The Charlotte News

Sunday January 22, 1939


Site Ed. Note: In El Salvador, there prevailed at the time, from 1931 through 1944, the dictatorship of Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez who came to power in a coup generated by worldwide depression in the price of coffee beans, Salvador's chief export.

From that period on through 1992, when truly free elections were finally held again, there had been nearly constant rule by reactionary military junta, resulting in a landed gentry owning eighty percent of the country's land.

The usually ruling rightist junta by the 1970's sponsored death squads against its primary opposition, the leftist guerilla forces of the FMLN. A Christian Democrat, Jose Duarte, came to power in 1980 and held free elections in 1984; nevertheless the death squads and civil war between the right and left continued. A peace treaty was finally brokered by the rightist ARENA president in 1992 and since, political unrest has subsided under a policy of ejido, government re-distribution of land back to the people. FMLN has held a plurality of seats in the national assembly since 2000.

The lesson of El Salvador, as with most of Latin America, is that any society which accumulates great wealth in a small percentage of a ruling elite, coupled with virtually no middle class and resulting abject poverty in the broad mass of people, is ripe for revolt and civil war--inexorably so, including the lesson thus learned in the nineteenth century in the United States, and that nearly realized by the early 1930's, which it might have become, had it not been for the cheery affability and confidence-inspiring message of FDR, coupled with real, if imperfect, progress in wages and working conditions and employment generally throughout the society, especially the poverty-ridden South, FDR's "Economic Problem No. 1". Of course, in the case of FDR, his own physical disability, as rarely remarked upon in "A Defense Campaign", lent him, much as with JFK later, a mutual empathy with the poor and depressed such that his personal wealth and power were offset by the perception in the great mass of individuals that his physical pain and limitation of movement gave him, as it did, genuinely to understand and have a constant compassion for the other's psychic pain and physical hunger. For that perception to last long in any people, however, it must be coupled with the bold and courageous action in spite of the physical disability--and it was, of course.

Hence, that intangible thing termed leadership, the immediate and usually concomitant forerunner to the investiture, under Max Weber's theory, of the leader with that specially recognized grace called charisma. Then and only then comes vast and sweeping change in a society in short order. It is not, as popularly thought, however, a function of style or clothing or the particular mannerisms of a given leader. That is window dressing which may come under the microscopic view and have that special grace then ascribed to it once attained through the other means. All pretenders will then adopt the style, without necessarily the grace. To attain the grace, however, always must come first the creativity. Then, even rumpled jackets, wheelchairs, and crumpled hats acquire a kind of charisma.

It is amazing how the people of most societies will respond and give its patience and government a chance to work when government shows that creativity coupled with tenacity to purpose to effect it, and there is a reasonably articulate leader at the helm who is not afraid to face the people regularly and state in terms fit for common understanding just how it is the programs thus proposed are going to improve things for the broad mass, and involve that broad mass in the effort to improve things, not merely to offer some paternalistic edict from on high, but rather to charge the people themselves with the responsibility in large degree for effecting the desired change, whatever the change for which virtually universal assent is present, opportunity for which is provided by a given program sponsored by the Federal government.

But, too often, small minds in big, big positions will, instead of taking roles of leadership, seek to preserve unpopular will through uncreative programs designed only to increase and maintain the wealth of a ruling class, embracing essentially paternalistic despotism for the rest, by occupying themselves a good percentage of the time with the hunting down of those perceived to be inimical to their power, as well as stimulating the rest through propaganda to support that hunt, the divide and conquer strategy.

And of course, inevitably such always devolves to the irrational and comically absurd, such as the Russian official denunciation of the professor who didn't endorse evolution--but appears to have been an early advocate of the concept of global warming, in 1939. Perhaps an odd combination of beliefs, incidentally; perhaps not, if one views changing of the seasons as signs as much as geophysical results, the two not necessarily being incompatible within a logical-metaphysical sphere of thought, equating a deity, to whom is attributed anthropomorphized alternatingly punitive and benevolent traits, with Nature.

Regardless, with repression of dissent, intellectual or political, will always come the dumping inevitably of the baby with the bathwater, the brightly foretelling with its nurturing bagatelle.

As to the eugenics advocate denounced by Pravda, however, Pravda had the better of the argument probably; largely unknown in the 1930's as to its most virulent manifestations, the advocacy and carrying forth of systematic sterilization of those deemed inferior, the physically or mentally handicapped, the poor, those deemed as a status, incurably "criminal" or "insane", the study would obtain its wider condemnation after the Nazi genocidal uses of it came to light after the war. Indeed, as was uncovered in states from Oregon to North Carolina in recent times, programs of enforced and coerced sterilization existed hidden from the public for decades within the United States, from the 1930's even through the early 1970's. Why then did Cash speak of it passively? Perhaps the editorial provides partially the answer, when connected to the other editorials of the time: when one looked around at the bleak world of the 1930's, the pellagra-ridden moonshiners, the high incidence in the South of the venereally diseased, the absence of sanitation, the seemingly generationally ineradicable scourges of poverty and ignorance generally, it was perhaps more appealing than later to latch onto any theory which promised under the critical eye of scientific experiment some systematic genetic elimination of the worst of human traits--and it would have been fine perhaps if limited, rather than to the developing of some preposterous Aryan purity, the locating of the chromosome and its elimination which resulted in anyone thinking there could be such a thing as "racial purity" to begin with, after millions of years of evolution. Instead, as used, it created a hell on earth for those thus victimized by it, maybe especially so when encompassed by a state of secret existence which is anything but free and democratic within that which, such as this society, may otherwise proclaim and promote itself as such. After all, eugenics went on here in secret long after it died in Germany.

Just as did the attempted repression of the unpopular idea both before, during and after Nazism, forecasting of such similitive witchhunt in large with that in little being suggested by the aburdity of the local hunt-up indicated below of yet another bunch of Reds--in a place called "Black", no less.

That Man Again

When that round, genial man, Dr. John A. Rice, president of Black Mountain College, came into town about a year ago and made a speech under PTA's auspices, there was a good deal of repercussion, all pitched to the tune that the Doctor was a dangerous Red, who was teaching a lot of little Reds--his student body--to be Redder still. At that time, we recall, too, we didn't take much stock in the charge. In fact, to be candid about it, we made derisive noises.

But now, alas and alack, we come upon pause. For we see by the sportswriters that Black Mountain College last year spent just exactly $12.80 on its athletic activities, as compared to $494,352 for Yale and nice fat sums for everybody else in sight. What is worse, the student body of the college--a co-ed student body, at that--is reported to have voted for that policy. It seems they prefer to cut wood and to climb mountains.

All of which is plainly subversive. Every sound American knows that a college is properly a football stadium with some tiresome classrooms and a library full of dusty books incidentally attached, and that its proper business is to turn out a team that will pack in the cash customers. But this man Rice and his students actually seem to labor under the notion that the business of a college is to concern itself with education! A dangerous Red notion, if ever there was one, and, ourselves, we can only blush and offer no excuse for ever having had a good word for the man.

That Stern Presence*

It's a remarkable saying, so remarkable that we are only coming to appreciate it fully after a week's steady consideration, this influence of Arthur Wearn. Everybody remembers, of course, that when Mr. Wearn was mayor, he held the Council straight in line against any relaxation of the Sunday laws. At a time when the County Commissioners were blandly indifferent to that shabby walkathon that ran all week and all day Sunday too, properly chaperoned by the rural police, who seemed to lend the affair official tone, Mr. Wearn would listen to no proposal to permit Sunday recreation and amusements in the city even after church hours.

Last week the County Commissioners came out unanimously and resoundingly for a state-wide Blue Law "with teeth in it." We thought then that this was fairly surprising in a board two of whose members were serving at the time of the walkathon. But while we have thought of only now is the influence, stern and unyielding for all his amiability, of County Commissioner Arthur Wearn. There's nothing, evidently, to make a board behave itself in the conventional Mecklenburg way like the presence of the Steward.

Shadow In Salvador

As you probably haven't observed, there is something that smells of revolution in El Salvador. At least, dispatches from Colon have it that the Government has seized many army officers and several former cabinet member officers, that a certain Colonel Felipe Calderon has barricaded himself in his house and is determined to die fighting rather than surrender, and that rumor has it that some officers have already faced firing squads, and that the cadets at the military academy, when deprived of ammunition, threw down their guns and refused to pick them up again. Gross insubordination, that is.

El Salvador--it is perhaps not necessary to say, perhaps--is the smallest of the Central American republics. About a fourth the size of North Carolina, it is bounded on the south by the Gulf of Fonseca and by Nicaragua, on the north and east by Honduras, and on the north and west by Guatemala. Except for a narrow strip of malarial swamp along the coast, it is mountainous and has some bad-acting volcanoes. Its population runs to one million and a half, its capital is called San Salvador, its government sets up to be constitutional, and it exports coffee, indigo, sugar, rubber, cotton, and cereals, and buys back cotton and woolen cloth, machinery, radios, automobiles, typewriters and other gadgets.

Well, and what is that threatened revolution about? That, masters, is a deep dark secret. The dispatches don't commit themselves. But there are two things mentioned which may throw light on it. One of them is that the commandant of the military academy whom the cadets defied is a German officer. The other is that the government has issued a statement defending its relations with Italy, Germany, and the Spanish Insurgents, and denying that "foreigners have participated actively in El Salvador's political affairs" and the command of her army.

A Defense Campaign

In a day or two now, the local committee will be bringing the fight against infantile paralysis to your notice again. And if you are one of those militant anti-Roosevelt men and think you don't want to have anything to do with this movement because you believe it is somehow F.R.'s private campaign, then cheer up and think again. Mr. Roosevelt has nothing whatever to do with it, save in lending his support and his birthday for the occasion. The movement is a purely private one and not another one of those Government spending programs, and Mr. Roosevelt has figured in the picture only because of his magnificent courage and success in recovering from the disease--an admirable thing, whatever you think of his New Deal.

This year the ball will be held again, on Jan. 31. But with the poignant slogan: "Dance--That A Child May Walk," another important feature will be a "March of Dimes"--a campaign for dime contributions--which will extend from Jan. 23 through Jan. 28. Half the funds thus realized will be kept at home for relief of local cases, and the other half will go to aid a search for a serum which will prevent the terrible crippling and killing ailment.

A more worthy enterprise can hardly be imagined, and we are confident that the citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg will respond generously.

A Russian Scopes

The Nazi contributions to the New Biology, such as their marvelous conjuration of an Aryan Race right out of the looking glass, have been so dazzling that we are apt sometimes to forget that they have not got the whole field to themselves. The Russians, if you please, can do almost as well when they really settle down and go to work. Consider, for instance, the contributions of the great scientific journal, Pravda, as it rises up on its hind legs indignantly to repudiate the candidacy of Professors Berg and Koltzoff for the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Professor Berg, it appears, has lately discovered that the world is getting hotter. But it is not that proposition--which, indeed, is a self-evident one for Russians, seeing the increasing proximity of Lord Hitler--but the fact that the fellow seems to be a sort of John Thomas Scopes in reverso, only instead of getting in dutch because he believes in evolution, his offense is that he doesn't believe in it. That's what we said. And Pravda is therefore against him on the manifestly biological ground that puts him in agreement with all the "bourgeois biologists." You know, like the late Bill Bryan and the Rev. T. T. Martin and Mr. D. Scott Poole and the whole Legislature out in the Bob Burns country.

And as for Professor Koltzoff, the charge agin him is even more heinous: the fellow actually believes in eugenics! And of that Pravda says with fine biological discrimination:

"Eugenics is the science of how to improve the human breed and is the child of the imperialistic epoch, a reactionary theory aimed against the workers."

Think of that, now! Actually trying to improve the human breed, and having the nerve to try to sneak into the Soviet Academy of Sciences as a biologist!

Not Quite Persuaded

The man who is everybody's choice for the presidency of Queens College, Dr. Taliaferro Thompson, has declined the invitation. This, too, after coming down to Charlotte and looking over the place, after being cajoled, and cordially high-pressured by practically every organization in town, after being assured that the whole community would be inconsolable if he refused.

Ah, well, it is a considerable disappointment, admittedly, for Dr. Thompson appears to be one of those rare individuals about whom every good thing they say is true. His reason for declining Queens' invitation is wholly in character--that he could do greater good in his chosen work by retaining his professorship at Union Theological Seminary.

Yet, with all that said, we are reminded of an old saying to the general effect that there is always more than one pebble on the beach. The task of the trustees of Queens is to find a president who, as nearly as possible, comes up to the qualifications of Dr. Thompson. A younger man, perhaps, his name yet to make, with whom the college would grow physically and spiritually. It may take a few weeks or months to spot him, but there are such, and they can be found.


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