The Charlotte News

Tuesday, October 15, 1940



Site Ed. Note: "Ray of Light" rings up a question which often occurs to us, that being what W. J. Cash might have said of the war in Vietnam, the youth movement and anti-draft movement of that era, had he lived just so long as his late sixties, or indeed, what he would have said of present circumstances in early 2003, had he lived just a little more than a century. Reading his editorials and other writing, we can find some clues, but clues which must be kept in the perspective of the times in which they were written.

Undoubtedly, he would have recoiled somewhat at the radicalism which associated itself with the anti-war efforts, the contumacious blowing up of buildings, often with loss of life, and the like which occasionally raised its ugly and misguided head in the late 60's and early 70's, giving sometimes the otherwise peaceful anti-war movement an undeserved bad name. At the same time, he might have reflected upon his youth as a reporter and columnist in 1928 in his first "Moving Row" column for The Charlotte News, "I Propose a Lodge", when he said that Lincoln had once indicated that the citizenry has the right to destroy its government if it so chooses. "Laugh that off!", Cash blurted. (Whether Lincoln ever actually said it, incidentally, in paraphrase or not, we have thus far been unable to ascertain--and whether Cash would have ever actually supported such a move is highly questionable and doubtful. When he wrote those lines, he was writing no doubt on memory of his developing years in Gaffney and Boiling Springs, places which Cash regarded as indifferent to too many things and which therefore required prodding to thought.) But we do wonder. Alas, however, given the difference of time and context of issues, it is difficult to transpose the clues from his writing to hypothesized subsequent views he might have held of 1965, of 1968, of 1970 or the present.

He hated warfare, was at heart a pacifist, but never criticized the entry of the United States into any of its wars historically, thought each of them necessary, and urged fervently that the U.S. was dangerously dragging its heels in not entering into the War in the Pacific and in Europe in 1940. But he also counseled caution until armaments could be adequately stockpiled and men adequately trained. He also supported the draft bill of 1940, felt it absolutely necessary in order to raise an army and navy in short order. In fact, he thought it a year too slow in coming to be and criticized the isolationists regularly for obstructing it. He had, himself, volunteered for service, having just turned age seventeen on May 2, 1917, within a month after the United States entered World War I. Cash did not brook hypocrisy. He was not one to call upon the young to fight and then sit back comfortably from his typewriter and write about it. And to that end he was willing, maybe eager, to go to the frontlines as a war-correspondent in 1941 in the event of U.S. entry to the war--and might have, had he not died in Mexico in July.

Such are the complexities of any person, perhaps, explainable only in terms of placing principle of responsibility to the society which has nurtured and given rights to the individual ahead of purely personal principles applicable in ordinary, non-emergent circumstances, the objectification of societal responsibilities over purely personal beliefs.

But what of Vietnam, a civil war in Southeast Asia, an area which had been strategically important in World War II because of its mineral wealth, land mass, and ports to supply ships to the greater mineral wealth of the Philippines, the East Indies and Malaysia? Did it still retain such geographical importance in the nuclear age, even as nuclear submarines began to ply the depths of both oceans and Saturn rockets offered the means of delivering warheads between continents? The Domino Theory, which was consistently set forth as the rationale for U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, was a left-over notion from World War II and earlier--that enemy nations could effectively island hop their way ever closer to our soil. Cash regularly cautioned of this possibility vis a vis the Nazi in 1939 and 1940. In 1960's terms, the theory suggested the potential for encircling the United States with a Communist nuclear threat. But did the Soviet Union truly need this advantage of islands and land by the mid-sixties?

These questions of course have been debated many times in and since the 1960's. And we feel confident in saying that Cash would have been poised squarely in that debate, perhaps by then writing a syndicated column for some large metropolitan newspaper, maybe even appearing occasionally as a questioner on "Meet the Press", hosted by his last American Mercury editor, Lawrence E. Spivak. Whether he would have backed initial policy after the Gulf of Tonkin and then slowly begun to question the subsequent massive military build-up in Southeast Asia, as much of the country did in just that succession of changed opinion, or whether he would have favored an early, decisive non-nuclear strike, or whether he would have opposed entry in the first place in the late fifties and early sixties with the non-military advisors, we cannot say.

But we suspect he would have supported the student strike of 1970 over the bombing in Cambodia, would have decried the use of the National Guard personnel at Kent State and Jackson State to quell peaceful anti-war demonstrations, and would have questioned the Nixon policy of broadening the war, without Congressional approval or knowledge, into Cambodia and Laos.

It is worth keeping that different times and situations require different actions in foreign policy just as in domestic policy. Whereas appeasement was obviously not possible with heavily industrialized dictatorships bent on dominion and empire, such as Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1930's, third world countries with little infrastructure, small military forces, and largely peasant populations pose another issue entirely in the present.

And it is worth noting that until the year 2002, this country had never once since the Pershing raids into Mexico in 1916 waged a purely offensive campaign against a country for something done to this country by individuals, as distinct from an organized military effort of a sovereign. Having said that, we make no comment on the propriety of that effort in Afghanistan for it is done and only subsequent history can judge its wisdom and efficacy, perhaps with due regard to the emotion which prompted that offensive campaign. And of course we have to note that the campaign was limited to air, naval, and special forces support of otherwise too weak rag-tag armies of brave peasants fighting to regain control of their country which had been in turmoil and largely without what we think of as government for as long as anyone living can recall.

But we might also note that it is very easy to wear patriotism on the sleeve for a short while and claim to be in support of a draft, willing and eager to go overseas, to send one's son or daughter out to fight in a foreign desert, and even to say so on national television, especially when the prospect for such happening is low--but the reality of that is another thing entirely. Generationally, we tend to forget what a draft does to society, what the sight of body bags coming home on Air Force jets do, what warfare and the experience of being shot at, having one's friend's face turned to mush before one's eyes, really does to those who fight and the families of those who die or are maimed for life. And what it does, too, to those who don't fight, the divisiveness at home which eventually reaches all segments of society and lasts long after the war ends. In short, we forget that it is not a movie or a novel.

A different age with different threats, different weaponry, and different stresses requires different thinking, and Cash would, with little doubt, have been at the forefront of that different thinking, not merely relying on his views, apropos as they were then, of twenty-five or sixty years earlier. In all likelihood, in this era, with our war-making hand superior to that of any nation, he would have counseled patience and diplomacy, reasonable caution against future acts of insane fanatics willing to deny their very existence to make an unfathomable point. And we suspect that he would have also counseled against offensive war or the trampling of the Constitutional rights of anyone. For that, he would have too readily recalled, is what Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo did, albeit without a vibrant Constitution to check them. They were megalomaniacal hucksters who merely took advantage of the tendencies and strains of prideful nationalism for their own self-aggrandisement. The humiliation of Versailles had blinded the larger part of the populace to objective perception of the Other. But, the resulting nationalistic tendency was also deemed patriotism, in their terms.

Those heavily militarized, industrialized societies structured under despots no longer exist. So, viewing the historical anti-exemplar which they represent, Cash likely would counsel us today that we must not fall victim to the pattern ourselves. And, indeed, in nearly the first full year and a half after the act of insanity, we have been magnificently restrained and have not--thus far. Yet, the tendencies, the tendencies which when boiled to their essence are the emotional tendencies of the human being to react in kind when attacked or cornered, must be checked and checked vigilantly.

Chest Drive

Quota Represents Minimum For Essential Services

The Community Chest drive gets off to a good start today, with ten per cent more advance gifts than it had last year, with what looks like a carefully-built and efficient organization. Elimination of door-to-door canvassing is an innovation which should do away with one cause of needless irritation and embarrassment. Only people who have prospect cards--that is, people who are known to be able and generally willing to give--will be solicited.

However, if the beginning is auspicious, no false optimism and easy complacency is in order. Raising $120,230 in Charlotte looks easy enough when you prorate it among the whole population; but, as experience has shown, it is always a difficult job to make the Community Chest quota here. Most times it hasn't been made.

And failure means the crippling of essential services which have already had their budgets pared to the bone in the making of the general Community Chest budget. The Community Chest is a highly efficient device for bringing all of the various community services into equilibrium with one another, so that each gets its proper share of the total funds the community can afford. But to work at all, the sum set as its goal must be reached.

Thousands of people, of course, can't contribute at all, and there are some who can and won't. That means that everybody who is able and willing must give generously if the quota is to be reached.


A Tight Spot

Russia Faces Tough Decision in Tense Balkan Situation

The most important question in the world today is how the cat is going to jump in the Balkans. For upon that the outcome of the war may well depend.

If Greece and Turkey stand by their commitments, Adolf Hitler's dream of cutting swiftly through to the oil fields of Mosul is probably out. That he can eventually whip the Turkish armies is more than probable, but that he can destroy the forts at the Dardanelles and whip those armies in the difficult mountain country of Asia Minor--that he can do all that before the British have time to make the defenses of Mosul impregnable, is not likely.

But what Greece and Turkey do mainly depends on Russia--as usual, an enigmatic quantity. Russia has every reason to try to avoid war with Germany now, to be sure. For if it came now, she'd have to stand against the whole force of the main body of Germany's armies, something that it is extremely doubtful she can successfully do.

On the other hand, it is almost inconceivable that the Russians will tolerate Adolf Hitler's getting control of the Dardanelles. For with that strait in his hands, he would already be master of the wheat of the Ukraine, which must pass through it to reach the world, and so of the Ukraine itself. Moreover the oil of Mosul, were it in German hands, would eventually be quite as dangerous to Russia as to England.

At the moment, perhaps the best guess is that Russia still hopes that bluff will work and that Adolf Hitler, with his hands already full, will not risk another war to carry out his purpose. But if bluff doesn't work, then one of the hardest decisions of the war would be set down squarely in her lap.


A Ray of Light

A Communication Suddenly Reminds Us of Something

The Mothers of the United States of America kindly furnishes us with light on themselves. This is the same outfit, if you recall, which hanged Senator Claude Pepper in effigy on the Capitol grounds at Washington during the conscription debate and which attempted to stampede the Senate into rejecting the bill by sitting down in the Senate lobby with heavy mourning veils over their faces.

At that time nobody had heard of the organization before. Claude Pepper first stoutly asserted their right to act as they were doing, later said he understood they were Communist-inspired, but they still remained puzzlingly obscure. Now, however, the ladies favor us with news of themselves.

Five of the six officers listed on their stationery have German names, it is worth noting. Furthermore, the ladies have adopted a resolution, a copy of which comes to us. It denounces the draft bill as a violation of the "slavery and involuntary servitude" prohibition of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, asserts that free Americans have no choice but to revolt, urges the beginning of that revolt by organized pressure on Congress (1) to expell every member of the Congress who voted for conscription, and (2) to impeach the President of the United States for having signed the bill.

With that before us we look at their address which is 535 Book Building, Detroit, Michigan--and we think we begin to see a light. The ladies may be Reds, for all we know. But it also occurs to us that Detroit is the seat of the man who has been arguing exactly like the ladies argue ever since the draft was first proposed and has been calling for the same thing, a man who recently confessed, what all sensible people already know, that he is "taking the road to Fascism." We mean of course the notorious Nazi-sympathizing priest, Coughlin.


Dr. Munroe

A Man Admired for His Genius, Beloved for Himself

A man who was almost a legend, an old, dried up little man of 83, died last night. His name was John Peter Munroe.

In these last few years it is probable that he could have walked along the streets of this growing city and been recognized by only a few of those he passed. Certainly neither his appearance nor anything of self-importance in his manner would have drawn attention to him. Yet his mind was that of a genius, his nature gentle and sweet and rugged.

His capacity for doing things, and doing them superlatively, was astonishing. About most any man it would be enough to say that he was a brilliant medical educator, which Dr. John Peter was. Or that he was a pioneer in medical education in the state. Or that he could not only specialize in neurology to such an extent as to teach it masterfully but that he could take any other professor's class when that became necessary and teach it masterfully too.

But such engagements absorb only a fraction of this little man's hours and thoughts. At one time when he was president of the Medical College and teaching three branches, he was also college physician at Davidson. He was also president of an oil mill and director in a textile mill. He was also director a Charlotte bank. And superintendent of the Sunday school and elder in the church. And director of the choir.

And in his leisure afternoon hours he refereed not only all college football games but the week-day scrimmages as well

They say about him that if the accident of birth or selection had set him down in some metropolitan area, he would have been a nationally distinguished a medical man of his time. But then he would not have done so much for the making of doctors in the practice of the healing arts in the community which woefully lacked such services.

The stories they tell about his absent-mindedness--and it confirms his genius--are a part of his character which old friends adored. Often times, carried away with what he was doing, or preoccupied, he simply forgot to go to bed. And so there was a nurse on night duty to whom he had given a standing order to call him at his apartment at midnight and tell him that it was time to retire.

He was truly a marvel of intellect and energy, this little doctor. He had a long, full, admirable life. And last night, as he had lived he died, quietly and alone and in full understanding.

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