The Charlotte News

Thursday December 30, 1937


Site Ed. Note: It seems unlikely that Cash wrote the first piece which has to it a decidedly suspicious air toward organized labor and minimum wage and hour laws, of which Cash was always a strong proponent. But as it relates to international affairs, Cash's usual editorial beat, we include it to provide, if nothing else, the contrast between the conservative political leanings of editor J. E. Dowd, the other regular editorialist, and Cash, a contrast which sometimes led Dowd to threaten to fire Cash--though in truth their opinioins were only shades apart. In the end, Dowd was always stayed by the realization that he had in his stable one of the premier editorialists in North Carolina. Such was his thought when he cautioned Cash three and a half years later not to quit and accept a Guggenheim to write a novel in Mexico City. Would it were that today there were more courageous and thoughtful editors such as Dowd who could see beyond the end of their noses to realize that the essence of a free press and hence a free society in general is active editorial debate, liberal, moderate, conservative views each getting proper and roughly equal and regular voice in every community where a newspaper fit to print exists; not one-view newspaper columns ushered by one-view newspaper owners and publishers bent on brainwashing their readership to their obviously superior world view and therefore, by their very cowardly nature, saying little if anything of consequence. For is it not the case that to publish only one view, one view even with subtle variations on its regular theme, ultimately means to reach only one reader, the one who already agrees with the writing? And?

Ah well, in the Thirties, times were such that most were forced to the realization that more than one viewpoint must always be heard in any society aspiring to democratic ideals. Trust the reader to think and make the decision from the free debate resulting. Too bad that it must take the colossal wreck at the intersection with no signal--the harshest of times ushered by the most demonic of fascist captains, the one willing to kill finally to have only their viewpoint be the one accepted--to encourage newspaper owners and publishers, big and small, not just in the largest cities, but everywhere in the land, to recognize the constant need for the vigilance of the defanger, point, mid-point, counterpoint, rebuttal, sur-rebuttal, ad infinitum, everywhere--that which seems ought to represent a rather usual notion when the First one, after all, calls for freedom of speech and press, the two obviously joining hand in hand to complement one another.

And to this end, let us not delude ourselves with the notion that the internet somehow replaces the public square of old--that which now is more likely to have within it force of law to inhibit freedom of expression than to enforce it--such that all is well in the universe of free expression. Ready, easy, and widespread access to ideas which are countervailing is, after all, part of the concept of freedom of expression, too. The internet, alas, does not act as an anodyne to the one-think so often presented daily still to most in the form of television news, so vastly expanded and more info-tainment oriented during the last decade. Time was of course, prior to the late seventies, when the nightly news was simply thirty minutes of national and thirty minutes of local at 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., two five-minute updates in the afternoon, a morning news talk show lasting a couple of hours, and then the late local news. Then, there were only a couple of regular current events shows on the air each week and an occasional news special on some major event. And then they would all give it a rest and sign off at 1:00 a.m. And it seemed to suffice for all of us, because... What we did not view and hear on television we got through the simple expedient of picking up something called a newspaper--a real newspaper, that is, which led the news and went far deeper into the story than television possibly could, or still can--and reading it, sometimes rather thoroughly. The world survived.

The abiding question now becomes whether television's voracious monster thusly slowly created over the past 25 years needs to be fed more regularly now with the "big story", thus actually creating the more bizarre episodes of the last decade,--domestic terrorism, circus trials, impeachment for lying about sex, a presidential election turning on less than 500 votes in one state and awarded to the popular vote loser, a murder scandal here, a sex scandal there, the more the merrier. So what if most of it, with the exception of the 2000 election with which the majority of viewers apparently found insufferable after about a week, would have inspired at most two minutes of airtime and a third page story in most newspapers thrity years ago?

All of which leads to the question, if so, whose fault, the viewers who continue to watch, the broadcasters who continue to cast their seeds, the newspapers who follow the broadcasters rather than lead the news, the advertisers who demand more viewers, who demand more excitement, which demands more violence, titillation, or just plain strangeness--or a helpless circle similar to an addiction? We used to go to the circus or the county fair freak show for such satisfaction--but once a year even then. Now? Well, enough with Paris and on to archy and mehitabelů

--(N.B.: The above was drafted just days prior to September 11, 2001, but was not uploaded to the site until February, 2002. Nothing, however, said before seems less than even more apropos afterward and so we leave it.)--

This second editorial ode to art and literature, the "beautiful and talented", was plainly by Cash. Donald Robert Perry Marquis was an American newspaperman, poet, playwright, and novelist who began his writing career in Atlanta on Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus's Magazine before eventually writing a regular column for the New York Sun and Tribune. archy, the cockroach, and Mehitabel, the itinerant ribald cat, lived in the offices of the Sun, archy unable to exert the manual pressure to depress the cap-key on the typewriter and so forever writing his poetic musings in the lower case, to wit, "coarse/ jocosity/ catches the crowd/ shakespeare/ and i/ are often/ low browed". The columns were collectively published in archy and mehitabel in 1927. The "Old Soak", Clem Hawley, was another of Marquis's characters, an avowed opponent of prohibition. Christopher Morley, of whom Cash was also fond, was a friend of Marquis and wrote the introduction to his posthumous works published in 1946, The Best of Don Marquis.

*Parallel With Paris

The workers launched their strike today in protest against proposed provisions in the 1938 municipal budget which would curtail automatic wage increases promised to meet increased costs of living.

That is the way yesterday's dispatches explain the strike of 120,000 utility and transportation employees of Paris, which almost completely paralyzed that city.

But wait a minute! Look at the statement closely. If we turned it into American terms, isn't it to say that the workers struck because the government had decided that conditions required that the wages promised the workers under a wage and hour bill must, after all, be cut down? And wouldn't we ourselves, if we had a wage and hour bill, eventually land in the same fix that Paris landed in? Unless the level fixed for wages at times remained so low that it would be of no practical benefit to the workers, it would inevitably and naturally have to be lowered soon or late because of the flux of economic conditions. And a natural answer to that would be a strike, wouldn't it? And doesn't a strike against government look ominously like rebellion?

The French government, to be sure, has acted with a firm hand and forced a compromise. But would our own government be trusted to put down such a strike as firmly? The case of the CIO strikes last Summer, which were almost as clearly strikes against government as against industry, indicate pretty clearly that it couldn't be.

The Fair Reward

Whatever archy the philosophical cockroach and Mehitabel the frankly ribald cat may be thinking today is a mystery which probably never will be solved. Their creator and interpreter has gone the way of all flesh and himself is silent for the centuries. But what they might be thinking, given the mood which must be theirs now, is sometimes one of our favorite theories--that life is particularly hard on the beautiful and talented. And old Don Marquis was really both. No one, surely, ever called him beautiful in body and face, but in his mind there was the same beauty which figures in the grotesques which have sometimes entertained the greatest painters of the world. And certainly life piled up in the last ten years of his days. First the loss of his wife, then of his little daughter, then he went nearly blind, and finally a year before his death a paralytic stroke struck him down.

But perhaps archy and Mehitabel ought not to be thinking that, after all. archy and Mehitabel and the sheaf of gentle and searching stories he left behind him are very good progeny, indeed. Many millions have laughed much and cried a little over them, and many millions will no doubt yet do so. It was for their begetting, at last, that old Don Marquis was born into the world. And to have done the things for which one was born into the world is, as the Old Soak would have observed, had he thought of it, a very fair reward even for the beautiful and talented. Eh, boss; as archy would have put it.

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