimination of the Army's atomic cannon, which he described as an example of the "real fat" in the defense budget. Both comments followed release of an Air Force report which said that the 120-wing Air Force proposed by the Administration would be well below the "absolute minimum" necessary for national security. An Air Force intelligence officer with the Fifth Air Force during World War II, Mr. Yorty said that the report was supplied to him at his request and that he regarded it as an official report. An Air Force spokesman said that the report was prepared at the request of Mr. Yorty and that neither Secretary of the Air Force Harold Talbott nor acting Air Force chief of staff General Nathan Twining knew that the report had been released until it had arrived in Congress and Mr. Yorty released it. Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan said that he would demand that those responsible for the report testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee to explain their views, as the report disputed the facts as he understood them.
Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine had sent to Mr. Wilson a set of 32 critical questions aimed at the Administration proposal to cut the Air Force budget, and there had been no immediate reply from Mr. Wilson. She said that Congress would not agree to the proposed cuts unless Mr. Wilson could answer such questions as how he could cut more than five billion dollars from the Air Force appropriations, reduce the strength of the Air Force to 114 wings, and still contend that the Air Force would be more powerful in 1954 than under the original plan for a 143-wing Air Force by that time.
The Republican drive to cut the budget faced a stiff test this date in the House, as it met to decide how much money should be provided for hospitals or other public health and education programs. Democrats generally supported the restoration of the deep cuts recommended by the Appropriations Committee for the Labor Department and the new Health, Education and Welfare Department for the following fiscal year. They hoped for enough Republican support for upsetting the Committee's recommendations to slash those budgets.
Congressman George Bender of Ohio advised Democrats this date to "stop bellyaching" if their officeholders were losing their jobs, as the shoe was on the other foot. He quoted DNC chairman Jim Farley from 1933, saying: "Patronage is a reward to those who have worked for party victory… A Republican officeholder has a chance of reappointment—but he has two strikes on him. If he knows more about his job than anybody else, he will hold his position, but if there is a Democrat just as well qualified, the Democrat will get the job."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this date that its consumer-price index had advanced a tenth of a percent during the month, with retail food costs declining somewhat but other consumer costs rising slightly. The index at mid-April had been 113.7 percent of the 1947-49 average, near the peak of the previous November, when the index reached 114.3. Increase in prices had been registered in medical care, cigarettes, transportation, gasoline, auto repairs, movie admissions and television repair. Some of those increases had been only local among cities for which the Bureau collected information.
At Fort Devens, Mass., News associate editor Vic Reinemer testified before a court-martial that he had heard Army medical officer Sheppard Carl Thierman, accused of falsely stating that he was not a Communist when applying for his Army commission, declare in a speech that "the State Department is the single greatest threat to peace." He said further that Dr. Thierman had been co-chairman of a 1949 world youth and student festival in Budapest and that Mr. Reinemer had heard him make several speeches at the festival, plus statements such as "finks and stool pigeons have been squealing to the striped-trouser boys" at the State Department. Mr. Reinemer had covered the Budapest festival for newspapers and magazines. His testimony was admitted over strenuous objection from counsel for Dr. Thierman, who also objected to introduction of a mimeographed newspaper published by the American delegation at the festival. One such issue had commented that the U.S. was supplying arms to every colonial power on earth "for the murder of the people who asked only to be free". Mr. Reinemer had testified that some of the American exhibits at the festival had shown the Statue of Liberty behind bars, a picture of slum housing, a hooded figure hanging a black person, and a chart asserting that the U.S. spent 51 percent of its budget on defense and only one percent on education, while Russia spent 26 percent for education and 19 percent on defense. The attorney argued for dismissal on the ground that the Judge Advocate General's counsel had brought forth only information that the doctor had been a member of the Communist Party in 1946, but had not established that his alleged membership had continued through the time when he sought his commission in 1949.
In Detroit, four strikes involving 16,750 workers at automobile parts plants, and layoffs of 118,900 others, had cut sharply automobile production this date and put 135,650 employees out of work. A month-long strike of 1,450 employees at Ford's Canton, O., forge plant had caused 57,900 Ford workers to be idle across the nation, and a two-day strike of 8,000 Budd workers in Detroit had caused 44,200 to be laid off at Chrysler. A third strike, two months old, in Muncie, Ind., at Borg-Warner's gear plant had caused layoffs at Willys, Kaiser-Frazer, Nash, and International Harvester plants, and threatened to cripple Studebaker output soon. By the following week, it was expected that Ford and Studebaker layoffs might reach 177,000 combined.
Also in Detroit, G.M. this date announced an agreement with the UAW to modify the formula affecting wages of 350,000 G.M. employees across the nation, calling for conversion to the new "revised" Federal Bureau of Labor Standards price index on its new basis. A total of 19 cents of the present 24 cent cost-of-living allowance would be transferred under the formula to the employees' base rates, which would be effective June 1. A ten-cent per hour increase in the rates of about 40,000 skilled workers was called for in the agreement.
In Taipeh, Formosa, an armed Communist motorboat, according to the Nationalist Defense Ministry, had surrendered the previous day to Chinese Nationalist forces after three crewmen had killed the pilot.
Floods and tornadoes continued to beset Louisiana and Texas this date, extending north over the Michigan-Canadian border area. At least four persons had been killed the previous day in twisters at Port Huron, Mich., and Sarnia, Ontario, and nearby areas along the border. Scores had been injured and property damage was in the millions. The death toll from flooding in Louisiana had risen to eight since the rivers and bayous had begun to overflow late the previous week. No drownings had been reported in Lake Charles, La., where the highest flood stage of the river in 40 years had been reached, causing two million dollars worth of damage to property. Generally fair weather was reported over the southern half of sections of the nation, and along the East and West Coasts.
In Charlotte, rough conditions of local railroad grade crossings and the blocking of traffic at those crossings would be brought to the attention of railway officials at a conference at City Hall the following Thursday by City Manager Henry Yancey, who had forwarded letters to the general manager of the Southern Railway in Charlotte, and other railroad officials, pertaining to the issue.
Frank Boynton, about 55, widely known in the hosiery knitting industry, had been discovered dead at a hotel in Luray, Va., during the morning. He had been manager of the full-fashion knitting division of Chadbourn Hosiery Mills, with headquarters in Charlotte.
In Denver, N.C., a man who had broken up with his girlfriend had his telephone begin ringing in the late night and early morning, fire trucks summoned to his home very early one morning, taxicabs and drivers summoned to his home, police cars responding to riot calls at wee hours, and in one instance, an undertaker appearing in the wee hours, all at someone else's instance, not his own. He had lost his patience when a delivery boy appeared with four dollars worth of barbecued ribs, c.o.d., at 2:00 a.m., and then summoned to court his former girlfriend, who pleaded not guilty to the charges of turning in a false alarm and disturbance. The judge gave her five days in jail on each charge.
In Norman, Okla., neighbors saw a woman digging holes and dropping an ice cube into each one, asking her if she was growing 25-pound cakes of icicle radishes or possibly refrigeration plants. She explained that there was a flowering cherry tree seed in each cube, that she was supposed to have planted them the previous fall but forgot, and a friend had advised her to freeze them and then plant them. But won't they bear only frozen cherries?
In Washington, the National Spelling
On the editorial page, "Among the Allies, a Prospect for Peace" indicates that one of Herblock's cartoons recently had pictured British and American legislators tossing rocks at each other across the Atlantic, with a bewildered "John Q. Public" dodging the barrage, suggesting in the caption: "Maybe we'd better start with a Big 2 meeting."
It indicates that after there had been an unnecessary Congressional uproar over the rather innocuous statement by British opposition leader Clement Attlee, that certain people in the U.S. appeared not to desire peace in Korea or elsewhere, it became apparent that the free nations had to iron out their difficulties before any serious thought could be given to a Big Three or Big Four meeting. But the previous day, an announcement had been made that President Eisenhower would meet with Prime Minister Churchill and the Premier of France, whoever succeeded deposed René Mayer, to discuss common problems.
It suggests that thoughtful persons in all free nations would breathe a sigh of relief that calmer heads had prevailed and that the three nations were moving slowly and deliberately to patch up their differences. The stakes were too high to permit hot-heads to dictate policy. The differences might be too great to resolve at one meeting. For instance, the issue of recognition of Communist China, which Britain and France had done, but consistently resisted by the U.S., as well as the companion issue of admission of China to the U.N., were issues which could not be joined until Chinese aggression in Korea and Indo-China ceased. European defenses, however, could be discussed at present, in light of the NATO nations succumbing to domestic pressures to slow down the formation of the unified army. If such issues could be resolved, then another conference, with Russia included, might hold out promise. The unity of the free nations could cause Russia to modify its plan of world conquest.
The President had provided the leadership toward such a meeting, though Mr. Churchill had repeatedly expressed a desire for it. Having taken the leadership role, the President would be wise to take along Congressional leaders of both parties to act in an advisory capacity. Relentless attacks on the Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences during the terms of FDR and President Truman had produced suspicion regarding personal diplomacy between leaders. The presence of a few key Congressional leaders would help to allay that suspicion and improve the chances for public acceptance of any agreements which resulted.
"The Welcome Mat Is Out" indicates that the appointment of Edward Scheidt, former head of the FBI office in Charlotte between 1937 and 1946 before being transferred to head the New York office, as the new commissioner of Motor Vehicles in the state was an excellent move by Governor Umstead. Mr. Scheidt had good character and integrity and would enter the job without political entanglements, especially important because former Governor Kerr Scott had ousted the previous commissioner because he had supported Mr. Umstead during the primaries instead of Judge Hubert Olive, whom Governor Scott had backed. Governor Scott had then tapped for the post another political appointee.
The new commissioner would face the problem of highway safety, about which the previous few General Assemblies and the people appeared to be apathetic. There was a need to overhaul the motor vehicle laws, and a lengthy set of recommendations for same by the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill had been put forth to the General Assembly in 1953, but had become lost in the shuffle. The State Highway Patrol also needed better direction to improve its morale and increase its efficiency.
It reiterates its high praise for the appointment and for Governor Umstead for making it.
"Hodges' Resignation a Blow to N.C." tells of the retirement of State Treasurer Brandon Hodges to enter private business in Western North Carolina with a paper and fiber company, a great loss of experience to the State, as he had established a good reputation as Treasurer during the two prior gubernatorial terms of Gregg Cherry and Kerr Scott, though not enough emphasis had been placed on staffing and equipping to comprise an industrial research bureau capable of finding new ways to use native materials in industry and of selling the state and its resources to out-of-state industrialists. But Mr. Hodges had gone beyond the call of duty in undertaking those efforts himself.
He had been considered a potential candidate for the gubernatorial race in 1956 or for the Senate, if Senator Clyde Hoey decided not to seek re-election. And so his retirement did not necessarily mean that he was done with public office.
A piece from the Washington Post, titled "Behind Closed Doors", indicates that the freedom of information committee of the American Society of Newspaper Editors had addressed a letter to the General Assembly of North Carolina in the hope that it would provide again for public meetings in its Joint Appropriations Committee and subcommittees, when considering budgetary matters—the former law having required public hearings until the 1953 Assembly session amended that law to allow for executive sessions. The piece indicates that under the previous system, there was no better way of correcting waste and logrolling activities than by having the public and press attend the hearings.
The practice of holding executive sessions was not unusual, as many state legislatures and the Congress did so, but it was an outmoded practice. The Society had pointed out in its letter that when a legislative body proceeded in secret, errors accumulated throughout the deliberations and might be carried into a finished proposal of a law, only to be discovered too late for easy correction. The letter had quoted a philosophical admonition of John Stuart Mill, that by public proceedings, the entire public, to an extent, became participants in the government and sharers in the "instruction and mental exercise derivable from it."
The piece concludes that there were some legislative deliberations, such as that of the Atomic Energy Committee, which had to be carried on in executive session, but that most committee work could be conducted in the open. It reiterates its hope that North Carolina would reconsider and once more make itself "a model for the rest of the country."
Drew Pearson, writing from Los Angeles, tells of Congressman Clare Hoffman of Michigan having devised a new method of influencing elections, whereby just prior to the election, he would start to probe candidates' policies which he opposed, as part of his Government Operations Committee. He had been against every defense measure before Pearl Harbor, had delivered a speech saying "Roosevelt is a Judas" and had once threatened to strike a woman in the House restaurant. Twice, his unfair methods of investigating opposing views just before election time had backfired. In March, he had begun subpoenaing witnesses in Detroit just a few days before its local elections, proposing to investigate the UAW and the part they played in past Michigan elections. House Speaker Joseph Martin, however, forced him to abandon the probe, as members of a labor union had a right to engage in politics free of investigation by Congress. During the current week, Mr. Hoffman had tried the same tactic again, probing Los Angeles housing, just seven days before the hottest mayoral election in Los Angeles in years, in which the chief issue was housing.
For years, Los Angeles had been trying to clean up the shacks in black neighborhoods and the Mexican tenements, and when the Taft Public Housing Act was passed, Mayor Fletcher Bowron and the City Council had signed a contract for a Federal public housing project. Later, two members of the Council changed their vote and the real estate interests began a campaign to reverse the program. The Mayor persisted in the notion that a contract could not be broken, that money had been paid out on it and work begun on clearing away the shacks and tenements. Subsequently, the California Supreme Court had supported his position. In the interim, however, the real estate lobby had been powerful enough to put forth a referendum and get it passed, under which the housing project would be halted, and also pitted a candidate of their own in the Republican primary, Congressman Norris Poulson, against Mayor Bowron, who persisted in the notion that he had to adhere to the original contract. The Congressman had a pedestrian voting record which was consistently supportive of the real estate lobby. He also placed an inordinate number of family members on the Congressional payroll, which Mr. Pearson details, receiving nearly $38,000 of salaries over a five-year period.
It was very likely that Mayor Bowron, who had been in office for 14 years and done a good job of cleaning up the city, would not have run in 1953, as he had talked of retiring all during the previous year. But when the real estate lobby began its campaign against him, he decided to run again.
Now, Congressman Hoffman was attempting to influence the debate on public housing on behalf of his friend, Congressman Poulson. The Michigan Congressman had even said he did not know that an election was taking place in Los Angeles, but a letter to him in early March had informed him of the fact that Mr. Poulson was running in the race. He also received reminders from Congressional Democrats from California. He had friends in the camps of both the Mayor and Congressman Poulson, as had other California Republicans, such as Vice-President Nixon and Governor Earl Warren. They believed that any investigation ought occur only after the election. Mr. Hoffman had ignored the advice, however, and had begun closed-door hearings in Los Angeles and then televised hearings.
Marquis Childs indicates that the trouble with the President's speeches was that the right people in the Republican Party did not read them, or if they did, they ignored them.
No one in Congress believed that the excess profits tax would be retained beyond its presently scheduled expiration on June 30, thus cutting 2.5 billion dollars in revenue and increasing deficit spending. The President could do nothing about that other than to urge Congress to retain it. Congressman Daniel Reed, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, wanted it to end and most Republicans on the Committee, and perhaps a majority in the House, felt the same way. Congressman Reed acted as if the Democrats still were in power, saying that the present gossip among the spenders was to impose more taxes, and he was determined to prevent it, that the excess profits tax was "as dead as a dodo", and that there would be no increase in taxes, with individual taxpayers obtaining their relief at the end of the year when the 10 percent increase, passed to help pay for the Korean War, would expire. Mr. Reid could also block any substitute for the excess profits tax, such as an increase in the corporate income tax rate. He wanted to end the income tax increase prior to the end of the year, but was unlikely to get his way on that, as the President could veto such a move.
In all, during the ensuing year, 8.5 billion dollars in taxes would expire, 5.5 billion of which represented the excess profits tax and personal income taxes, an additional two billion in corporate income taxes, and another billion in excise taxes, to expire on April 1, 1954. That would place the budget in a deeper deficit than anticipated under the budget submitted by former President Truman the prior January before he left office, which had factored in the expiring taxes.
The expiration dates, which some Democrats had favored at the time, were premised on a return to peacetime conditions by those dates, but there continued to be a continuing necessity of a build-up in defense.
Members of the Ways & Means Committee wanted to go along with the Administration but were increasingly critical of its lack of leadership, saying that speeches were not enough and that the position taken by the President had come too late, indicating that Secretary of Treasury George Humphrey had declined to take a stand on the proposals of Mr. Reed.
Regarding renewal of Reciprocal Trade Agreements, Democrats on the Committee complained that they could not discern from the testimony of Secretary of State Dulles whether he was for or against changes in the trade laws which would raise the tariffs on lead, zinc and other imports.
Speaker of the House Joseph Martin wanted to be loyal to the President and would perhaps find a way to bring Mr. Reed into line, but much time had been lost and much of the President's prestige had eroded.
Robert C. Ruark indicates that he was not very impressed with the "grandstand play" of Lt. General Glenn Barcus, who had been flying Sabre jet missions over Korea, while telling the enemy who he was and why he was flying. In a war, heroism was hard to define, as certain men were supposed to do certain things, and generals had jobs to do, just as had the enlisted men and other officers. He had always been annoyed by generals doing the work of men of lower rank because it took a lot of time and money to produce a general, and so would be a waste if he wound up shot at the peak of his career.
General Barcus admitted he knew little about the jet fighter but was flying it as a counter-propaganda measure. It seemed, however, more like a headline grabber.
The Air Force had said there was no rule against generals flying planes, that it depended on the judgment of the commanding general of the area, and in this case, General Barcus headed the Fifth Air Force.
He concludes that it would be better if the brass did its job, hunted for fewer headlines, and allowed the lower ranks to perform their proper tasks.
"And, in a final bit of pique, I am somewhat bored over a period of years with personal histrionics and eminently quotable quotes from on high. By the time a man rates three stars he is no longer a boy. He is an executive and should go execute orders while the younger men with the faster reflexes do the work."
A letter writer indicates that fire companies from across the state, which had taken part in the centennial celebration of Mecklenburg County on May 20, 1875, had been enumerated in a local newspaper, which she quotes. After the ceremonies and speech-making, the "Mecklenburg Polka" was played by a band from New Bern, composed by a member of that band for the occasion. The celebration had begun with the firing of 100 guns and the ringing of bells at sunrise, and there had been elaborate ceremonies also on May 10, 1875.
A letter writer indicates that one of the most dishonest things she could imagine was to obtain the newspaper, read it, and then fail to pay the delivery boy. She had been sitting on her porch the previous Saturday when the paperboy came by to collect, seeming disappointed because so many persons had not paid him. He was about 12 or 13 and had said that when people died, they would find out that it did not pay to cheat a paperboy out of 30 cents.
That sounds vaguely like a threat.
A letter writer asks whether the country had to copy Russia to resist it, that what she disliked most about Russia was that its government was authoritarian. She liked most about the American philosophy that truth was being sought and that there were no barriers to investigation. She supposes that there would always be those who would limit freedom of thought, that Thomas Jefferson had opposition in his fight for it. She wonders if he had been extreme when he said: "If there be any among us who wish to dissolve this union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments to the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."
When Justice Felix Frankfurter of the Supreme Court had concurred in the opinion that the Smith Act was constitutional, he had also stated his reservations regarding its wisdom or desirability, saying: "The mark of a truly civilized man is confidence in the strength and security derived from the inquiring mind. We may be grateful for such honest comforts as it supports, but we must be unafraid of its uncertainties. Without open minds there can be no open society, and if society be not open the spirit of man is mutilated and becomes enslaved."
She concludes that former President Jefferson and Justice Frankfurter may have expressed a philosophy which was uncomfortable to those who wished to establish the final form of government, but to those who wished freedom to seek and change when experience proved that changes were needed, "their courage and wisdom are inspiring."
Incidentally, a couple of days ago we had stated sardonically that, the way things were going, efforts soon might be made to rip away the faces of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson from Mt. Rushmore, giving blank space to supplant them with others, perhaps enabling, after proper speeches of martyrdom suffered for the cause have been made, the right-wing to achieve its dream of placing the busts of Ronald Reagan and Dee Jay Trump up there—only to hear the next day that the Republican Governor of South Dakota was concerned about the prospect of efforts to deface the monument and was taking steps to ensure, along with cooperation from the National Park Service which oversees the monument, that it would be protected.
To what extent this effort is anticipating a non-threat to try to gin up political support in an election year we do not know. But, apparently, the greatest perceived such threat is from Native American groups, who have expressed displeasure over the monument for decades, objecting primarily to its position on Lakota land in the Black Hills, beautiful, unblemished country, ostensibly promised in perpetuity to the Lakota under the Treaty of Fort Laramie executed in 1868. The monument to Crazy Horse, begun through the collaboration of the Lakota with a Polish sculptor in 1940, who had worked on the original Mt. Rushmore monument with Gutzon Borglum, has proceeded since that time through private funding, with permission for the project having been granted in 1940 by the U.S. Forestry Service which controls the land on which the Crazy Horse monument sits, though the Lakota eschewed any government funding in support of the project.
In looking more closely at those Native American objections to the Rushmore monument, we found, to our surprise, that apparently a popularized version of the objection, though not necessarily having official voice behind it, beyond the Black Hills grant by treaty argument—upheld in 1980 by the Supreme Court insofar as grounds for compensation and interest thereon for a Fifth Amendment "taking" by the Government in 1877—, extends also to the personages represented by the monument, with objections to all four former Presidents, including Presidents Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, the latter especially surprising, having been an early Twentieth Century President who had been the principal original government force behind the preservation of Federal lands in the West as national parks and forests, and thus, by extension, having been, at least arguably, a deceased force behind the Administration of cousin FDR granting the Lakota permission in 1940 to erect the monument to Crazy Horse on Federally-controlled land.
But, in researching the objection to TR, we found that he had made a controversial statement in a speech to the Young Men's Institute on the Bowery in New York City in January, 1886, when he was but 27 and had already served one two-year term in the New York State Assembly and was preparing to run in the 1886 mayoral election in New York City, an election in which he would run third, though having been found a shoo-in by the New York Times less than a month prior to that election. The entirety of the statement, though presumably abstracted from a longer address, may be read in a newspaper account, the provided St Louis Post-Dispatch rendition presented under the header "The Cowboy" and treated to inside-page placement, circulated by wire in the same version across the country at the time and widely published, sometimes on front pages, most controversially having stated, in contrasting the sometimes roistering but generally heroic cowboy of the Western plains with the Indians, that he should be ashamed to say that he had adopted the Western view of the Indian, did not subscribe to the notion that "the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe that nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."
While obviously crossing swords with viewpoints held by most sensitive, educated Americans of all races since at least the latter 1960's, the words also have to be placed in the context of their times and the place and before whom they were uttered, assuming, as an initial issue, that they were accurately set down in the newspaper report in an age before radio and recording equipment, reliant entirely on shorthand notes of reporters for verbatim quotes. Mr. Roosevelt was speaking to young boys on the Bowery, who, undoubtedly, were eager to hear of his exploits as a "cowboy" in the West, and, only ten years after the brutal massacre of General Custer and his men at the Little Bighorn, would not have been very receptive to an account of that massacre which related it as a response in part to gentle Cheyenne having been, themselves, including women and children, massacred at the Washita River in the Oklahoma Territory by General Custer's 7th Cavalry eight years earlier, in 1868, in response to reports of Indian attacks on white settlers in Kansas, Texas and the Colorado Territory.
To what extent there was any editorial comment on TR's remarks at the time, we have not researched, as we regard the matter as a tempest in a teapot, unworthy of expenditure of a large block of time, as it occurred 134 years ago in a context of history in this country only two decades after the Civil War and has to be placed within that historical perspective, with all of its attendant circumstances, beliefs, attitudes and mores wholly intact, against a backdrop of a society only beginning to emerge from the frontier, prior to the coming of most of the modern trappings of modern society, when the horse and buggy or steam train or steamboat were still the only means of transportation to and fro, dim gas lighting was the means of seeing by night in the cities, the fireplace provided the heat in winter, and the telephone had only just been patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, with the telegraph wire still the only long-range means of communication in a country thus largely cut off from itself and not well-traveled across the hinterlands of the West.
Other history of Mr. Roosevelt followed, both before and during his Presidency, which places him in a much better light with regard to Native Americans, and room for growth for anyone has to be accorded historically when viewing individuals in that light of the dim past, always cognizant of the operations of the times and collective opinions then extant on anyone of a given age, especially political leaders who are required, under ideal conditions, to respond both to the attitudes of their constituents for the purpose of establishing leadership while also having the responsibility to educate and lead them, in the best of the noblesse oblige tradition, away from such atavistic beliefs, especially true of someone of the socio-economic status and background of Mr. Roosevelt. Yet, few can be expected to rise above the virtual entirety of outraged public opinion, fueled by sensational reports of the time, anent Indian raids in the Western states and territories, and even continuing those long, bitter "memories", occasioned from reading the stories in print and occasionally brought up again and maintained in vicarious memory by subsequent stories read in print, into the time when TR was President, between 1901 and 1909, preceding radio and television or even the convention of newsreels played in fledgling movie theaters, which did not really begin to catch on in the public mind until around 1915 with the popularity of "The Birth of a Nation", its widespread acceptance as an entertainment and its potency as a stimulator of riots and resurgence of the largely moribund Klan in the country being a good indicator of where the mass mind was at that time in the nation's history, a mass mind which was inclining fast from that collective opinion by the time of the Depression and the coming of FDR to the national stage as President in 1933. It should not be forgotten also that changing attitudes toward Native Americans can be gleaned from the fact that Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas, who was elected Vice-President under President Herbert Hoover, was half Native American and that widely beloved comedian and armchair philosopher Will Rogers was part Native American, a fact well-known during his period of popularity.
Times change and attitudes change along with them, and those who study history, especially younger people who are neophytes in the effort, need to be aware of that social process in societies generally across time and that the way to foster and continue those positive changes is not to go off half-cocked after reading a report contemporaneously of something which occurred a century or more earlier and take action on that basis, entering then the "Twilight Zone" of complete irrationality when so doing, perhaps in response to some offhand outrageous remark made by some individual in a moment of pique or stuck in that same twilight zone of irrationality, trying to join again old battles after reading about them in some popular book or watching a half-baked television program or movie on the subject, dramatizing it either fictionally or non-fictionally, still, even with diligent research and the most skillful of presentation, only presenting a small part of the overall picture of any given life or time, and that usually soaked in treacle, as actually living through the time with an accurate memory preserved of it is the only way fully to understand any such set of attitudes and beliefs and expressions of same.
One has to maintain awareness that every human being has to suffer certain darker realities of life, including death of loved ones, whether by natural causes or by the treachery of nature or other human beings, and that, because of peculiar circumstances attendant such darker events, including the age at which the loss is suffered, some are harder to understand and bear than others, but also are usually offset in some manner by extra sympathy being accorded the younger sufferer. Such was, in part, undoubtedly motivating TR in his address to the young boys on the Bowery in New York in 1886, seeking to regale them with stories of the wild West which he had experienced, while also being, for the time and the particular audience, humorous in his approach to the subject, humor which escapes us in present times.
Once, when we were headed to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, many years ago, driving a nice car, about six years old, on a sunny afternoon on an otherwise virtually deserted two-lane roadway, a pickup truck approached and suddenly swerved into our path in a clear attempt to intimidate, plainly not accidental. The truck appeared to be driven by a young Native American male, probably in his late teens. We were approaching that truck, not following, and had done nothing which should have prompted any concern by that individual. Yet, there was a reaction which communicated hatred, undoubtedly provoked by the type of vehicle we were driving, a sports car, while he was stuck in an older truck. We had encountered that same sort of reaction on occasion in the North Carolina hill country among the whites, and so did not allow it to bother us or to cause in reaction a generalized feeling of antipathy toward Native Americans, around whom we had been from the earliest age of remembrance without problem or incident. We drove on to the Little Bighorn, visiting the battlefield for the second time, the first having occurred two years earlier, by serendipitous happenstance, as we have recounted before, 101 years to the day from the last day of the battle.
We recommend the same attitude, to move on, to the protesters in the streets in these times who wish to communicate their frustration with the society by ripping down statues and stomping on the heads of same, in a public display of rue, indistinguishable in great part from the type of emotion exhibited by lynchmobs of a hundred years ago and more in the South, undertaking vigilante "justice" for perceived crimes to ignorant, illiterate white folk, sometimes led in the effort by the slightly more advantaged, who had to have some scapegoat to blame for their condition, surely not caused by their God whom they revered with all their might, someone whom they could readily perceive as inferior by their past conditioning in a particular community, below their own superior station in life.
We have felt that rue ourselves against racism and ethnicism, the same which the statue removers exhibit by action against Jackson, Andy and Stonewall, though of very different stripes, and others perceived "wrong" on race in the past, but we have chosen to express it peacefully, through dedicated scholarship, rather than through violence or vandalism, wholly emotive and completely irrational when reasoned to the premises. A peaceful approach to the subject, even if sometimes communicated with harsh words placed in their historical perspective, is much more conducive to fostering better human relations into the future, which ought be the overriding object, not obtaining 15 minutes of fame on the television by illegally ripping down a statue which does nothing concrete for anyone, makes enemies of most who are mature and sober, for the illegality of the act and its tawdry resemblance to a drunken fraternity or sorority party gone completely off the rails. When the statue is ripped down that way, with no official imprimatur, or coerced away in like fashion, it does nothing to communicate a change of attitude by the community; it only generates antipathy within the community and across the nation for the lawless conduct transacted with ostensible impunity. ("Why, if I did that, they'd put me under the jail. Look at these crazy kids getting away with it...")
People will not be forced to adopt positive attitudes, and, today, in most cases, the only people resistant to the insistence of equal opportunity legally, economically and socially in the society are those whose attitudes and beliefs will only be hardened by such illegal actions, not improved. For the rest, it is condescension or rank insult, only harming progress, to imply that the broad mass of white culture in 2020 is systemically racist. While that argument might have been made with some probity as late as the 1980's, the society has since consistently improved as a generation born more than a hundred years ago, which grew up with segregation and racial stereotypes abounding, has gradually died away, at least outside certain small pockets of the country here and there where the past of a hundred years ago and more is still celebrated to the point of trying to recreate it in the present, replete with all of its negative attitudes and stereotypes, a form of hiding from modern times. Symbolic gestures, use of "Black" instead of "black" in print, and other such ephemeral changes constitute other forms of hiding from the times, will do nothing to improve matters, are simply a quick-hand form of apologetics for the renderer to try to show something which ought be communicated consistently by the substance of what they say, not requiring the cute window-dressing, sops for the saps. Limitations on speech and forms of expression of ideas, implied by convention or otherwise, are not what we want, are not appropriate under the First Amendment in any event, and will only result ultimately in street violence after suppression drives the sentiments underground where they can be nurtured in small, angry groups without gradual vent in controlled settings.
Street demonstrations of a brief nature make a point, perhaps, but extended demonstrations interrupting the lives and livelihoods of people across the country, especially in a country already suffering through a health and concomitant economic crisis not seen in a hundred years, become heartless in a way which will only set back human relations in an already divided country politically and accomplish nothing positive and lasting in moving the ball down the field toward more convivial community relations. The latter, and only the latter, should be the object. No one needs to yell and scream the slogan "black lives matter" to convince the broad populace of goodwill in the country of the point, a point accepted by most Americans since the mid-1960's, believe it or not, even if incidents of occasional individual action or statements, whether by police or others, might suggest the contrary, incidents given wider circulation than ever before by the proliferation of smart phones at the ready and the means instantly to upload content to the internet via social media, sometimes a good thing in the most egregious of circumstances but also leading too much of the time to snap judgments compromising deliberative justice for the video only telling a portion of the story, and in circumstances where only words are used, tending only to chill speech and suppress freedom of expression, a bad thing for society in general. Those are only individuals acting and speaking as such, and cannot be taken as generalized indicators of attitudes, lest the individual action or statement be empowered far beyond its normal reach, sometimes to the delight of the individual, sometimes to their chagrin and dismay for it having occurred in a moment of weakness, of unphotographed or edited out physical or verbal provocation, or simple exhaustion.
The real work of progress in human relations transpires not in the streets amid confrontation with strangers but in the homes and workplaces every day, when approached appropriately with goodwill and acceptance of others without preconception or stereotype, or impressions formed from rumor and hearsay rather than personal interaction, greeting each as an individual worthy of human respect by the mere fact of their being human.
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