The Charlotte News

Friday, December 15, 1939


Site Ed. Note: Since Mr. Broun hereafter quickly became ill and passed away on December 18, we offer this, his last Christmas piece, from this date, and the only one to appear in The News in this year of the beginning of the war.

And, we stress, we had never seen the piece before this night, Christmas Eve, 2006.

So what? you grousing cynic may ask. What difference does that make? Just what is it you are trying to say by that?

Well, not much really.

We could link you around here to some things; but you will find it out soon enough on your own, if haven't you already, should you read it.

In any event, it is our little offering at Christmas, from us to you--at this beasty, brangling, mutton time of year. May all your problems in the one to come be little ones, for which the time is most apt anyway.

Make of it what you will.

We begin tomorrow our twelve days of celebration. Let's see. We always forget. What doth the first one bring? Is it a pomegranate? Well, we'll have to look that up again. Hopefully not four Gestapo leaders.

Christmas story: The best gift we ever got for Christmas was a book. We didn't know it at the time, but there it is. What was the title? you may inquire. What matter that? we may respond. We read it, and we think at least at the time, we understood it. And at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.

By the way, we liked that new album out last month, "Love". It's not a'tall, in our estimation, a moustache. Rather, it is a symphony of the medley which is the song which was sung. And, it turns us on.

We ourselves, we confess, back in 1975, July 'twas, just at the same time we first ever heard the recording at this site, we took our sound-on-sound-on-sound thingamabobber, unplugged the motor to the turntable so we could spin it backwards with the pickup still in play, by-audio, and had some similar fun, splicing together a medley of that same group's song. Indeed, at times, you have read in our notes, should you have read them, some of the results of that week-long exercise that July. Let's see; here's a sample: "Tuesday's on the phone to me, oh yeah... Friday night arrives without a suitcase, Sunday morning, creeping like a nun, Monday's child has learned to tie his bootlace, see how they run... See how they run, I'm crying... Cry, baby, cry... and I'll cry instead..." Well, you get the idea. We certainly couldn't claim to match the orchestration attendant with "Love", but we liked ours for good while, too. We'll be content to call ours a rough-cut transcendentally communicated through Time, or simply by some sheers of coincidence--or some combination thereof.

Doesn't really matter, for as a gent said in 1971, "Music is love, music is love, everybody's sayin' that music is love..." And so it is.

Merry Christmas, and a good night to ye. May your gift come true in the morn.

By the way, wethinks, ourselves, that the little tin doggie's name was Bambi. But that's just our opinion.

Should your child ever paint a white deer though, especially one with black spots on it, and the teacher become all upset, just show the teacher this little Christmas story; perhaps it will get through just what it is you are trying to say.

Child's Gift

By Heywood Broun

Quite often I reprint an old Christmas story about this time of year at my own request. I wish to have indulgence to do it earlier this year, because I have bronchitis. The story is called Frankincense and Myrrh.

Once there were three kings in the East, and they were wise men. They read the heavens, and they saw certain strange stars by which they knew that in a distant land the King of the world was to be born. The star beckoned to them, and they made preparations for a long journey.

From their palaces they gathered riches--gold and frankincense and myrrh. Great sacks of precious stuffs were loaded upon the backs of the camels which were to bear them on their journey. Everything was in readiness, but one of the wise men seemed perplexed and would not come at once to join his two companions, who were eager and impatient to be on their way in the direction indicated by the star.


They were old, these two kings, and the other wise man was young. When they asked him he could not tell why he waited. He knew that his treasuries had been ransacked for rich gifts for the King of Kings. It seemed that there was nothing more which he could give, and yet he was not content.

He made no answer to the old men, who shouted to him that the time had come. The camels were impatient and swayed and snarled. The shadows across the desert grew longer. Still the young king sat and thought deeply.

At length he smiled, and he ordered his servant to open the great treasure sack upon the back of the first of his camels. Then he went into a high chamber to which he had not been since he was a child. He rummaged about and presently came out and approached the caravan. In his hand he carried something which glinted in the sun.


The kings thought that he bore some new gift more rare and precious than any which they had been able to find in all their treasure rooms. They bent down to see, and even the camel drivers peered from the backs of the great beasts to find out what it was which gleamed in the sun. They were curious about this last gift for which all the caravan had waited.

And the young king took a toy from his hand and placed it upon the sand. It was a dog of tin, painted white and speckled with black spots. Great patches of paint had worn away and left the metal clear, and that was why the toy shone in the sun as if it had been silver.


The youngest of the wise men turned a key in the side of the little black and white dog, and then he stepped aside so that the king and the camel drivers could see. The dog leaped high in the air and turned a somersault. He turned another and another and fell over upon his side and lay there with a set and patient grin upon his face.

A child, the son of the camel driver, laughed and clapped his hands, but the kings were stern. They rebuked the youngest of the wise men, and he paid no attention, but called to his chief servant to make the first of all the camels kneel. Then he picked up the toy of tin and, opening the treasure sack, placed the last gift with his own hands in the mouth of the sack so that it rested safely upon the soft bags of incense.

"What folly has seized you?" cried the eldest of the wise men. "Is this a gift to bear to the King of Kings in the far country?"

And the young man answered and said, "For the King of Kings there are gifts of great richness--gold and frankincense and myrrh.

"But this," he said, "is for the Child of Bethlehem!"


Mr. Hoover Erred Only In The Last Move He Made

At the worst, Mr. Hoover was simply paying off an old score when he turned down President Roosevelt's offer, through Norman Davis, to make him "a sort of general manager" of relief for European war sufferers.

After all, the President certainly may be suspected of having at least part of one eye cocked toward politics. He realized that to have Hoover running that job by appointment from the Administration would redound to the benefit of the Administration and its prospects.

And Mr. Hoover once tried a little game of his own on Mr. Roosevelt--back in the interim between the election of the latter in November, 1932, and his taking office in March, 1933, when Mr. Hoover invited the President-elect to come right on in and share their responsibilities and (he didn't say this) the cussings and dead cats which had been making his life miserable. Mr. Roosevelt politely declined.

Then there is a good deal, too, in the argument that Mr. Hoover to accept this offer would be to interfere with his political activities. That might help the Democrats, too, though they swear that they want nothing better than for him to keep 'em up.

But Mr. Hoover did get his foot in it a little when he started out to raise a fund for Finland on his own account. It doesn't appear to be needed, and it seems to have got both himself and the Red Cross, which wasn't consulted in the first place, in an embarrassing position.

Another Flop

Red Tactics Land Mexican Peso On The Toboggan

The Communist regime of Senor Cardenas (native Indian style) seems to be working out no better than that of Mr. Stalin (Marxist style)--who presently is bogged down in Finland with an army big enough to overrun half the earth but which for some reason is failing to come off in practice.

Banks in Mexico City have suspended regular trading in the peso after it had lost 65 centavos in relation to the American dollar, to reach a level of 5.65 to the dollar. The government's Bank of Mexico entered the market in an attempt to ease the shock of the drop, but the best it had been able to do yesterday was to hold the peso at 18.25 nominal.

But this is only the culmination of a long decline. Ten years ago the peso, which in Mexico has a legal value of .75 grams of pure gold (49.8 cents American) was still fetching very nearly its face value in exchange.

What explains the latest decline is probably the fact that German imports of oil have virtually ceased since the war began, and that the British and French are contenting themselves with oil piped to the Mediterranean from Iraq, and letting Mexico's oil go hang for the present.

But what lies behind it ultimately is, of course, the long expropriation policy of the Cardenas regime. The Mexican Government got the main portion of its income (which stands back of the peso, a silver coin worth little intrinsically) from the oil properties of the British and American companies. When it grabbed them, it lost not only the revenues but also the markets of those companies, and on its own account has been quite unable to replace them. Result: no revenues to speak of, increasing unemployment, bad money.

Rash Leap

Ironpants Indulges In Some Harsh Charges

Ironpants Johnson in his column today seems to us to take a header straight off the deep-end. Over and over again he has complained angrily through that column against the charge that what makes him bitter against the Administration is that he is no longer a member of it, that he got the gate after the NRA flop. Such charges, he said, were grossly unfair. But today he sails into Ambassadors Kennedy and Davies and makes the charge, precisely, that their statements in regard to the "indispensability of the President" in wartime is dictated purely by the desire to hold on to their jobs.

Then he makes a more serious charge, more serious charges in fact. He says boldly that the President of the United States wants to take us to war, is plotting to grab the first chance to do it. The only evidence he can offer is hearsay, suspicion, and a gross stretching of the President's words at Chicago. It is a charge of bad faith on the part of the President. Unless there be any doubt, he proceeds expressly to say that the Administration is guilty of bad faith in the cases of Finland and Japan.

If the President of the United States wanted to take us to war, he could do it tomorrow. As Hugh Johnson ought to know very well, Congress has no such power of prohibiting executive action as he ascribes to it. The Constitution makes the President commander-in-chief of the army and the navy, and all Presidents have interpreted that to give them the right to make undeclared war when they judged it necessary. Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, everyone made undeclared war without asking Congress.

The whole charge is as irresponsible as the statement that the war in Europe and its outcome is "none of our damned business." The last is to say that it doesn't matter to us if the Nazis and the Reds become masters of half the world.

There is not the slightest evidence that we need to get into this war, or that the President contemplates it. The sole danger is that Japan might join the Nazi-Red axis, in which case, self-interest would require a careful re-examination of our position.

Close Shave

Doc Goebbels Coasts Near To Claiming Too Much

Herr Goebbels came very close to overplaying his hand yesterday.

Uruguay is one of the strongest Nazi sympathizers in South America, has long been used by the Nazis as a base of operations in their attempt to take over Argentina. It is, indeed, a perfect indication of where the sympathies of the two nations lie that the wounded British cruiser, Exeter, headed for Puerto Belgrano in Argentina for repairs.

But, under the Hague Convention No. XIII of 1907, there is still little doubt of Uruguay's legal right to allow the Graf Spee to remain in Montevideo harbor for repairs, provided she is definitely in distress.

Which brings us to Herr Goebbels. Yesterday he issued as from the German navy's High Command and through DNB, a communique for the consumption of the German people, concerning the battle off the Uruguayan coast Wednesday.

As Dr. Goebbels had it, the Germans had had all the best of the fight. Not only the Exeter had been put out of commission, but also the other British ships had been "severely damaged." And the Graf Spee? She "received some hits. For the moment the ship is in the harbor at Montevideo."

That plainly entitled Dr. Goebbels to the fur lined vanity case for masterpieces of understatement. But it might have been greatly embarrassing, if the British had chosen to press the argument against Uruguay that, under the official pronouncement of the German Government itself, it was impossible for the Graf Spee actually to be in distress.

War By Sea

Germans Concentrate On One Vulnerable Spot Of Britain

Six more British ships are reported to have been sunk by the Germans.

It is not so bad as it sounds. Britain began the war with 6,500,000 tons of ships, will build 900,000 tons in the first year of the war, more thereafter.

Nevertheless, the Nazis have concentrated on the true Achilles heel of England when they make their war by sea. If they are ever to defeat her, it plainly is going to have to be this way. The lightning stroke by land was tried out in 1914. It failed. And it has much less chance of succeeding now that the Maginot Line is in existence.

Moreover, victory by sea would be exactly the thing which the Nazis would like best. For a century the Germans have been violently jealous of England. The spectacle of a little island, with 50,000,000 people, ruling more than a fifth of the world has been particularly galling to a people which believes that it is the natural master of Europe and the world.

And, of course, it is England's sea power which makes that possible.

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