The Charlotte News

Wednesday, October 16, 1940



Site Ed. Note: "Survival Test" calls up an issue, which while it has lain dormant since the late seventies, always promises to be controversial. In addition to the issue of the draft, the editorial points out the essence of democracy as the ability to adapt to the changing times and the desires of the people within the democracy. And, indeed, studying history and studying the present time juxtaposed to history, we find that thwarting the will of the democracy has inevitably a spiritual component, or perhaps better phrased, an anti-spiritual component, which is demeaning and destructive to the democratic weal, so much so that inevitably tragedy has usually followed in the path of such denial of it. Witness 1963. Witness 1968. Witness 1974. No single region of the country, no single state, gets its way over the majority, not for long. And so it causes us to wonder…

What is the informed common will today? That is, the will which is not the result of hopped-up questions by hopped-up pollsters, ("If he violates the weapons inspections resolution, should we go get him?"), but rather the thoughtful, objective expression of the populace.

Perhaps the question ought be preceded with a truism: "Warfare means death potentially to you or those you care about. Do you support it?" Though there are reasonable positions to be taken on both sides of the issue of the propriety of the war of 1991, had the question been placed thusly, including in its potential collateral wake the events of 2001, would the majority answer still have been, "Go get him"?

Note On Birds

The New Caesar Seems To Be Mixed on His Ornithology

Caesar's eagles show every sign of turning out to be twittering sparrows.

When the other day we read reports from the High Command of the Italian Navy to the effect that "smaller Italian forces" had attacked greater British forces in the Mediterranean, sunk one light cruiser, damaged the heavy cruiser York, and an aircraft carrier, and knocked off several submarines and destroyers, we refuse to believe that until the British report had come through. Experience had long since shown that Italian claims of naval victory were invariably turned loose to hide an Italian defeat.

As it turned out, we got something better than a British Admiralty report--generally reliable though these have proved to be. There came an eyewitness account by Larry Allen of the Associated Press, who witnessed the battle in question from the bridge of the light cruiser, Ajax, hero of the Graf Spee fight, which was apparently the light cruiser the Italians claimed to have destroyed. At least it was the one with which they seem to have been mainly engaged.

And as Mr. Allen tells the story, the fight was a stunning victory for Britain, with three destroyers set down one after the other, and the Italian flotilla, including a cruiser, high-tailing it for Sicily when the contest ended.

Mr. Allen, indeed, is discreetly silent about possible British losses. He neither affirms nor denies them. However, that may well be the censorship, and the British Admiralty's desire to monopolize the announcement of its own losses. The Admiralty reports that the Ajax was hit above the water line but not seriously damaged. But the evidence seems clear that the British had all the best of it, and that that great Italian victory was manufactured in Rome, not on the Mediterranean.


Libel Nailed

Democrats Repudiate Slur Against Willkie Patriotism

National Chairman Flynn vigorously repudiates the pamphlet, circulating in New York and purporting to come from headquarters of the Negro division of the Democratic Party, which attacks Willkie on the grounds that his father and all four grandparents were born in Germany. Negro division leaders never heard of the pamphlet until it began to be circulated, says Chairman Flynn, and an investigation into its authorship is to be made.

All of which is comforting. It seemed doubtful all along that the Democrats could be responsible for this attack, for it was obviously poor politics in a city like New York, with a great German-born or German-extracted population. But it is good to have the thing directly repudiated, and to have the Democratic Chairman explicitly praise Mr. Willkie's patriotism.

As Dorothy Thompson points out in a recent column, there is good reason to believe that the dictators want Roosevelt defeated. But that is obviously based on the hope that such a defeat should be taken as a repudiation of a strong stand against the Axis, and is in nowise connected with Mr. Willkie's own views.

It may be brought into the campaign as an argument like another. But it is certainly no ground for insinuating that Willkie is a Nazi sympathizer. He plainly is no such thing, and his German ancestry is it itself proof of it. Willkie's people were old 1848 Liberals from Germany. And no people was ever more militantly opposed to the sort of thing Adolf Hitler stands for than precisely those old 1848 Germans.


Survival Test

Draft Proves Democratic Will Is Not Decadent

Today there happens in the United States something which has never happened here before. Millions of men are registering for compulsory military service, though we are not at war.

Not formally at war, at least. But formal declarations of war have ceased in our time to mean much. War nowadays is a matter of degree, hangs not at all on the old methods, is waged with many weapons besides the strictly military ones.

And it may well be that when the historians come to size up the era in which we have lived they will have it that all the world has been at war since the day in 1931 when the Japanese marched into Manchukuo and the signatories of the Nine-Power Treaty, including the United States, did not stir. Or even that war has been continuous since 1914, that the Armistice of 1918 and Versailles Treaty were simply lulls in the conflict, points at which it shifted over from one type of struggle to another.

There are people, indeed, who profess to view the registration which is going forward today with the gravest alarm, some of them in complete sincerity, no doubt, but some of them for reasons that are at least open to suspicion.

It is a violation of a fundamental tradition of democracy, they say. The fathers of this nation distrusted, and rightly distrusted, the military spirit and the spirit of compulsion in general. And the old conviction that conscription is to be resorted to only when we are actively and fully at war ought to have been held to. If we plan to fight, then we should say so flatly, make our declarations against our enemies and go about the business strictly in the forms of the past.

But all that seems to us to be without much validity. The plain fact is that what is taking place today is a result of an act or will on the part of the whole people, are at least the overwhelming majority of them, to which, in times when decision must be made one way or the other, the right to rule must obviously belong. The draft laws was passed because the people rose up and made unmistakably clear that they wanted it passed. And they rose up and demanded it, not because they love things military or war, but because they perceived that we were up against a situation which was greatly different from any situation we had had to face in the past, and that the old rules and methods would not be adequate to meet it.

Far from testifying to any fundamental decay in democracy, it seems to us to prove conclusively that it is full of vigor and the will to survive. The first law of life is the power of adaptation to new and changing needs. And it is precisely that power which it has demonstrated with great energy. The traditions of the past should not likely be changed. The democracy does not reside in any tradition or all of them. It resides in the determination of the people--not to wear in the yoke? Not at all, but to wear none but such as they have made with their own hands and deliberately elected to wear on their own account, and over which they retain the power of destruction when they shall want to use it.

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