The Charlotte News
Saturday, November 9, 1940
Site Ed. Note: "Better Dead" is an editorial worth reading in this election year of 2004, what with charges on both sides hearkening back to matters occurring some 34-36 years ago when both men now running were in their youth. It is a worthless pursuit to dig up the Vietnam era in this country after it has been largely put to rest now for most of us in terms of who was "right" and who was "wrong". There is plenty of blame to go around and plenty of praise to go around as well--on all sides.
It was a troubled time for the country, both for its leaders and its people. Those of us who were subject to the draft at that time know all too well the wrenching problems the war caused everyone in our age group. When one is 15 years old, knows full well he will be eligible in about three years for the draft and sees images on the evening news virtually every night or in the picture magazines every week of men being blown apart by grenades or gunfire halfway the other side of the world, it affects you. No one wanted to become cannon fodder in a rice paddy in southeast Asia. For those who volunteered to go as well as those who were drafted into it, most of us felt a great respect, maybe even an awe of a sort, despite the fact that some few taunted them as baby-killers and the like. We didn't know whether we too might become part of the ranks of those sent to the battle front at any time and so not really that many of us, except the unthinking, taunted.
It was a war which was more bitterly divisive of the country than any in our history save the Civil War, though great and bitter division there certainly was between 1939 and 1941 in this country over whether we should become involved in World War II or even whether we should send aid to Great Britain. But despite all the demonstrations and marches, the notorious riots outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, (something which ironically enough turned the spare majority of the country to Nixon), the eventual shootings in 1970 at Kent State and Jackson State, the great effect those events had across the country on college campuses especially, the occasional bombings and other acts of violence aimed at the government, in the ordinary towns and villages of the country the mood was not so militant as these preserved and exceptional images would suggest. Most of us soon to be draft eligible youngsters subsided in the late summer of 1968 wondering when that new Beatles album, the one rumored to have a plain white cover, would finally hit the record stores. It did finally in late October, just before the election, just a month or so after the release on a 45 of that long song on the new label, the one with the long refraining fade out--and it was the balm for many of us to the results of that election and the threat of being shipped off to Vietnam, maybe all too soon, as one of the "big, strong men". It was like that...at least, in the hinterlands. We escaped via our various muses the harsh threats of the coming moments and months, as is characteristic of youth.
There was cautious respect for the service of soldiers to their country, much as it has always been in time of war. After the first two years or so of the conflict, by 1967, one rarely heard anyone who professed a gung ho attitude about wishing to go to Vietnam to fight. The militancy, however, was far less pervasive than one might imagine from the common images associated with the time. Indeed, were it otherwise, Richard Nixon could never have been elected president in 1968. Nixon of course promised an end to the war but few who knew Nixon as Nixon from his time as Vice-President and from his run in 1960 for the presidency professed much stock in that hollow campaign promise. Had Robert Kennedy not been killed, of course, the outcome of that election and the war and the fervent heat of the protest which became hotter on college campuses thereafter might have been different. The fact remains, however, that the country was reeling by 1968 from an unpopular war, a voiceless mass of youth struggling for voice in the only way they knew how since all below age 21 hadn't yet even the right to vote, a bitterly divided populace on political matters, especially civil rights and school desegregation, and the assassinations two months apart of two of its foremost leaders, in the still fresh wake of the assassination four and a half years before them.
The events affected all of us. To churn it all up again in hindsight to assay the character of the two men presently running for president is a bitterly divisive game which tells only a small corner of the facts of those events as they occurred. One might as well profess stories of how great-great grandpa fought at Fredricksburg on the Sunken Road and at Antietam at the Bloody Lane but came home eschewing the horror of warfare and was a pacifist the rest of his life or that old so and so's great grandpa skeedaddled at Pickett's Charge, ran all the way back to Georgia ahead of the rabbits, and the whole family has never been worth a hillfull of dead horses since. Alright as historical anecdotes but not to measure character of those who did as they did in their youth before the bright light of experience had a chance much to instruct them.
As the editorial advises below, "Better Dead". We have enough problems facing us now and enough tests of both men's mettle in their political careers to assess their leadership ability without rehashing either man's fitness based on what they did or did not do when they were in their early twenties. There are not too many of us, when we boil it all down to cold facts, who stand well the test of light of day when our character is measured by everything we did or did not do in our early twenties. Just a thought...
And we note surprise from the same editorial that Warren Harding was a Negro. We never knew that.
In fact, it is not dissimilar to the surprise we had when just a few years ago, while thumbing through a prominent encyclopedia, we found that among prominent African-Americans listed therein in the field of letters was none other than W. J. Cash. Somehow, we kind of liked that idea though.
A Sad Case
The Thoughtful Mr. Cromwell Overlooks a Thing or Two
It is hard not to feel a little sorry for James H. R. Cromwell; he had gone so carefully about making a figure in the world.
First, he thoughtfully got himself born with a silver spoon on his own account. And then he thoughtfully married the richest girl in the world. And then he wrote a book. It was not, to be truthful about it, a very good book. Still it was a book and it was supposed to give him intellectual status.
After that Jimmy and his wife thoughtfully kicked in with $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee's war chest in 1936. The reward for such virtue was not immediately forthcoming. Indeed, it looked once as though it might not be forthcoming at all. But Jimmy dutifully practiced patience, and, sure enough, in the early days in 1940 was elevated to the Ambassador to Canada.
Jimmy got a little tangled up in that job somehow. He didn't know the ropes yet and he talked too much, and both Washington and Ottawa showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the idea of having him resign as ambassador and come back to New Jersey and run for the Senate.
Jimmy went about that thoughtfully, too. He got himself nominated as the Democratic choice by no less a person than Boss (I am the Law) Frank Hague, whose nod is equivalent to election in New Jersey. But sometime between the nomination and the election, Jimmy seems to have got tangled up again. Somebody, it appears, suddenly tipped him off that Boss Hague was not nice, and it so shocked Jimmy that he went right out and made a speech, saying he didn't want the Boss's little tricks in his behalf. And to cap it all, he seems, for one reason or another, to have forgotten to kick in with a quarter of one million smackers the Boss kind of expected for the campaign chest.
So Tuesday Jimmy went down to thundering defeat, knifed by Boss Hague. It is sort of pitiful. Still Jimmy should have known that when little fat boys play with the Big Bad Wolf, the latter makes the rules.
Adolf Sings a Different Tune from July, January
Adolf Hitler yesterday had the tone of a man who had been putting out peace-feelers and, finding them contemptuously rejected on all sides, had flown into a wild rage of frustration.
The German army was going to win all right-even against any possible combination. "Any possible combination" probably meant Britain, Turkey, and the United States, with possibly other allies.
But in July of 1940, Adolf Hitler said positively that he had already won and that the only thing which was holding up peace was that England was foolishly refusing to face obvious facts. She would be brought to confess them within a few weeks or perhaps even days.
Yesterday he said also that he would not compromise at all, and that he would not consider peace, that he was determined to carry through until he had utterly annihilated Britain and all her friends-as he had always been-promised his people "ultimate victory."
But in July he said he had no desire to destroy Britain. He said all he wanted was a just and reasonable peace, the annihilation of neither side. And in a New Year's address to his troops at the close of 1939, he positively promised his people total victory in 1940.
Significantly, and for the first time, he apparently said nothing about the dear friend bound to him with unbreakable ties, Russia. And the armies which were going to win irresistibly in the end were wholly German armies, not German and Italian armies. Maybe Adolf had been looking at Greece.
Altogether his speech had the same ring that the speeches of the Kaiser's men began to have in 1916 after the great assault on Verdun had failed and it was clear that the anger of the United States against their crimes was mounting.
Dragging This Stuff Out Again Won't Help
The Senate Committee to investigate elections, it seems to us, is getting off to a dubious beginning for the era of reasonable unity which all honest men hope is at hand. At the instance of its chairman, Senator Gillette, Democrat, it is going out to collect and spread on the record and the front pages all the scurrilous literature put out in the campaign.
It can do no good and it can do a great deal of harm in keeping the campaign hate alive. Everybody who is quite bright knows that the scurrilous boys on the Democratic side smeared Mr. Wilkie as a tool of Wall Street cynically bent on reducing the poor to slavery and giving the fat cats carte blanche to rob and loot. And as a German tool of Adolf Hitler, bent on appeasement and introduction of Nazism in this country. And as a Negro-lover or a Negro-hater, according to the section to be appealed to. And so on and so on.
And everybody who is quite bright knows also that the scurrilous boys on the Republican side smeared Mr. Roosevelt as a warmonger, scoundrelly plotting to send many thousands of young men to their deaths in order to insure his re-election.
And as planning to set up a dictatorship for himself along Communist lines. And as being the head and front of the Fifth Column in this country-which is to say of traitorism. And as being a Negro-lover or a Negro-hater, according to the section to be appealed to. And so on and so on.
There is nothing new in this. Jefferson and Jackson were smeared as Jacobins (Communists) and dictators; Lincoln as a Jacobin, dictator, and atheist. Grant was smeared as a tool of Jay Gould's gold steel, a dictator and a drunk; Cleveland as a dolt, a drunk, the tool of a Popish plot, a traitor, and a lecher; Theodore Roosevelt as a Negro-lover and at once a tool of Boss Platt and the Interests and a Socialist (as dreadful in those days as a Communist is now); Hughes as a warmonger, Wilson as an appeaser and a coward, later on as a dictator and a warmonger; Warren Harding as a Negro; Hoover as a brutal exploiter of Chinese coolies; Al Smith as a drunken illiterate plotting with the Pope to hand over Washington to the Vatican, and so on and so on.
Someday when things are calmer the whole field ought to be gone into by some competent student. But just now the sooner the recent avalanche of the stuff is forgotten the better all around.
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