The Charlotte News

Friday, December 13, 1940



Site Ed. Note: "Narrow Squeak" would receive a substantial amount of Kuku mail to the editor apparently, (or at least from White Camelians--shhhh), as was pointed out in "Proper Flower" on December 16. Such exhibits the obvious, as viewed from the post-war platform of the 1950's and 60's, that certain vocal persons within the surrounds of Charlotte and the South generally were not calm or complaisant on the subject of race in 1940 whenever the subject was raised by someone voicing a liberal view of the matter. The idea put forward by Cash that punishment for murder should extend to anyone, regardless of the racial component of the murderer and victim, something which in most places is viewed as a quite acceptable notion today, was quite revolutionary in its day. Indeed, even as late as 1979, we would see a federal jury in Greensboro allow self-defense to exonerate several Klansmen who in plain cold blood on video murdered several members of the Communist Workers' Party, both white and black persons.

Just why these reprobate minds still exist among us, those who are the perpetrators and those who are their ultimate defenders, juries of the populace, is unfathomable of course. The dragging death in Texas of Mr. Bird and the burning of several African-American churches in the mid-90's indicates that such violence, while more sporadic, and far less likely now to go unpunished even in the deep South, is still ever-present, especially when there is movement on the part of any administration's policies to extend civil rights. But for such hatred to be allowed to chill the movement toward a freer and more equitable society would be to allow the Nazi mindset--which is this same mindset as that embraced by any racist anywhere, (see "Aborted Wave", December 15),--to reign victorious over us. A reign from a well-spring of the oldest strategy in the world, Terror. A strategy which found its font in the South before the Civil War from old, old orders of purely emotive, tear-drenched Irish-German genes running rampant through the system--unchecked by rationality or scholarship.

And speaking of Terror and justice, we congratulate the United States military on the capture of Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003.

But also, lest we bask in the media glow over this story to the point of rot, the truth of the matter is that it is a Grand Illusion to believe that the end of this tyrant will bring peace to that corner of the world, at least in the near future. Changing beliefs and attitudes is not accomplished in the long or the short run by offensive militarism, by force. Germany, Italy, and Japan learned that lesson the hard way. The United Sates learned that lesson the hard way after the Civil War and for a hundred years afterward. It makes for good copy at home, of course, to capture a tyrant, just as it did in the North when old Jeff Davis was placed in chains. And it is good in the short run for Iraq, just as it was for the South in 1865.

But the expense of jobs at home, a downward raging economy, only temporarily stemmed by some summer consumerism, is not so much the fodder for celebration.

So, while we don't mean to throw cold water on the victory parade, it might be better for a change if the current Administration began to hold daily briefings on the daily ignored domestic crisis and skip the tired daily military briefings, as if we were back in the days of World War II, a place of bliss perhaps for old Cold Warriors, but really, truly a grand anachronism for the current world around us.

Whether Hussein is standing trial for war crimes in Iraq or in the Hague, whether he is drawn and quartered in a public square in Baghdad, or whether he would be still in power is somehow little more than a token, a symbol which may or may not lead to a better Iraq or a more stable Middle East generally, in a land which has been asunder for centuries.

What happens there is a story with a long, enduring ending which only someone with a crystal ball set forward at least twenty years or more can accurately predict. There is no pre-existing industrial economy on which to build as with Germany, Italy and Japan, to seed the foundations of democracy. Instead, there is chaos and inter-tribal warfare about which we understand little save in the most cursory academic sense.

And again, we stress that to have undertaken this virtually unilateral offensive maneuver on a third-world country was ill-advised and will likely somewhere down the road come back to haunt us. But what's done is done.

Enjoy the news of Saddam's capture down at the unemployment office--and remember to vote next fall, but remember also, while doing so, that one is not voting for whether one likes Saddam Hussein or not, or whether one likes terrorism or not, but rather whether we still care much for something, old and shopworn though it is, called democracy--and first here in the United States, even in Florida, not in third-world countries like Iraq...

We know, Mr. O'Really, we're all just a bunch of appeasers. --But that was a different war in a different time and place, and totally different circumstances, with virtually all of Europe in chains. Nor did we undertake any offensive action, even under those extreme conditions.

Memories in one country of another country's sacrifices to liberate it prove short. What we should really like to know is what has been done these last three years to improve conditions at all in the United States. The policy appears to be to maintain things as close to chaos as possible; then, when some ray of light appears from the dark depths, to greet it as a great victory of domestic tranquility. Where's the beef, Mr. Commander-in-Fief?

More civility? Domestic tranquility? If you think so, then we think it is your inability, maybe your lack of sobriety, to see that there is no equation between perfidious virility and sequacious sociality. Nor do we surmise, no matter how much we fain wish it so to be, that Osamma in chains is a proper October surprise, any more than you singing "O Susannah", with a banjo on your knee.

Narrow Squeak

A Killer Misses Absolute Justice But by a Hair

From the angry outburst of Killer Belk when sentence was passed on him in Superior Court yesterday, it is apparent that he had expected no such verdict such as second-degree murder and no such sentence as 20 years in prison.

In point of fact, he has reason to thank his lucky stars. The evidence said overwhelmingly that he was guilty of first-degree murder, and if he had got his just desserts he would have been executed in the gas chamber at Raleigh when another Summer rolled around. The jury simply ignored its sworn duty, refused to accept the rule of the law and of justice that the murder of a Negro by a white man is as great a crime as the murder of a white man by a Negro.

Even so, there are some hopeful circumstances about the case. The police had plainly gone about the gathering of evidence with the impartial thoroughness promised by the new chief, Harry Joyner. The prosecution was vigorous, as there was no evidence at all that hands had anywhere been allowed to intercede for him. And Judge Luther Hamilton emphasized his own view of the gravity of the offense by giving the man the full penalty for the crime of which the jury had found him guilty. Even the jury's verdict, for that matter, testifies to the gradual growth of conscience in the premises. It was not many years ago that such cases were often disposed of by a coroner's jury as "justifiable homicide," when manslaughter was the worst verdict to be expected if the case reached the courts. The rule still holds in some parts of the South yet. And it was out of the mythology associated with that state of affairs that Belk undoubtedly acted as it was that psychology which explained his rage yesterday. But it is certainly a psychology which is on the wane. The outcome of this case may deter the next man who thinks he can kill and get away with it.


Long Wait

Two German Spies Find Out Something Too Late

Upon two German Nazis it at length lawned for a brief while that Adolf Hitler is not, after all, always miraculously irresistible.

They came to England sometime after the attack on the country began. They brought with them a portable radio transmitter, got up to resemble a camera, and plenty of money in British pound notes.

The British, however, proved to be less dumb than they had confidently expected. Shortly after their arrival they were arrested. But they were not downhearted, though they knew that the penalty for spying in wartime is death. The British courts are slow, and it would be November 22 before they would be tried and sentenced to die. Long before that, they said complacently, Hitler's armies would be in England as masters and they would be safe--and heroes.

But November 22 came and went. They were sentenced to die. And Adolf the Irresistible had not come to England.

The other morning they were marched out in the dim morning light of the grim Pentonville prison in London to the gallows. Briefly, as the bandage was adjusted, they had time to reflect that Hitler was not after all irresistible. Then the trap fell, and they were done with waiting for Hitler forever.



We Cut Cotton Acreage, Then Get More Per Acre

North Carolina's cotton yield per acre for this year was four to five pounds per acre. The figure is 53 per cent above the ten year average for 1929-38, 44 per cent above the yield for 1939.

What explains it? Primarily a good crop year, of course. But there is more. Fertilizers, for instance. The South was paying two-thirds of the nation's fertilizer yield when the Depression struck. Their use fell off for awhile after that, but were back to 1927 levels by 1934, exceeded 1927 levels by roughly 20 per cent in 1937, which brought in the biggest cotton crop of history. And it is a safe bet that, if you looked up the figure for 1940, you'll find that the Tar Heel farmers again had been pouring fertilizer on the land.

That is the way the Government farm program reacts on the desire of the farmer to get all he can. He accepts acreage restriction to get benefit payments. Then he attempts to grow just as much cotton as possible by making the acres yield more.

Nor is this all. The acres which are taken out of cotton-production are planted in legumes and other soil-building crops. But in a few years these have become rich again. So the farmer plants them to cotton and lets the other acres go out of cotton production, again increasing his yield per acre.

It doesn't, indeed, wholly defeat the Government's primary purpose of getting fewer bales of cotton. Not in Tarheeldom, at least. North Carolina produced 740,000 bales this year as against an average of 882,000 in the five-year period, 1926-30. But the crop this year compares with 386,000 bales in 1938, is nearly back up to the 780,000 produced in the bumper crop of 1937, and far exceeds the other returns since the Depression began.


No Contempt

Paul and The News Find The Judge on Their Side

The boys have been kidding C. A. Paul about his citation to appear before Judge Luther Hamilton and show cause why, in connection with his "How To Stay Out Of Jail" articles, he should not be held in contempt of court.

"Now, Paul," they said, "you can do a series on "How to Get Out Of Jail." And Paul would grin somewhat weakly, for there is something about incurring the displeasure of His Honor on the bench up there that makes the stoutest heart beat a little faster.

It turned out that Judge Hamilton had taken the stories as a reflection on the integrity and diligence of the judiciary, whereas nothing of the kind was intended. "Criminal Superior Court" designated the whole fixed organization and system, not the rotating judges whose orders were shown to have been flouted.

When that misunderstanding cleared up, Judge Hamilton went beyond relenting. He agreed that it was within the province of the press to bring to light such matters as have formed the basis of Paul's repeated series of inefficiency in local Superior Court administration. He confessed himself astonished at the extent and the nature of crime in this "most murderous city in the United States." He contrasted the handling of Criminal Court matters in Mecklenburg with the admirable efficiency he had found in Guilford and Buncombe.

He spoke critically of the manner in which Charlotte police officers had gathered and presented evidence in cases, and he wondered, in company with the two or three men gathered in his chambers, how on earth so pleasant and progressive a community as this ever allowed itself to get into such a fix.

And so Paul and The News were cleared of any contempt of the Court, in the sense of the judge. For the rest, they found common ground for grave apprehension.


Blasted Hope

A Pleasant Dream Is Rudely Shattered by a Smartie

A newly discovered comet is rushing straight at us, or approximately so, at a speed that makes even the local Barney Oldfields look tame. It will become visible about December 16 and will reach its greatest brilliance about the middle of January.

Actually, its head will miss us by about 55 million miles--a mere hair in sidereal terms. But its tail will probably sweep right over our whirling little ball.

When we first heard that, we began to feel kind of hopeful. Maybe Hitler was going to have some competition, after all. Stealthy dreams even awoke in our head of the thing sweeping over Germany and making a monkey out of Adolf's boast that nothing but the German will could ever shake the German armies off the soil of Norway, Poland, France, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Now, however, comes Dr. Fletcher Watson, Harvard University astronomer, to advise us that all that is out. Comets' tales, it appears, are harmless, being no more than thin gas and not poisonous at that. For which intelligence he is due no thanks. Somebody is always spoiling the fun.


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