The Charlotte News

Tuesday, February 21, 1939


Site Ed. Note: The spirited Dorothy Thompson, whose syndicated column out of New York appeared semi-regularly on the News editorial page, was determined on the occasion recounted by "Ain't Humanity Grand?", rather than to limit herself to comment on the news, to make some stir of her own at the Garden meeting of the Kunzeists as they shouted down "Rosenfeld", the Jew. Who could blame her?

Had she really wanted to cause a genuine stir of confusion among them, however, and simultaneously announce herself thereby, vis á vis Kansas anyway, as Cassandra incarnate, she could've simply altered her speech a little: "Dunk! Dunk! Dunk! Bluth! Bluth! Bluth!" Then, maybe this audience would've been so captivated, as they usually were with apparent nonsense, that the War could have been avoided altogether.

And by March, 1957, even maybe the little Nazis would've understood how reality works. But then again, some of them still don't. So...

We can hope, at least.

Always remember where Fascism and Nazism starts, just as it started in Italy, in Spain, in Germany; not with large crowds and hoopla, but with small meetings in small neighborhoods locally, in the beer hall maybe or at the social club, then creeping into local movements, then into local government...then the world.

Nor is it always plain on its face from its humble beginnings, as with racist or anti-Semitic dogma. That comes with time usually in one form or another--always the scapegoat for the collective wrong to bring a false "unity" against some loosely defined but closely identified supposed "evil" from without or within or both, an "evil" which is so surreptitious in its manifestations that no one can really see it, but nevertheless knows it's there, as they plot in secret in their homes and by the cloak of night against us, the "good".

But in this country, the plainer such a concomitant is, the less dangerous the movement, the less chance it has to take wing. Few will take it seriously here in a land of so many mixtures of blood and heritage, the great melting pot. Few here, nowadays, are stupid enough to believe themselves to be pure anything--unless, of course, they are stupid, of which there are unfortunately still a few.

But most of the time, it starts cloaked in other things than the obvious, maybe with a seemingly "innocent" issue, merely one where someone is trying to exert their will, their authority over someone else, just to show their authority, maybe in the workplace, maybe else. Presenting one's self, first to one's self and then to others, as the ultimate arbiter of reality: "My way or the highway," being the mantra.

However it starts, it always has one common denominator: the Taker seeking to restrict or deny altogether the rights of another by means of the Big Lie. "He done This, so he has no right to say or do nothin', never. Don't ask me for proof 'cause I don't need no proof. I say it. That's proof enough. You know in your heart I'm honest, good people. Take my word for it."

That's the direction sign on the highway; where that road ends and how soon is up to each of us as individuals--and to our individual consciences, when guided by the principles on which we are founded, equal treatment for all, meaning precisely that, all, each and every.

Just what form that equal treatment takes, whether blatantly harsh or properly good, or finely sifted for particles to meet a prejudged referent standard subjectively determined by someone of like mind to the Big Liar, depends on how you wish to be treated as part of that all.

Presently, appearing mainly across the land to be adopting the latter approach, the "I am the Works", old-time Jersey City Boss approach, we as a country aren't doing too well at it, we think. It is precisely why the poll numbers for the past couple of years increasingly tell us that the country is on "the wrong track". This notion is the heart-tap and bellweather of that poll question: how each of us treat each other. Without good leadership at the top, we founder, as does any society. Time to lead here; stop with all the Afghanistanisms as excuses for poor leadership at home.

The ultimate responsibility, however, is with each of us, to lead and to lead responsibly.

"A Lovely Poor Relation" tells of the terrible plight of Swain County in western North Carolina; deforested without reforestation and thus depleted of its natural commodity, it provided an example of why not only WPA was necessary throughout the land at this time, but also why the South as a whole was "Economic Problem No. 1" within the nation.

Got to Have a Measure*

Even the luncheon clubs, which meet each and every week, have a program. Why, else, pray, would there be any sense in meeting? Conferences of bigwigs have to have their agendas, just as book clubs, ladies aid societies and Sunday school classes are lost without somebody to take charge and go step by step through the order of business.

And for the Legislature, which gathers here Wednesday in extraordinary session complementary to Mecklenburg, a fitting measure to debate and perhaps to pass has simply got to be found. Moreover, it must be the Real Thing. Flowery resolutions or platitudinous votes of thanks won't do. The people of this county and Piedmont section have the right to see their Legislature, whose principal patron they are, in actual fighting array. A sham battle will be unconvincing.

We sincerely hope that the Legislature will act upon the suggestion. As sure-fire producers of excitement, let it take up something like liquor control, repeal of the sales tax or absentee ballot, reapportionment, or, at the very least, a bill to call an election on Blue Laws in Charlotte. If that last tune is called, however, it might be a good idea to invite the audience to join in the chorus. They will anyhow.

Chip Backs Down

Six years ago to the day, lacking one, Huey Long arose in the Senate to deliver one of his frequent tirades against his betters. This time his subject was Brigadier General Samuel T. Ansell, whom Huey called, among other things, "a scoundrel and a thief." Senator Bailey managed to obtain the floor and inquired if Huey was speaking as a member of the Senate and thus under cover of immunity from libel action. Huey retorted:

"No, sir; I do not claim any privilege from the scoundrel anywhere on earth under God's living sun!"

"And no immunity?"

"None at all!"

"And the Senator invites the man accused by him to test the truth of his accusations in the courts?"

"Anywhere on earth!"

The sequel to that was that General Ansell did sue, and Huey not only pleaded a Senator's immunity for his utterances in the chamber but for remarks distributed in a circular over his name.

And a sequel to that, with a sort of reverse twist, is to be found in the slander suit of Chip Robert vs. Georgia State Senator Allen for $50,000. Chip challenged the fellow to waive his immunity, and the fellow did, repeating his original characterization of Chip with embellishments. He added the accusation that Chip had resigned his Assistant Secretaryship of the Treasury just "in time to avert a national scandal." Another solon barged in and charged that Chip, who is Secretary of the National Democratic Executive Committee, was "the scandal of the Roosevelt Administration."

And now Chip, having been taken up on his dare for a waiver of immunity, waives his right to sue. We don't understand it.

A Premium on Accidents*

The proposal of Senator Long of Halifax to increase the cost of North Carolina automobile tags by 50 cents and to use the receipts to establish a hospital insurance fund for victims of highway accidents, is a thoughtless approach to the traffic problem. Plainly it would subsidize accidents instead of attempting to prevent them.

Moreover, the measure is based on the unsubstantial theory that all automobile accidents must be the fault of all motorists--therefore, all motorists must pay for all accidents.

Senator Long's tax of 50 cents could have raised $294,453.50 if it had been in effect last year. There are in the state today only 133 State Highway Patrolmen, and that means less than one to a county on active duty all the time. Far better than attempting to pay for accidents after they have happened, would be a bill designed to prevent accidents. At the average salary of $126 per month for patrolmen, 50 cents a year on every car in the state would more than double the force--would, in fact, provide for 200 more officers. And all traffic authorities agree that a trained traffic force, striking at the problem, not at mere arrests, can cut any accident rate more than in half.

Ain't Humanity Grand?

Outside the throng clamored and shoved the cops around. Inside, a little bit of Naziland. Dorothy Thompson shouted, "Bunk! Bunk! Bunk!" as minor Führer G. W. Kunze wheeled off passages from Mein Kampf. They put Miss Thompson out. Isadore Greenbaum, a hotel worker with more spunk then discretion, leaped onto the stage and started towards Kunze. A half-dozen husky Storm Troopers, Americanized model, grabbed him, and manhandled him. The cops rescued the hapless chap and took him off to the station where he was arraigned in high court for disorderly conduct. Fist fights between the anti-Nazi crowds outside and the cops were breaking out. The poor devils were only doing their duty and were catching it from all sides. Heywood Broun intervened for Miss Thompson and got her re-admitted. She shouted "Bunk!" again. At mention of President "Rosenfeld" the crowd jeered. Hitler, Mussolini and the Rev. Father Coughlin were their heroes. And outside the crowd of Nazi-haters ached to take a poke at somebody and took it at the cops.

That's restlessness in action, boys and girls--restlessness in a world beset by the most absurd idiocies which have been dignified by the four-ply word ideologies. Are you red or black? Then let's fight. Do you salute with the palm out-stretched or the fist clenched? Then let's fight. In any case let's fight the cops. They are trying to keep order. We don't want order. We want trouble.

It's all highly absurd, of course, and in reality no more than a tempest in a teapot. Those bozos, inside and outside Madison Square Garden, are plain exhibitionists. They lick their chops over demonstrations. They become wildly excited over the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Numerically, they are insignificant, but as a symbol of unrest and discontent, they are uncomfortably significant. They are human beings, like you and us, but unlike us they are looking not for peace but for trouble. It's to be found.

A Lovely Poor Relation

On North Carolina's northwestern boundary, nestled up in the lee of the Great Smokies, lies Swain County. The grandeur of Swain's scenery is startlingly in contrast to the little county's miserable standing in all the tables having to do with wealth and economic sufficiency. March 15 is just another day to Swain County, for almost nobody there has to trouble with making out an income tax return. Indeed, of its 2,300 families, comprising most of its 11,588 people, 1,894 individuals have been certified as eligible for relief. It is only by relief of one kind or another that most of them have been able to exist.

There was a time when Swain was fairly prosperous. That was when the timber-cutters came and fed to the sawmills the great virgin forests of hardwood that covered its mountains, without, of course, much attempt at replenishing the supply. And it was after this sacrifice of capital assets that Swain, enjoying the feel of comparative wealth, issued bonds for more than one million dollars, which, with unpaid interest, remain as a lien against its $6,000,000 of property. (There are only a thousand homes in Swain County and their average assessed value is less than $850 each.) Its solvency and ability to function as a unit of government was further jeopardized when the State deeded 57 per cent of its total area to the Great Smokies National Park, thus exempting it from taxation.

Besides land, Swain has almost no wealth and no visible means of support. Its total retail trade amounts to less than $700,000 a year, or less than $60 a person. Except for WPA, there is in the whole county only one employer of as many as 50 persons. It has no electric power. The total value of all its crops is estimated at only $280,000, which comes to less than $25 per inhabitant per year. It is off the beaten track of tourists to the park. It is, in sum, a lovely poor relation of the other ninety and nine which is suffering from malnutrition and fiscal excesses, and something is going to have to be done for Swain.


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