The Charlotte News

Friday, February 28, 1941



Site Ed. Note: We sometimes think those old-time literary conventions of the anthropomorphized animal figures, the talking pig, the talking duck, the talking cat, the talking rabbit, what have you, are a little stilted, a bit of a cri de coeur, as 'twere--or was it a cri du chat?

We think so the more when we see last spring and fall a group of college students in one fair borough being prosecuted for misdemeanor cruelty to animals for sunburning and getting a pig drunk in a tangled park party, and now others of the same hapless collegial, fraternal orders up on felony mistreatment of a duck. (No coincidence that the talking duck and the talking pig both made a big splash in the pop culture in the last few years, no?) Giving college students a criminal record seems though, shall we say, a wee bit Draconian, especially when it reaches the status of a felony which after all could very well deprive an individual of all substantial job opportunities, the right to vote, and other such unsavory deprivations for the course of a full lifetime. Maybe sending them instead into service at an animal shelter in need of work or something of that order, resulting in the dismissal of the charges, would serve the purposes of retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence in a much superior fashion and also serve the concomitant of locking Draco in his prison. For Draco, as we've seen time and again, never serves anyone but himself.

But on the other hand, as Cretin reminds us, talking pigs and talking ducks have to be protected. College students are smart enough to protect themselves. How would you like it if your head were chopped off or were you to be involuntarily made drunk and left in the sun to cook all day? We must say that the various and sundry animals populating the sandy strands on a given summer Sunday readily communicate the incalculable horror of the situation.

And besides, the college students should go out and get a permit in the proper season and achieve their bag limit by the simple convention of a shotgun like every other civilized, law-abiding citizen. They can't go making the laws up as they go with a chop, chop, chop or a sui, sui, suey.

But while we are about this eradication of evil in the true Batman tradition, why not crusade against the meat packers who regularly slaughter the cute little, innocent hams with their cute little squigglies and squeaks and grunts, and often without any hint of unions, and even in and around the same borough which has prosecuted those infernal and eternally rowdy, non-complaisant college students? And whilst about it, why not too, every Chinese restaurant in the land which has the temerity actually to brag on their Anas boscas or Fuligula vallisneria du jour, going so far as hanging the crispied corpse of the murdered fowl du malice so foul in the windows of their shops! May God grant us peace from this bountiful display of treachery and debauchery. They roast them. They then sprinkle a little rice about. Worthy of such a demonic cult, they even ask their patrons to eat them in a quaint display of ritualized cannibalism the likes of which we have never encountered anywhere else in the world or even in the furthest reaches of the universe. They even serve them, free of extra charge mind you, whole clay pots of hot tea with unlimited refills, all to make the crispied prey the more palatable. Did you ever?

Sometimes they even make them into a soup.

Well, anyway, as we inadvertently let slip above--and hence the truth will out--we decided to ask Cretin what he thinks.

Cretin is not at all made up. He is quite real. Make no mistake of that. We haven't mentioned him by name until now but he has always been there and so it is high time we credit him a little. He lingers around our offices here. No one knows from whence he came or his history and we don't ask. Mostly, he's unobtrusive, sleeping as old hound dogs do, over by the potbelly stove in winter or on the broad tan veranda in summer, waking up only occasionally to flick his brows free of flies, roll over, and go back to sleep. As much as anyone can reckon, he has been around here for nigh on 25 years, maybe twice as long as that, which is getting pretty old for an old hound. He must be over a hundred in his own mind by now, maybe more. Clearly, he thinks so.

We sometimes get great inspiration from Cretin to write about things and so we thought it only fair to give him due credit. We named him Cretin because on the one hand he will believe anything we say and on the other, and as quickly, believe nothing we say, primarily dependent, we think, on whether or not the sound of our voices have the tenor of offer or deprivation. But sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to it and so we don't know for sure. He likes to play coy and fool us into believing he can think when obviously he can't, as the funny things he does with his nose bear out fully; and then alternately induces us to perceive that he can't when obviously he can, the incessant finding of a way to inveigle nourishment at all hours of the day bearing proof of the premise adequately.

With such an incredible display of ingenuity at work, therefore, we feel it obligatory occasionally to consult him. For instance, we inquired recently of Cretin, "What do you think of the economy?" He rolled over on his back with his paws dangled at an angle in the air, no doubt thinking that he was defying Newton in the process, while he effected the wildest, most ill-defined look from his eyes, seeming to smile at us a sardonic grin from his widely exposed upper set of canines while at the same time looking most pretentious and, with obvious deliberation, preening to grasp our undivided attention, insisting the while on that wild-eyed look. After positing himself in that position for a bit, he snorted and blew out his right cheek, which we interpreted to be a laugh in Cretin's neologic world. Whether he was laughing at us for asking him about such a mystical concept as the economy or at the economy proper, we canít say. But whatever it was, it made a good bit of sense. So we write about that.

You can readily understand how the process works in perfect symbiosis.

The other day, we asked him about the complexities of warfare: "How can one fight a war which maims and kills innocent people and be moral, Cretin?" He sat up mightily on his rear haunches, wagged his tail furiously, knocking dust in the carpet all about into the gleaming rays of the afternoon sunlight piercing our translucents, looked hypnotically intense and serious, furrowed his obviously worried brow, wrinkled his sagged and aging forehead, and moved his head hard to the right, at a slight downward tilt, plainly responding to our question with another question posed in perfect Socratic silence--a sage if there ever was one. Cretin is a good boy.

We're not sure what this has to do with Robert Rice Reynolds or the attempt in 1941 to renew prohibition in North Carolina or, for that matter, the attempt in 1941 to amend Charlotte's charter to make the pool of applicants for the position of police chief encompass a broader universe than Mecklenburg County. So we asked Cretin, "Why, Cretin, what is the relevance?" And he just gave us that characteristic wild look, rolled over twice, looked bugged a moment, then again suddenly checked his rear to his left flank, then yet again to the right, finally withdrew his attention and went round dervishly chasing the apparent bug at his rear quarters, as if some preta had suddenly infused itself to his brain and body. Finally, he stopped, stood hastily again to attention, though we could tell he was less than fully attentive as he kept fidgeting to the rear on each side, and finally hung his tongue well outside the perimeter of his mouth, breathlessly trying to tell us something. We listened for over two hours intently, studying his every nuance of expression, but he said not a single intelligible word, choosing instead to play coy yet again.

Whenever we figure out what it is Cretin wants to say, then undoubtedly the mysteries of the universe will unravel. Until then, we will simply continue to ponder it all.

The Consistent Man

Robert Protests Too Loudly About a Change That Nobody Who Knows the Record Will Accuse Him Of

Robert Rice Reynolds explained Wednesday that he had changed his position on the Lend-Lease Bill because of speeches he had heard on the Senate floor and because further study of the testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee had convinced him that the bill would get us into war.

But we think it may be said for Robert that he has never really changed his position--much. And though he did, indeed, vote to report the bill favorably out of committee, it was with obvious and (it turned out) significant reservations.

An interesting light on his action is cast by his own explanation that at the time only ten per cent of the mail he got from North Carolina was against the bill but that now 50 per cent of it is against it. That is obviously designed to give the impression of an eager servant of the people finding the product of his own ultimate considered judgment coming to coincide happily with that of the majority of his people.

But he is a great deal less than candid. Robert Rice Reynolds knows well, like everybody else who knows anything about opinion in the state, that the overwhelming majority of Tar Heels want that bill passed and are vastly impatient about the delay. He knows also, if it is really true that 50 per cent of his mail is now against the bill, that it is because the same isolationist-appeaser groups which are active elsewhere in artificially whipping up letter writers are also active in North Carolina, and that thousands and thousands of Tar Heels who favor the bill have all along been so confident that he would vote against it that they have felt it useless to write him.

The central fact is as plain as the nose on your face.

In 1937 Robert Rice Reynolds came back from visiting Nazi Germany and suddenly began to turn himself from a playboy tourist into a Serious Thinker. On the floor of the Senate he repeatedly defended Hitler, said the United States would do well to imitate him in many respects, denied that Hitler meant war. At the same time he set himself to organizing an outfit called "The Vindicators," dedicated to essentially the same principles of racial and group hate and intolerance which ruled Nazi Germany. And--to baiting Britain day in and day out, as the really dangerous force on this planet.

Not content with that, he set out to harass Britain by demanding that we make her sell us her island possessions in this hemisphere. But last Summer when it looked as though Britain were doomed and these possessions would fall into Nazi Germany's hands, he immediately and completely reversed himself, said seizing them would mean war with Germany and that we had no earthly use for these islands, anyhow--only to reverse himself again when it became apparent that Britain would after all stand!

Beginning with the proposal to repeal the mandatory ban against the export of arms to belligerents, he has consistently voted, with one curious exception, against every proposal to aid Britain in any fashion.

The clear fact has all along been that there wasn't the slightest reason to suppose Reynolds would support the Lease-Lend Bill or any other bill to aid Britain, save his political expediency made it necessary to him to make some slight concessions. The evidence said convincingly that he looked, still looks, with the greatest complacency on the prospect of Britain's destruction by Nazi Germany and the rise of a Fascist world.

For a moment the great tide of feeling in North Carolina seems to frighten him into voting "yes" in committee, but as soon as some apparent justification could be prepared right back he went into the old stand. That appears to be the blunt fact of the case.

In Reverse

How To Tell How Much Drys Love Democracy

An easy test will show just how much reality there is in all the fervid devotion to democracy which the advocates of a state-wide return to prohibition and the bootlegger are now preaching in Raleigh.

It is not, you understand, any question of the right of the dry counties to remain dry at their opinion. It is simply that they propose to hold a state-wide referendum, with the proposition so phrased as to load the dice heavily in their own favor, on the right of the majority in the 26 wet counties to regulate the liquor traffic by their own lights. They propose, to go into those counties and tell them that they must submit to the way of the 74 dry counties.

This they justify on the ground that it is democracy--that they have that right in order to "protect" themselves against the spread of the evils of the liquor traffic from the wet counties (a droll argument if ever there was one).

But now reverse that. Suppose the wet counties were the majority of the counties. Suppose they said that they felt that under democracy they ought not to tolerate the existence of centers of bootlegging, with their inevitable racketeering and crime. Suppose they said they demanded a referendum on the elimination of the bootlegging centers, with Mecklenburg at their head. Suppose they said they meant in the name of democracy to force Mecklenburg and the other dry counties to replace the bootlegger by orderly and legal control.

Does anybody think the drys would still retain their devotion to democracy? Everybody knows that in reality they would raise a yell about tyranny which would be heard in the constellation Hercules.

The democracy they are talking up is cut to the pattern of their wishes, not their logic.

Perfected Zero

Form of Police Chief Bill Okay, but It Dies Aborning

It turns out that the bill to eliminate from the City Charter that provision requiring the chief of police to come from within the department does not, as was assumed, leave in force the provision that the chief of police, like all other City employees, shall have been a resident of the city for two years.

Mr. Scarborough, City Attorney, explains that the second repealer was inserted in the bill after it was taken to Raleigh--and that was an entirely sensible afterthought. For the repeal of the service requirement without repeal of the residence requirement would have left matters, to all practical effect, just as they stand.

Still, as the French say, ca ne fait rien. It makes after all, no difference if the bill was drawn and perfected. For to be entitled an Act, the bill has got to pass the Legislature, and the bill shows no signs of passing the Legislature. It hasn't even been introduced.


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