The Charlotte News

Sunday, December 29, 1940



Site Ed. Note: As to "To Horace", we share Thomas Wolfe's respect and reverence for many of our professors at the Magical Campus in Pulpit Hill, as we have before commented. (See our editorial note of March 29, 1938, for instance.) The Magical Campus has a way during its four years of passage to inculcate in the attentive student, maybe even somewhat, by some form of magical (or at least musical) osmosis, in the inattentive, too--well, magic, of a sort. Cash also revered his primary influences in education from Wake Forest, as reported, for example, in "Dr. W. L Poteat", March 14, 1938.

The greatest blessing any student may have is to have one or more such mentors to one's ability to think and to act within the world from that thinking. It is the best prize one can achieve from four years of college, far more valuable than the sheepskin itself or all the opportunities and open doors it may afford. For to think in an orderly manner has a way of opening doors to understanding the world in other than purely emotive terms. And that will never let the student down. While we don't presuppose that we anywhere match the teaching, the lessons remain incalculably valuable for a lifetime.

We might note also, as Mr. Wolfe amply demonstrated in his writing, as did Mr. Cash, that orderly thinking, especially as provided by a studious course in philosophy, provides the freedom to be disordered a' times, all to good purpose, and without thereby being disorderly--much as the study of latin enables the variation of syntactical constructs to make the reading mind stop and fathom, yet again, and without using one resort to such high-blown Cartesian proclamations as cogito ergo sum. One may climb the escarpment in the bright light of day handhold by handhold until one slips from exhaustion and falters to the dark abyss below. Or one may float from point to point, even somewhat in the dark some of the time, and reach the precipice relaxed, whether sooner or later being of no moment, for that valuation only resides in the eye of the perceiver and the most percipient perceiver of the value is the climber--if you gather our drifting climb…

For more by Cash on Thomas Wolfe, see "Wolfe: Genius Or Not?", December 15, 1935, and "Artists Ain't Gents", October 30, 1938, and follow the progressive links in the notes preceding those articles.

Rear Guard

Hitler's Assurances May Disguise a Simple Tactic

It is always well when reading any outline of Hitler's strategy that sounds inspired, or that comes from friendly "authoritative sources," to suspect a ruse. And so it is that the comprehensive story of the AP's Robert B. Parker from Budapest, excellent and interesting as it is, could reflect a Nazi-contrived attempt to conceal the real intent behind the movement of 200,000 fully-equipped German soldiers into Rumania to join the 100,000 already there.

Authoritative sources in Hungary are certain to be subservient to orders of the German schemer. And when has Hitler's assurances that he would refrain from attacking a smaller adversary--in this instance, Greece--meant anything except that the assured nation was in imminent danger of destruction?

Some of the rest of it--that his movement into Rumania is solely to guard against any British invasion of Central Europe from a Balkan starting point--sounds at least plausible. The last thing he desires is for Russia to read a hostile purpose into the concentration of troops in a state lying alongside her southern border. And if he actually contemplated going ahead with his Drang nach Osten to Turkey, Iran and the Near East, his route from Rumania would lie through Bulgaria, which would spread to Russia at the first trespass.

Behind his sortie, in some probability, and Hungary's explanation of it, is a realization that Italy is about finished as an ally of any effectiveness in her Mediterranean sphere. As a consequence, he has to devise a threat to render immobile the British sea and land forces that would be released in that theater for aid in the defense of London, as well as to restrain Russia from moving into the Balkans while he is engaged elsewhere.

What it comes down, in that view, is simply that Hitler has to defend his rear while his front prepares to attack. Any general would, but few of them would think, as he has thought, to explain that he did it with the best of intentions toward every nation whose territory he or his Italian partner have assailed.


To Horace

Tom Wolfe Takes Farewell Of His Old Sophist

Horace Williams, professor of philosophy at the University who died last week, had for one of his pupils Tom Wolfe, who died last year. And though it may be sort of a eulogy of the dead by the dead, these paragraphs by Wolfe suggest the immortality that will be his and that he foresaw in the life of his teacher and counsellor.

They are from "Look Homeward, Angel:"

"Eugene looked with passionate devotion at the grand old head, calm, wise and comforting. In a moment of vision, he saw that, for him, here was the last of the heroes, the last of those giants to whom we give the faith of our youth, believing that the riddle of our lives may be solved by their quiet judgment...

"Oh, my old Sophist, he thought. What were all the old philosophers that you borrowed and pranked up to your fancy, to you, who were greater than all? What was the Science of Thinking, to you, who were thought? What if all your ancient game of metaphysics never touched the dark jungle of my soul?... To me, you are above good, above truth, above righteousness. To me you were the sufficient negation to all your teachings. Whatever you did was, by its doing, right. And now I leave you throned in memory. You will see my dark face burning on your bench no more; the memory of me will grow mixed and broken; new boys will come to win your favor and your praise. But you? Forever fixed, unfading, bright, my lord."


Wheeler Again

The Senator From Montana Plays an Objectionable Role

Senator Burton Wheeler (to whom The News once sent a telegram with nearly a thousand names signed to it, urging that he cease his obstructive tactics and allow immediate passage of the selective service act) is mad because the President "takes to his bosom all of those who want war and shuns those who are talking peace." The immediate cause of Senator Wheeler's vexation was the release by the White House of a message from 170 prominent persons calling for "everything that may be necessary" to defeat the Axis powers.

"The White House," said the Senator from Montana petulantly, "never gives out any statement of any group that urges that it do anything it can to bring about peace."

When the White House passes along a statement without adverse comment, it is equivalent to an endorsement. For it to obtain wider publicity for such statements as Senator Wheeler has in mind would be, practically, for it to indicate at least tacit approval. And that would be a piece of typically democratic foolishness.

What Senator Wheeler seems not to realize is that the Administration is completely absorbed in the effort to provide Britain the sinews of war as fast as they can be turned out by this country's industrial machine. What he seems not to have understood, an understanding that is instinctive with the great body of people in this country, is that the defense of Britain is precisely the defense of America, and that it calls for almost the same sacrifice and the overriding of any contrary opinion and the suppression of obstructionists as would be called for were the country actually at war.

Indeed, the best assurance against our having to go to war is that very course of helping Britain with all our might unstinted.

The Constitution speculates that treason shall consist only in giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, which term supposes a state of war. But there were no Blitzkriegs in the days when the Constitution was written. Nowadays, anybody who opposes full preparation for the United States in full assistance to its true Ally comes close to committing--well, it is a hard word and we shall not utter it.

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