The Charlotte News

Tuesday, December 19, 1939


Site Ed. Note: Below is the last editorial by Heywood Broun, and Cash's comment and lament on his passing in "Heywood Broun".

We cannot help but note the coincidental passing yesterday, on Christmas, 2006, of James Brown, also apparently of pneumonia. (For those not familiar with the pronunciation, Broun is pronounced as "croon", despite similar spelling to Brown.) Mr. Brown brought joy to millions of listeners as surely as Mr. Broun did to millions of readers through their respective and very different careers. "I Got You (I Feel Good)" is an enduring song, just as good as "I Got Stung", with lasting feeling of power to it, though perhaps not for everyone's bag. We liked it though back in our Youth, when all the wind was slashing and driving through us.

Similarly, "Altar's Light" by Mr. Broun.

Both men sought peace; both men enjoyed life to the fullest, it would appear. We don't endorse the apparent vices of either man, but we don't propose to judge them either, as we each, when we consider it, pass our time on the planet in various ways and means, and as long as we do not do it destructively, who is to judge?

We ourselves prefer the notion of the "inner light" to that of doing all things in order to taste experience of all things. But some prefer the cracking open and tasting the seeds of the pomegranate. We were taught that the pomegranate, when shellacked and presented as a decorative item, is a nice thing at which to look, with all its particoloured display on its rind, but not to be cracked open. In that appreciation, there comes the miraculous.

But not all find that track in life, and to those, life is simply lived, and chronicled, for better or worse, in daily habit. (Don't we all, to one degree or another, crackers of the pomegranate or not? Unless, that is, we are dead.)

Yet the simple can be appreciated from either gestalt, and these men who lived by their outer lights to one degree or another, both appreciated that simplicity of life and its mystery obviously, too, and sought to communicate through their art, the blessings provided each in his time. And in that they both deserve our respect--and peace to both for the inspirations to many beyond merely themselves. They did not destroy.

Once, about fourteen months ago, we found ourselves commenting obliquely about Mr. Brown's trail of fire once, in relation to a not dissimilar story of a local copper shooting out a fleeing suspect's tires, only to have it turn out to be a News carrier.

Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Broun, in their respective ways, carried the News.

For more on Jim Massey and his moonshine ring operating with impunity, probably tolerated by the contributions to the fishbowl operated out of some hotel at the behest of some local pol on the take-tick, see "Black Daniel", October 15, 1939.

Here's another little ride on the Reading: We discovered a misprint of an apparent misprint a little while ago here on Boxing Day, 2006: it is "partinent", not "pertinent", in Mr. Broun's December 12 editorial, the wind, that is, which was part of the hurricanes in Connecticut, Florida, and in his own backyard. Whether printed that way originally in Mr. Broun's piece, or merely set to type in error that way at The News, by the debil in prints, we shall let you figure for yourself, you of other places in the links of syndication. But here's another clue for ya'll: "Bambi", too, is partinent, maybe especially when you grow up in a small apartment, where one learns quickly that many things are pertinent to understanding, relatively speaking, one's universe in relativity, that is, sometimes lending itself even to impertinence, in part anyway. And, we had never read the December 12 piece before a few days ago. So, make of it what you will, rapscallion cynic, cur-dog, bane's breath of wolf-newt's stew.

Let's see, what does the second one bringeth? (It's for those who didn't get what they wished for on the first day? Did you?)

Incidentally, we figer that Driver mentioned in "Narrow Squeak" must have been pretty Smart, pretty danged smart, to put the hammer down like 'at, and use the gearbox to slow 'er down that way just in time, as she come into town, so as no one would be hurt down where we used to go at the A&P. That way, though all the bananas got spilt, as well as the milk, there was no need, fortunately, for anyone, save the baby, to cry over it. We bet you couldn't even hear the tars squeal as she rolled to an honest stop, load intact, goods delivered, right on time.

Altar's Light

By Heywood Broun

A news dispatch from Paris says that the authorities have decided that midnight Masses may not be celebrated in any of the churches of the city during the Christmas season. It is explained that it would be impossible to keep the light from filtering out through the great stained-glass windows of a cathedral. A candle by a shrine sheds a beam which is too broad for the warring world in which we live. If the figure of the Christ child were illuminated it might serve as a beacon for the way of wise flying men from the East. And their gifts would not be gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Once again the hand of Herod is raised for the slaughter of the innocents. But those things which were are with us now. I've seen men and women moved by devotion into such a mood that they felt themselves not only followers but contemporaries in the life of Jesus. To them his death was a present tragedy and Easter morning marked a literal triumph.


And to those who are like-minded there lies reassurance in the revelation of the past. Herod was a ruler who for a little time had might and power vested in himself. His word was absolute and his will was cruel. As captain over thousands he commanded his messengers to find and kill the newborn king. An army was set in motion against an infant in a manger.

But though the hand of Herod fell heavily upon Bethlehem and all the coasts thereof, Joseph, the young child and his mother escaped into Egypt. "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentations and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be consoled, because they are not." The blood of the young was poured upon the ground even as it is being shed today. And it may well have seemed, some 2,000 years ago, but there was no force which could stay the ravages of the monarch and his minions.


Around the child there stood on guard only Joseph and Mary, three wise men and shepherds from the field who had followed the course set for them by a bright star. Death came to Herod, and the bright star was a portent to the perfect light which was to save the world from darkness. The light of the world was not extinguished then, and lives today and will again transfix the eyes of man with its brilliance.

In the dark streets of Paris on Christmas Eve, even as in the little town of Bethlehem, a star will animate the gloom. The call comes once more to kings and shepherds to journey to the manger and worship at the shrine of the Prince of Peace. Quite truly the civil authorities of Paris have said that it is impossible to black-out the light which shines from the altar.


If I were in France I would go at midnight to the little island on the Seine and stand before Notre Dame de Paris. At first the towers of the great Gothic structure might seem to be lost in the blackness of the night. And it has been ruled that no congregation shall raise its voice to welcome tidings of great joy. But then I think all the windows will take on magnificence, and that the air will resound with the message which has been given to the sons of men, and will be offered against the fellowship of all mankind. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men." And that choral cry will rise above the hum of Herod's grim messengers. It will be much louder than the crash of guns and the roar of cannon. No hymn of hate can prevail if we will only heed the eternal cadence of the Christmas carol--

Narrow Squeak

Albemarle Nearly Finds Out What Oil Bombs Can Do

It was a little faster than Mr. Maxwell's 45 miles an hour that oil truck was traveling on the way down the hill that leads into Albemarle on the road from High Point. The drive shaft had broken, the air brakes had failed to work, and the huge inflammable projectile was more and more imitating a shell from the guns of a super-super warship as she hurtled down, with Driver Eleks hanging desperately to the wheel.

At 70 she took a curve. She was leaking now. Eighty miles came up on the speedometer, 100--then slowly, slowly, as the road leveled out and climbed toward the hill in the middle of Albemarle, she slackened, came to rest at last squarely in the middle of the town's business district, her dangerous cargo oozing now.

They called the wrecker to move her away, but she broke loose, rolled backward through the shop window of an A&P grocery store. Somehow, mercifully, she still did not take fire, and they hauled her to a safer berth.

But suppose she had? It would certainly have meant the end of the store, and quite probably of every soul in it. Possibly, it might have destroyed the whole business district, dozens of lives.

Some day, when we have burned up a town and lost some lives, we may begin to think seriously on the advisability of permitting such hazards to exist.

Heywood Broun

Cut Off Before His Time, He Had A Very Full Life

It is curious to remember that in a column the other day Heywood Broun observed that "life in full function can be had only by those who are ready to accept death." Heywood made no bones about the fact that he was afraid of death, loved whimsically to poke fun at himself or his not exactly heroic emotions when he visited the trenches in France during the last war. But in the end he met with his accustomed geniality, jesting until the last.

In the case the fullness of life was his in large measure, for all the fact that he was cut off nineteen years before the Biblical three score and ten, and twenty-nine before the portion that comes by reason of strength. He had distinction all his adult years. He had money--and confessedly liked it. He had the joy of knowing that few living men could beat him at charming and graceful writing. And he had a large and healthy zest for play--loved contact with sweaty athletes in the locker rooms, to see the ponies run, with his money on them, to go to the theater--satisfied to the hilt. He had the private courage to do the things he really liked and to say the things he believed and felt. And at the end, he could repeat De Bergerac's boast as to his plume. He never bent it to anyone at all when a conflict over an idea was at stake.

Altogether a pleasant and well-filled span. And rounded out at last by the issuance of the strain of awe and reverence which had always been in him, into acceptance of the Church. Perhaps in his heart of hearts, he accepted death, too.

On Its Merits

Tariff Question Begs For Non-Partisan Treatment

Under fire by Republicans (some Democrats) in the session of Congress which begins in a couple weeks are going to be Secretary Hull's reciprocal trade agreements. Already there's talk of compromise by the Administration so as to preserve at least a vestige of this trade expansion program.

Time was when the chief point of difference between the two parties was the same tariff argument. Indeed, it was one of the things that led to the schism between the industrial North and the agricultural South. And so, having become almost a traditional party issue, it is inevitable that it will be approached again in a partisan spirit.

That will be too bad, for if there's any question which calls for reason instead of rancor, it is this of trade policies. It should not, obviously, be left to the chance of political division, nor ought the details of tariff-making to be a legislatorial assignment. They are far too complex and involved.

A far better and more trustworthy solution would be for Congress to create a bi-partisan commission to examine the problem in all its phases, and, with its report to go on, to define a policy for the Executive branch of the Government to follow. Even then, to be sure, there would be no guarantee this that sheer politics and self-interest would not dominate Congressional action, but at least the country would know on which side lay the weight of evidence.

In Armor*

We Present The Portrait Of A Righteous Man

Jim Massey, of the bald and shining dome, is plainly a righteous man.

Jim, the colored laird of Long Street, has had his troubles with the Law. That is, he has been arrested many times. Cops have come into court and warned that they found quantities of liquor on Jim's premises, and that by common reputation he kept the stuff for sale--on how many occasions the memory of man is unfit to recall. Nor is that all. Other colored gentlemen have alleged even more horrendous things against Jim--that he took pot shots at them or cracked them over the head with lethal weapons.

But through it all Jim has walked as Daniel in the lion's den. Never once has he gone to the roads. Still, it never seems to stop. This very moment Jim is under a suspended sentence and another indictment for selling the oh-be-joyful without benefit of clergy.

All of which is set down merely by way of reflecting that by this time the men whose consciences were in the least flecked with sin would have begun to wilt, to grow hangdog and furtive, to flee from any contact with the Law as from Satan. But not Jim.

Jim not only has his troubles at the hands of the law, but he has them also at the hands of his wife's pappy, Randolph Mason. He had them Sunday night. Randolph, Jim heard, had a gun--and Jim drew a logical inference. Did he, then, cower at home, as it were between the devil and the deep blue sea? Not so. He called the dev--we beg your pardon, the cops. And they went out and fetched in to the hoosegow not only Randolph, but Randolph's daughter, Clara, and one Big Boy Wright. Yesterday, Randolph went to the gang for six months. And Clara and Big Boy paid fines. While Jim sat at home and licked his chops.

Long ago the author of Proverbs said:

The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.


It Runs Against The German Claim Poison Gas Was Used

The Nazi claim that the British hurled mustard gas shells into the Graf Spee is already beginning to drop out of sight, and our guess is that it will be quietly forgotten--until the Nazis need it to justify some use of the illegal weapons on their own account.

We have no direct proof, of course, that the British did not use such a weapon, and war is a grim business. Moreover, the British certainly have not always been scrupulous in their methods, as when they sicced American Indians into pillaging and killing American white civilians all along in the years from 1775 to 1814.

Nevertheless, unless the Nazis make good on their promise, and allow a genuinely neutral board of competent medical men to inspect the alleged victims of the gas while the Graf Spee is still in Montevideo harbor, their claims will get no credit. For in the absence of direct proof, the only thing we can have recourse to is the weight of probability. And that is quite deftly against the Nazis.

We know that the British have apparently leaned over backward in this war to convince the world of their humane intent. We know that the Nazis claimed the British had sent the Poles gas shells for use against the Germans, that they had been used--but that no neutral observer has confirmed this. We know that the Nazis themselves regularly practice horror--and practice it in Spain, in Poland, are practicing it on a wholesale scale in the latter country right now. And that the lie is admittedly the basis of the policy of the men at the head of the Nazi Government. So if they want belief, they shall have to furnish positive and indisputable proof.

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