The Charlotte News

Wednesday, March 15, 1939


Site Ed. Note: Beware the Ides of March.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

This date, German troops marched into Czechoslovakia, and, by declaration the following day, Hitler annexed Bohemia and Moravia, all in violation of the Munich Pact. The Gestapo also entered and began making wholesale arrests of those considered dangerous to the Reich's purpose--the purpose of economic enslavement of all non-Germans in Czechoslovakia.

And, the other day we heard that a high school teacher had been suspended for daring to utter in class an analogy between the current President's policy in Iraq and that of Adolf Hitler--in a land where until five years ago, we valued freedom of expression, or so we have been told. Although the teacher has now been reinstated with some "understanding" between him and the school hierarchy, we question what is going on in the land which would cause such a thing in the first place. Would any school official have suspended a teacher during the 1960's for questioning the propriety of the war in Vietnam, for comparing LBJ to Hitler? For comparing JFK to a Red? Perhaps so, but we doubt it. (Although it might have happened had anyone dared to compare Nixon thusly, to have compared Wallace to Mussolini. Always the right wing ilk, always, by the nature of the beast, who resent and take personally any such even academic comparison for the sake of teaching an object lesson through time, for ultimately such is an affront to that within themselves which acts as their defense against the threatening world, that perpetual image of strength derived from the person whose leadership at the national level they seek to emulate locally in the gradual creation of their private little fiefdoms, all in pursuit of that object which obviously they revere the most, a dictatorship, at least one of the right persuasion, one which permits and tolerates their locally born dictatorship. Provides the void of their otherwise meaningless lives, purposed by only the night's soap opera fare on tv, some meaning.)

And, we hear, the Congress is cracking down on port and border security. While port security is vital, we question what on earth in reality "border security" has to do with it. The 19 hijackers were all in the United States quite legally. None were Mexican; none were Canadian. We don't really believe, do we, that any terrorist organization would be so stupid as to send illegal immigrants to blow up things? Their whole object is to come here and blend as legally, quietly, and apparently patriotically, as possible. As likely, it's your next door neighbor waving the flag furiously in your face who is the next terrorist, as it would be an illegal immigrant from or through Mexico. Think through just a little to its logical conclusion that premise, that the illegal is here to do you harm by terrorist activity, to see how silly it is. Border security is merely an economic issue. Let us not muddle the waters to satisfy another agenda, premised on "terrorism".

Next we will hear the argument made that abortion should be made illegal because we Americans are not procreating enough vis á vis the rest of the world and thus we are in danger, Herr Doktor Friemdliebe, therefore of being vanquished by a new population boom among Muslim terrorists out to conquer by sheer numbers. It does get old and quite absurd to pin every bogey in the world on "terorrism". Stick to the economics of the border issues and its impact on labor markets; leave off the phony "terrorist" hypotheses as a scare tactic. It does the argument no good.

We are reminded by it of the individual in North Carolina who, while running in 2004 for Congress as the "black Jesse Helms", days before the primary runoff election, pasted a picture on the tv screen of a Muslim man who had been arrested in Charlotte for overstaying his visa and was found to have been in possession of photographs of urban buildings taken between Texas and North Carolina. He happened to have entered the U.S. legally across the Mexican border. The candidate, however, jumping the gun before the facts were in, stated in his campaign a couple of days after the arrest: "He came here to kill you." It turned out, of course, that the man was, as he claimed, simply a tourist who had overstayed his tourist visa. (Perhaps, in North Carolinian speak, "tourist" became "terrorist": who knows?) The candidate lost, albeit to another of much the same ilk, a Lady who is now in Congress preaching some equally Foxxy rhetoric about our "porous borders" and how they endanger us all with potential "terrorists". Or, maybe, she said, after all, "tourists".

And, all kinds of flack started flying over the Dubai port deal. While symbolically, it is poor timing certainly and worse political judgment by the Administration, we found little about which to be overly concerned. After all, the country has been bought and sold for decades now. Look up who owns many of your town's commercial real estate plums, from the shopping centers and malls to the buildings leased by major companies, and you will likely find Arab oil interests behind some or much or even most of it. That, we reiterate, has been the case since the days of Nixon. So, we had to yawn a little about the Dubai flack. Just symbolic. Security would have remained the responsibility of this country, with full sovereignty still over the ports. Simply another distraction from the more serious issues at work in the land--the instilling of fear for the sake of fear, to curtail freedom, to enhance the power of those in power, economically and politically.

We should be more concerned that there are now, according to Forbes, 793 individuals--not families or groups, individuals--who control 2.6 trillion dollars of wealth across the world. To put that in perspective, the gross domestic product of the United States in 2005 was 12.4857 trillion dollars. Thus, one-fifth of the equivalent of this country's current annual domestic product is in the hands of 783 individuals worldwide. That ought to scare even the most savvy and laissez-faire capitalist, far more than any potential for terrorism, especially since many of the terrorist stimulators themselves are quite independently wealthy, no doubt making good money on their stock portfolios.

But, instead, we are being told that we should worry our little heads about a few poverty-stricken Mexican refugees coming to blow us up across our borders? But, who knows? Maybe they're talking about Canucks with all that French-speak coming over here to pollute the English spoken in Duluth and Des Moines--or in French Lick.

And, we heard yesterday that Senator Feingold has introduced a measure to censure the President for his illegal conduct in wiretapping U.S. citizens without a warrant or court order. That is a step in the right direction and we applaud Senator Feingold for his having the guts to do so; but his is a lone voice in the wilderness at present. The President and the Attorney General, we reiterate, have, it would appear, admitted to the commission of multiple felonies in deliberately violating not just the letter of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed in 1978, but also the spirit of the United States Constitution. If we are to have respect for our laws at all, then how is it that we are to say we are a nation of laws--except when the President happens expediently to break a law which we find, after all, was okay to do, because we like the idea that it is claimed to have been in defense against terrorist activity? A law broken in secrecy, to which admission was made only after credible leaks came that it had been done. A law broken in secrecy as to those against whom it was broken. A law broken in secrecy, with the claim that it was done to thwart terrorism, a claim untested in any court, undoubtedly because the President and Attorney General believed at the time that their claim would not hold up in any court, especially as there are special courts which by design operate in secrecy to test these very claims under that 1978 law. All by an Administration which came to office promising first and foremost "honesty and decency in government".

Censure is fine. But if we are going to impeach a President over alleged lying in a private civil suit about private conduct at best tangential to that civil suit in the first place, hardly material or even relevant to it, then it would seem we ought impeach one for committing multiple felonies in derogation of our Constitutional liberties under the Fourth Amendment--and how. Allow this anomaly to occur, and the rest will creep, creep, creep away, as surely and as fast as you can wrap yourself in that flag and claim to be a "patriot" while esposuing double standards of conduct, one for good ol' Republicans, another for those "soft-on-terrorism" Democrats. The question to those who espouse such standards ultimately becomes: patriotic to what, the Constitution or to a Party?

We seem to recall, as prime argument for the former impeachment, from our friends on the Right, that it was to set an example for the children not to lie. (Never mind the fine print: that not only was it at base nothing to do with the functions of government, but that perjury requires materiality of the perjurious statement to facts in issue for it to be perjury at all, and that there are very different and far looser standards for determining what is material for purposes of discovery, where the alleged perjury in that instance occurred, than what is material as actual evidence to be presented in the trial of a case.) So, is it therefore proper to set an example for the children that it is okay to break the law as long as you can cook up as an excuse that you were going after the "bad guy", the "evil one", in the process; never minding that you don't even have to put forth evidence to prove that you were in fact doing so, never minding that there is no proof of impropriety at all brought forth against those against whom the violation occurred? A nation of men; not laws. That's the fit lesson for the children of our friends on the Right to learn? Just don't lie in the process. Tell the truth that you don't care a hoot in hell about the Constitution as you routinely break its standards and the laws passed under its processes.

For if we say that it is okay to break this law, just a little, this one little time, in these circumstances, is it not now the case that anything one does feloniously may have just such a justification? Call it the SOTDIEDWASTED defense: Some Ol' Terrorist Done Improvised Expletive Devises, Was At Store Trappin' 'Em, Dude (when you caught me goin' out the door at midnight with them ten bigscreens).

We have said it in different ways since September 11, 2001, since November 8, 2000, since December 18, 1998: it is becoming ever more clear that about half the voting populace of the country has slowly, slowly drifted, during the past decade, or two, or three, or so, into a form of utter and complete dissociation from reality as a culture, at the behest of some people in it who are both sick and loud in their protests about something, anything, anyone they can find on whom to cast blame for their own personal problems and inadequacies, mainly inadequacy of education: ignorance and unwillingness to take the time to learn the barest facts about an issue, to think through it logically even a little, before pronouncing some silly uninformed opinion based exclusively and entirely on some talky-talk, more likely than not rightwing news cranker on tv or radio. We posit that it is a residual phenomenon from the end of the Cold War, a reaction to the notion of being free from stress, seeing others prosper in creative endeavors free from that stress, after decades and lifetimes of living with it, mostly unconsciously. And those who cannot get beyond that stress would have us all live with their perpetually continuing need for it, their various psychoses and neuroses resulting from it. It happens. It happened in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan under the reverse of those circumstances after Versailles, where societal economic depression and normlessness, combined with a perception of emasculation, a need to compensate for it through excessive militarism, led to the need for a scapegoat to promote as a common enemy against whom to inveigh--at heart, however, the same problem which we see at work in our own society today: the need to pass on stress and find some convenient whipping post upon which to cast out its demonic influence.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

To our Fascist Republican friends, we say: Get over it. For it is no more your country than ours. We predict that we are about to take it back, not from you, but from the clutches of a tormented collective with an overworked imagination in fear of nothing more terrifying than their own relief from stress, of fear itself.

But censure is not enough. Time for the Peach Bowl. What's good for the goose be good too for the ganderer.

And don't wait for the translator.

Hell, if recent history is any lesson, it might even help his favorability ratings. What could hurt?

The Mask Is Off

There is a sort of relief in the final destruction of Czechoslovakia. Up until now a great many people who passed at least for being rational have gone on insisting that the Munich pact was all for the best, that Bumble, Daladier & Co., were great, good, and wise men who had saved the world from disaster, and that the Sudetens did want to go back to Germany and that now Adolf Hitler was probably going to be content to settle down and live like a gentleman.

But all that is stripped away now. The arrant hypocrisy of Chamberlain and his followers stands forth naked. The "right of self-determination," which they pretended last Fall to see as justifying Hitler's demands, has become the right of tiny German minorities in Czechland proper to ram the Nazi cult and the Nazi interest down the Czech's throats--to ride hog on these people who outnumber them twenty and sometimes fifty to one. The value of the Chamberlain word is plain, too. It is just as good and no better than was Adolf Hitler's when he promised that, given the Sudetenland, he would demand no more territory in Europe. For, undoubtedly, he had given his word to guarantee the new borders of Czechoslovakia and its continued existence as an independent state.

The whole deal smells to heaven. And Chamberlain's cynical speech in Parliament yesterday, a speech which sneered continually at "sentiment," was a fitting climax for it all. But at the least the air is cleared. Nobody can have any illusions about or any trust in the whole shabby crew of them again.

A Shameful and a Gross Betrayal

The appalling thing about the Czechoslovak case is not that England and France have failed to come to the rescue of the little country. After Munich nobody ever expected that they would. The appalling thing is the argument Chamberlain and Daladier are putting up to excuse themselves.


The official attitude of the British and French... was that no unprovoked aggression had occurred to cause them to consider binding their guarantees to go to the Czechs' aid--Associated Press reports.

First, they attempted to argue that the boundaries of the country had never been fixed, that therefore the mere entry of German troops into a Czech town cannot be made an act of aggression. They ignored the fact, of course, that they promised themselves to see that the boundaries of the country were fixed within six weeks after Munich, and that they had run completely out on the job that left Hitler to take what he pleased. But the argument had to be abandoned in any case after Hitler made it plain yesterday that he meant permanently to occupy all Bohemia and Moravia, including Prague itself. For nobody can reasonably argue that the boundaries of the country didn't end somewhere short of that. So now they have changed their tune, and are having it that President Hitler is in Czechland because, forsooth, President Hacha invited him there!

"In this instance, his call was to 'protect' the Czechs!"

If Chamberlain and Daladier were to say quite frankly that they had no intention of living up to their promises, they could make out a case for themselves. They could say that the force of Hitler is now too great for the Czechs to have any hope of successfully resisting it, and that action would only mean the extinction of the Czech people. That would not relieve them of the responsibility of having to disarm the Czech Army--once a magnificent weapon--and having laid the land open to the new Attila. But it would still have some sense and some decency in it.

But when they take the tack they are taking now, they are joining Hitler and his policy of the breaking down of the whole basis of faith--the very fundamental meaning of words--upon which civilization rests. Hitler is in Czechland today, not because of anybody's genuine "invitation," not to "protect" anybody at all, but to Nazify the Czech people by terror and force. No more complete act of unprovoked aggression can be found in history. Not Attila himself, not Genghis or Tamerlane, ever went more cold-bloodedly and openly, more fully without the shadow of excuse in fact, about conquest than Hitler has done here. And to say that it is not so, to prate of "invitations" and "protection," to pretend to believe that it is all in order, is to deprive terms of all meaning--to make justice equivalent to injustice, the lie to truth--to move toward the destruction of every bound and meet of our common life and thinking--to hurry the world toward a slough in which nobody will any longer be able to think straight because the very tools of our thinking will have been hopelessly corrupted.

Not Entirely Automatic

So after all the City of Charlotte is to have its new omnibus charter, clarifying certain moot provisions which had developed in the past and omitting proposed increases in the compensation of the Mayor and Councilmen and City Attorney(s). Altogether, the charter, except for its re-delegation of authority to the chiefs of the fire and police departments, limiting the Civil Service Commission to purely personal functions, accomplishes little save to put in coherent and handy form all the special laws under which the municipality operates.

And laws are all very well, but it takes men of experience to direct the affairs of a municipal corporation which does an annual business in the millions of dollars. The present administration has done well in proposing a new charter, as have the Public Weal and the Mecklenburg legislatorial delegation in scanning it, debating it, altering it as needed and, in the end, perhaps, moving for adoption. But it still takes men of experience to run a city the size of this.

And the plain, embarrassing fact, mates, is that the adoption or rejection of the charter is a far lesser consequence than the dearth of such candidates as we have described for places on the City's governing body. The election draws on, but qualified candidates are drawing further and further off.

Literary Note

A form of literature which bids fair to disappear in short order is the novel of the soil. It has been one of the favorite forms of our time, too--including such giants as Knut Hamsun's "Growth of the Soil," Ladislas Reymont's "The Peasants," Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth," and Ellen Glasgow's "Barren Ground." The struggle of man with the elements: that is its theme. The slow, patient waiting of the husbandman through the long howling Winter, the everlasting renewal of hope and the backbreaking toil with the white pipal of the apple trees, the long, burning Summer--the droughts parching the fields and woods or the endless rains scalding all things to death--the hail and the great winds--the beetle and the weevil and the worm--the eternal dying of hope and the drunken Autumn. Or perchance the sudden falling out of unbelievable victory--of rich and golden harvests and bonanza in the markets. That and the stout, heavy-grained, gnarled but patient and quiet-eyed character the thing breeds in the farmer people.

But now all that seems to be on the way out, in these United States at least. Here the benevolent Uncle in Washington seems bent on disposing of the elements for good and all. Anyhow, so we gather from reading the dispatches. For instance, one in yesterday's paper about a bill introduced by Representative Fulmer, of South Carolina. It seems that the Uncle is paying farmers up in New England $4 an acre for rehabilitating the woods which the great wind blew down up there last year. And so the Hon. Fulmer wants as much for Southern farmers whose fields are every year damaged by the hail. Maybe it's all for the best. We wouldn't know. But it is plainly going to be hard on the boys and girls who write novels of the soil. You simply can't write one like that about people who get another check every time the elements slap them.

The Community's Loss*

Within this week death has come to four residents of the community, widely separated in their address and activities, yet esteemed alike in that each of them possessed rare characteristics or had made some outstanding contribution to some phase of community life.

Charles W. Hunt, 79, beloved Mecklenburg citizen, kindly, an earnest worker for the best in all things, and a man whose life was wholly admirable.

Dr. Charles DeForrest Lucas, 40, brilliant cancer specialist, who came to the city only a few years ago and has been ill for the last two years of that brief period, whose attainments few of us appreciated until death disclosed and abruptly terminated them.

Dr. Samuel Levy, 59, Lithuanian-born, a friendly and active citizen of his adopted city for many years, a leader in his church and fraternal organizations, respected for his accomplishments and esteemed for his personality.

Mrs. Luella Liddell Franklin, born in Pennsylvania but whose family came to the city so long ago that she was educated in Charlotte's Female Institute: indefatigable church worker, bright and entertaining companion, a woman known and respected for her background, her good works and herself.

To the families of these four superlative persons have come grief at their bereavements. To the community as a whole, grief is compounded by multiple loss sustained in so brief a period.


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