The Charlotte News

Friday, April 24, 1942


Site Ed. Note: "The reason why I lost my lamp was that the thief was superior to me in vigilance. He paid however this price for the lamp, that in exchange for it he consented to become a thief: in exchange for it, to become faithless." --from The Golden Sayings of Epictetus

A photograph of that young former prisoner of war adorns the front page. Apparently, the youngster had settled down after pinching the lady reporters’ ankles a couple of days earlier.

Mr. Haden-Guest today is a writer, cartoonist, and art critic who contributes regularly to several publications, and so we assume that eventually he brought his patently anti-social behavior under control. He is also the older half-brother of the writer-director Christopher Guest. (Should you go to Mr. Haden-Guest’s biography in the Wicked-pedia, you will find no mention of his scurrilous and otherwise ungoverned past of 1942. Some things are best left discrete, hush-hush, and on the Q.T. Nevertheless, there it was for all to see at the time. We empathize.)

The war is reported by the National Budget Director as costing the country three billion dollars per month, set to become five billion by September. This war was not a cheap undertaking.

The Japanese reported accurately, and the Soviets confirmed, that one of the bomber crews which hit Tokyo the previous Saturday had landed in Soviet territory and the crew interned, also suggesting the reason, to preserve the viability of the Russo-Japanese mutual non-aggression pact. Later, in May, 1943, the five interned airmen would "escape"; whether that was deliberate on the part of the Soviets, to fulfill their commitment also to the United Nations, remains unclear.

The President continued to insist that the bombers had come from Shangri-La, as he had imparted to a dinner guest earlier in the week, this statement not unlike the one he made to another dinner guest on March 20, indicating that General MacArthur had been vouchsafed to Australia from the Philippines via a 2,500-mile rowboat voyage. Doubters in the press notwithstanding, both statements were accurate. The President said it; you may take it to the bank.

The editorial page carries a piece from The Hour on Gerald L. K. Smith, fascist sympathizer, and his new publication, The Cross and the Flag; below it, a piece from the A.P. tells of Robert Reynolds’s endorsement of the new publication as telling it straight: opposition to Communism and Nazism, and to Britain. The Chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee from North Carolina again proves, as suggested in the editorial column also, that possessing a mind was not a qualification for his job. Through history, this axiom has been repeated many times.

Mr. Smith, Huey Long’s unofficial chaplain before his death in 1935 and coordinator of the Long "Share Our Wealth" clubs, eventually turned to overt racism and anti-Semitism and continued these themes throughout much of the remainder of his life, which lasted until 1976. His most visible legacy consists of the enormous "Christ of the Ozarks" statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. All we can say about that is, with its arms outstretched, it is a mighty curious form of idolatry to present to the world, a likeness of Christ, the originator of which was a bigot and anti-Semite. Perhaps, Mr. Smith, in addition to not believing in the reality of the Holocaust, also considered it merely another conspiratorial rumor, promulgated by a cabal of Jewish international bankers, that Jesus was a Jew and, moreover, just some black clap-trap that he was possibly an Ethiopian as well. But, whoever the real Jesus was, the statue of him there is all white, and that is what counts, we suppose.

Perhaps, it is not mere coincidence--at least in the Aristotelian sense, that it is not without either causal or at least symptomatic connection--that the dominating aesthetic theme of the statue is totemic in character.

"Great Example" follows up on the story of August 16, 1941 out of Roxboro, the attempted lynching of an African-American held in the jail, thwarted first by a courageous sheriff and his deputies who stood their ground against the mob, and then by some African-American men who rode into town from an outlying CCC camp, carrying baseball bats to try to disperse the rock-throwing Klan gathering at the jailhouse. Governor Broughton initially asked the State Bureau of Investigation only to look into the CCC camp men, but not to ferret out the identity of the Klansmen who started the riot in the first place. After an outcry proceeded from several of the State’s newspapers, urging the Governor to have the S.B.I., not the Lieutenant Governor, native of Roxboro, initiate such an investigation, two weeks later he finally did assign agents to the task of locating the instigators of the riot. On October 15, the Bureau came up with its five names and made its arrests.

Now, The News reports that the five men were sentenced to the roads, three for eighteen months, two for twelve. While that seems pretty slight punishment for conspiracy to commit murder--though it is doubtful in the social and political climate of the times then extant that they were charged with such a serious offense--, one must bear in mind that, as reported by the column of Tuesday in "Homicide City", it was common in the State’s most populous community, Charlotte, for African-Americans convicted of homicide against other African-Americans to receive a mere year or two in jail and then to be set scot free. And, at least the offense of forming a lynch mob and initiating behavior leading to violent combat on government property was deemed to merit harsher treatment before the law than that meted to the chief bootlegger of Mecklenburg who, the previous week, had received a suspended sentence and a fine.

It occurs to us, however, that a lynch mob surely must have had more than five men in its number. But, why quibble? At least they were not provided the key to the city and medallions for good citizenship, as they might have been in some of the Deep South burgs of the time, and for at least two and a half decades subsequent to the time.

"Fire in Pisgah" echoes the Governor’s concern that the forest fire had been set by Nazi agents. It is true that Nazi agents proclaimed to Hamburg, at least prior to the Nazi spy arrests of June 28-29, 1941, that they had been responsible for any number of train wrecks, forest fires, and other apparent accidents and natural disasters. These claims, however, were believed at the time by the FBI to be hyperbolic brag to justify their continued presence on the Abwehr payroll, on American soil, a better place to be by far than in Europe during these days of recurrent RAF raids and the likelihood of conscription to the front to be slaughtered in Russia.

Perhaps, in some cases, their apparent mere boast was something possessed of more substance than not. At least, Governor Broughton apparently so believed in this instance. With U-boats regularly destroying naval and merchant vessels off the North Carolina coast within view of the shore, it was not an unwarranted conclusion, especially with evidence of arson having been found in the Pisgah fire.

And, between the front page piece on the soldiers feted in Burma with inch-thick steak covered in mushrooms with a side of fresh fruit salad and the Raymond Clapper piece discussing the American canteen set up for service men stationed in the lonely outposts of the African desert, serving hamburgers smothered in onions, we suddenly find our appetite whetted. We shall see what’s for dinner.

Come to think of it, maybe they ought to paint that statue. What do you think?

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