The Charlotte News

Friday, March 31, 1939


Site Ed. Note: Often the curtailment of freedom will begin with the seeming innocuous, that which the great body of the people are less inclined to protest individually, until, little by little, as with the larger creeping of the Nazis in Europe, province by province, and in contradistinction to the known will of the rest of Europe to avoid war so soon after the last, all individual freedom is usurped by reference to the precedent established in taking without resistance the minor ones.

Sometimes it is a government entity playing usurper to curry political favor with a determined and well-organized portion of the constituency. Sometimes, the private business which caters to the public, the public to which it desires to cater, that is. Snub some, admit others, to make the Fascist little discriminatory point. All of the same piece in the end, the quest for power over the behavior of others, for the sake of power, all neatly rationalized by some ersatz notions of religion or historical right or "family values".

A case in point representing the attempt by government at Puritanical impressment of religious observance on the whole community, is that of the theater manager, discussed previously in "Other People's Consciences", March 20, who escaped jail, as discussed below, for providing free theater fifteen minutes past midnight Saturday, in ostensible violation of the local Sunday Blue Law prohibiting such entertainments on the Christian Sabbath, (quite probably in derogation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment had it ever been seriously contested as such, especially since, for instance, the Jewish Sabbath was not similarly treated). The Sunday Blue Laws in North Carolina gradually dissipated until they were virtually gone by the late sixties, the victim not of any constitutional argument but rather of the economic needs of municipalities to attract chain stores and strip malls, whose owners desired Sunday commerce. For those to whom constitutional ideals ring hollow, where traditional values, albeit those which are holdovers of divine right of kings, are preserved against all comers, money, it seems, has always a way ultimately of speaking loudly.

The theater manager had provided the following letter to the editor on March 23:

Manager McGill Sets Out His Position On Blue Law

Dear Sir:

The length of the program on last Saturday's late show at the Imperial required sixteen minutes after midnight for completion. The Blue Law, we understand, condemns charging admission on Sunday, not the performance itself, and this part of the ludicrous law may have made the omission of a charge for the extra sixteen minutes seem ludicrous, too.

In the belief that the cure is a change in the law, rather than non-observance, we have, so we are advised, conformed to it.

The incident may have served to emphasize the real issue which, as you have so happily and clearly pointed out, is:

"... the imposing of the conscientious scruples of a part of the people upon the rest, and the misuse of the public law-making power to compel observance."

In this land of democracy, that seems as dictatorial, by group action, as is suppression of the press in a totalitarian state by an individual.

Scarcely a day passes that patrons do not complain to us that in the Friendly City "police power is invoked to compel the observance of religious doctrines by adults who do not subscribe to them."

Which leads us to the opinion that most of our citizens are not in accord with such principles of government.

Manager, Imperial Theater.


And on April 6, a reader would pose this dilemma for the law-givers:

That Solar Time Rule And How It Fits With Bible

Dear Sir:

A favorite subject over which medieval theologians split hairs was the mooted question, how many souls can sit on a pin head? But it remained for the City Recorder's Court to be called upon to decide whether the sacred hours of God's holy day begins at midnight Eastern Standard or midnight solar time.

Although the Ministerial Association, City Council, and Recorder's Court may decide that solar midnight is the real point of transition from one day to another, it still remains an arbitrary method of day-reckoning, unsanctioned by heaven, unconfirmed by Scriptural precept, unpracticed by Christ and the apostles.

From the point of view of Christian orthodoxy, if there is such a thing as an holy day, it must have a basis in the Scriptures and not at all upon the pronouncements of some human tribunal.

In Genesis the evening and morning constitute the first day. "From even unto even shall you celebrate your Sabbath" says Lev. 23:32; and Mark 1:32 indicates that "even" begins at the going down of the sun.

The uniform practice of the Saints down through the ages, until considerably this side of apostolic times, was to begin observance of the Lord's Day at the going down of the sun.

Therefore, every clergyman and member of the City Council who violates the Blue Law between sundown and midnight of what is commonly called Saturday evening, should be put behind the bars and allowed to reflect upon his theologically stultifying, contradictory position. By pinching their necks with the very pillory which in the lumber room of intolerance they have prepared for the rest of us, we may get the Blue Laws repealed in short order.



Man Escapes Jail

The hair-splitting in Police Court yesterday on the point of whether Sunday began, and the Blue Law took effect, at midnight sun time or Eastern Standard Time, came pretty close to satire. The whole court room was highly amused. Nobody there, we feel sure, certainly not the judge and probably not the solicitor who prosecuted the case, had any real heart for it, especially since it lay within the judge's discretion to sentence the polite, amiable theater manager, if he had been found guilty, to 30 days in durance vile.

Yet we were rather hoping for a conviction and rather counting on Judge Sims, in that event, to hand out the stiffest sentence possible. Nothing could have shown so dramatically that the Blue Law is a device to set the cops to enforcing one of God's spiritual ordinances; that the little people must assume the mood of the Christian Sabbath or by G-- they will go to jail for it!

However, instead of splitting the case wide open by such severity, they split hairs and got the theater manager off without actually coming to grips with the Blue Law.

Grave Danger for the South

If something doesn't happen to save the cotton farmer from his friends in Congress, the South is sunk. The President's recommendation--to pay farmer-borrowers $2.16 a bale to release a portion of the 11,200,000 bales of loan cotton into trade channels, and to subsidize the sale of that cotton abroad--is bad enough, but the situation brought about by cotton loans is critical. And the President's scheme entails no greater curtailment of this year's crop than is already in the works.

But Senator Bankhead's proposal, sponsored by the Senate Agricultural Committee, would unquestionably subject the South to a severe shock, the Treasury to a further strain. It must go against the sound conservative sense of cotton farmers themselves first to be lent by their Government more than cotton will bring in the market and then to be allowed to buy back their collateral at three-eighths of its value.

Upon the added stipulation, to be done, that the 3,000,000 bales thus withdrawn displace an equal number of the 11,000,000 bales allotted for this year's planting. The South can stand no such extreme curtailment. It would throw thousands of men on relief, disrupt the economy of a whole section, and impose a semi-sabbatical year on a people without other means of support. Overnight the South would change in status from Economic Problem No. 1 to a horrible example of being smothered by best friends and well-wishers.

Facts And A Senator

In the speech at Chapel Hill last night, Senator Bailey, sailing into the doctrine that the South is the nation's Economic Problem No. 1, declared:

"All industrial workers in the South are paid within one point of the national average paid in wages of the value added by manufacturers. [Don't blame us if it reads hard, that's the way he said it.] The South's ratio is 38.7. Compare North Carolina with New York City. We pay 40.2. New York pays 30.5..."

It sounds swell. But the Senator somehow neglected to notice what Howard Odum has pointed out in Southern Regions, the great authority in the field, that the average industrial worker in the South adds only $2,000 value to the manufactured product, whereas the average Yankee worker adds $3,600. Income in wages in the South, says Odum, are actually from 30 to 50 per cent below those in the rest of the nation. For that, he points out, there is reason. But the economic fact is not to be changed in the selection of figures.

Furthermore, the Senator, while insisting that the South is primarily an agricultural and only incidentally an industrial country, directly ignores the question of agricultural income. Listen to Odum again:

"The per capita gross farm income in Southeastern states in 1930 (with the exception of Florida) ranged from $117 in Arkansas to $172 in Virginia. In no other state in the country was it so low. The Southwestern states were next lowest, but outside these two Southern sections, the lowest state rate was $325, or nearly double the highest state average in the Southeast.

The question is no moral one--has nothing to do with the question of the wickedness or virtue of the South. But these problems exist. Maybe they are too tough to be solved. But certainly they won't be solved by making out that they just aren't there.

Toward The Showdown

Events in Europe seem at last to be shaping up toward a showdown as between the Axis powers on the one hand and England, France, and Russia on the other.

The announcement that Mr. Bumble is set to proclaim that Britain will fight to protect Poland and Rumania without even waiting to talk the case over with Colonel Beck, who comes to London next week, indicates that the British have good proof that Hitler means to close on Poland swiftly--a thing that is plain enough, indeed, from the pumping up of alleged grievances against Poland and the shouts of "intolerable conditions" (the same excuse used against the Czechs) in the Germans stooge newspapers.

And the tone taken by Daladier in his speech Wednesday suggests that both he and Mr. Chamberlain have concluded that there is nothing to be gained by attempting to detach Mussolini from the alliance with Germany--that they will only be played for suckers if they make territorial concessions, and that the Axis will be made stronger and more threatening than ever.

No one can be sure about Bumble, of course. He has talked of stern measures before--only to welsh when the test came. And on that account he is going to have a great deal of trouble in convincing Adolf Hitler that he means it this time. But it is plain that if he retreats again, there will be no stopping place. And the British people are clamoring for a militant stand. Hence it is more than likely that he does at last mean it.

The Offside Driver

In Baltimore, Richmond, New York and other places they have drives against him. But not in Charlotte. He is the fellow who rushes up as the green light turns to red, and keeps on going until the rear end of his car is well past the white line. The fellow who keeps on going until, jamming on his brakes, he stops straight across the line of pedestrian movement, who comes all the way up to the corner and sits there with his wheels set to dash around it the moment the light begins to change again. The man who makes pedestrians circle around him and go out into the stream of the traffic going the other way and risk their necks to get across the street.

A nice guy you see. A considerate soul, who only makes pedestrians say naughty words. A man who does not think he owns the earth--not at all. Only the portion of it that he needs to the exclusion of everybody else.

Anyhow, Charlotte seems to think so. For while the cops in a lot of other towns are closing down this kindly soul, here they do not even glance at him as he plays his little game with the limbs of other people.

A Cruel Proposal

The prospect of the unhappy minority called bachelors grows gloomier and gloomier. At our last writing, we recorded that the Georgia Legislature had under advisement a bill to sock them with an annual tax of a hundred bucks a head, and that the Tennessee Legislature had one to outdo even Mussolini by grabbing $1000 per annum from each of them, under penalty of being confined in the dungeons. What was worse, we said, the legislators were being deluged with demands from females to let bills be passed, and it looked as though the boys might as well decide at once between a wife and the police line-up. And then came Delaware to join the procession with a bill which would impose an annual tax of $100 a head on the lads between 30 and 35, $150 on those between 35 and 50, and $200 for those over 40.

The last provision seems to us to be about tops in fiendish sadism--and was undoubtedly invented either by a woman or a badly henpecked husband. Nothing is plainer than that a man past 40 has little chance of matrimony even if he felt that way. By that time his hair and his teeth have pretty well fallen out, his eyes grow rheumy, his waistline sags, and the pretty girls have all taken to calling him "Uncle" or "that old fuddy-duddy, pful!"--unless, indeed, he is rolling in jack, which, considering that, as is well known, he has invariably misspent his youth at poker, whisky, beer, wine, women, and song, is in the nature of the case a rare thing. The poor old boy's fun is all over. All he has left is his freedom, which he should be left to enjoy in peace. What! would they drive him into the clutches of some sour old maid or decrepit widow with nine children--the only people who would have him? Perish the cruel thought. Ourselves, we rather think that, instead of being hounded with taxes, he ought to be endowed as a sort of monument to the cunning of the human mind and restraint of the human will. For in this woman's world any man, masters, who is not halt, lame, blind, spavined, and deaf and whose face would not stop a freight train--any such man who gets past 40 still a bachelor is dang good, just plain dang good!


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