The Charlotte News

Tuesday, April 19, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Jackie Coogan, the subject of "Mother's Lament", was a well-known child actor of the 1920's silent era; later, in the 1950's and 60's, he acted, sometimes strangely, on tv.

"The Sum of the Parts" indicates perhaps, at first blush, a stark contrast in the general run of the citizenry today from that of 1938.

Or does it?

We think of the aftermath of September 11, 2001, where we certainly saw this same marked tendency toward action in the face of attack--perhaps far too much so, in our estimation, especially as it tended toward Iraq, a nation which, as a nation, had obviously nothing to do with the September 11 attack, and spawned the terrorists only to the same degree that a dozen other countries spawned or gave haven to the terrorists, including our ally, Germany, including, indeed, the United States itself. Or so the argument could be made, anyway, since the hijackers took their flying lessons unabated here, lived in various states before the attacks for a year or more, were allowed through security checkpoints in Boston with boxcutters in their possession, etc.

In any event, we say that there is an ostensible contrast between these times and those of 1938, at least as depicted in the editorial, because we don't go about typically punching each other in the face anymore, typically anyway. But, perhaps in simulating more of a British stiff upper lip sort of reaction among our male population these days, we also have developed a frustration pent up which takes vent in aberrant ways--notably, a high tendency developing in the past 25 years or so, and becoming ever more prevalent, to tattling on one another and, when not enough possessed of the fodder of a true tattle, setting up our friends and neighbors, accusing them of things for which the tattler and framer is most guilty, to satisfy that insatiate urge to tattle and pose as victim.

It is a tendency which beset Germany after Versailles.

So, when that piece mentions the fact that America had never in 1938 lost a war, at least when it wasn't fighting itself, meaning, we take it in that context, the Civil War, does it say something about us as we have come to be in the last 30 years or so?

Was Vietnam the equivalent of our Versailles?--that which became an emasculatory notion to those who placed undue emphasis to begin with on nationalism and patriotic zeal?

Hasn't it been the case that Iraq has become the symbol since 1990 of our favorite whipping post as an offered anodyne to that emasculation?

And so, having gone to the well once in 1991, come up a winner in short order and without great loss of American life, we, that is our more militaristically inclined government leaders, decided to go to that well yet again, to try to recoup dignity lost in the wake of September 11 and that sick punch to us all in the face?

Well, worth a ponder, perhaps.

Just as the punch back does no real good, save perhaps in dramatic depictions and novels, and accomplishes nothing except to invite yet another counter-punch, so, too, in the ways of countries.

But, then, should one turn the other cheek always, where our manhood?

Yet, have we the right, in determining to fight, to sit back and ask others to do our fighting for us, while we sit in relative comfort?

Ay, there's the rub.

Among Those Absent

The Index-Journal of Greenwood S. C., down where PWA Administrator Ickes and the Supreme Court are going to build a hydroelectric plant at Buzzard Roost, has come out with an excellent twelve-section special edition celebrating the beginning of work on the dam. At no small exertion, we turned through ever so many pages of this colossal newspaper to see--well, it sounds sort of silly, though we went to all that trouble solely to see if the Duke Power Co. had taken an advertisement in the Buzzard Roost Edition.

We beg to report that it had not. And if it had, we don't know what the power company could have said in its purchased space. "Congratulations to Greenwood County?" Now, that doesn't have a sincere ring about it. "Forward With Greenwood?" That wouldn't do. Some wag would have been certain to add the line--"And Without the Duke Power Co."

All in all, we suppose it is better that the power company stayed out. A joyous occasion such as Greenwood was celebrating is no place for the chief mourner.

Two Approaches

The coal mining industry, as everybody knows, is in a sour state. Employment is unsteady, the companies don't make any money except in the lushest times, the competition of oil and water (for producing electricity) is strong and growing stronger. So the Government stepped in.

It passed a law and set up a commission, and the first act of that commission, at present having to be reviewed, was to establish minimum prices for coal. Minimum in this instance is equivalent to higher, and this reflects the notion that seems somehow to obtain in our present Government--that if you can't sell enough coal at competitive prices, maybe it could at higher, fixed prices.

The sickest part of the coal business is the anthracite end, and it is so sick that not even Government dares to prescribe for it. The Mellon Institute, however, while anthracite mining was languishing fearfully, has been researching into the matter of heating with anthracite and has come up with heating equipment that burns anthracite and that requires no attention at all for weeks at a time--from Thanksgiving to Christmas, as the news story put it.

This is not to say that the new burner is perfected or that it will exactly suit the householder when it is. But the contrast in the Government's approach and in the engineering approach to the problem of anthracite does say, we believe, something very eloquent.

A Mother's Lament

Mama Coogan took the stand yesterday. She wept. She had, she said, tried to make a man of her son, Jackie. But no dice. Jackie was a bad'un and no doubt of it. To be sure, Jackie had perhaps earned $4,000,000 in his time. And to be sure, Jackie was broke now, and had never had any part of the $4,000,000 since he had come of age. But the law says the parent is entitled to the earnings of a minor child, and that the $4,000,000 was all earned before Jackie came of age. And because Jackie is a bad'un, it would never do for him to have any part of the $4,000,000. He'd go haywire in two months.

How hard Mama Coogan struggled to make a man of Jackie all the world knows. She took no chances on having him running about the streets and playing with other little boys who might teach him bad habits. Instead she sent him to work very early, that his energies might be occupied in well-doing. It is too bad that Mama Coogan should be disappointed in her high hopes and that Jackie should have turned out as she says he has. Still, all is not lost. Mama Coogan has the consolation of thinking that Jackie in his childhood earned more than a hundred ordinary men earn in a lifetime, and that she--and her husband, who is only Jackie's stepfather--have the $4,000,000.

The Old Doc's Pardon

It is a relief to know that Old Doc Townsend isn't going to have to serve a jail term, after all. Technically, he was guilty of contempt for the House of Representatives, and so there could be no recourse for him in the courts. But the sympathies of most decent people were with the Old Doc in the case rather than with the House. For it was manifest that he had ground when he argued that his own contempt of the House was only a fitting answer to contempt it had shown him as a citizen.

His old-age pension idea was obviously a nutsy one, and the House might have good cause for viewing it with sardonic contempt if that House weren't so given to spawning nutsy ideas of its own on its own account. But the lawyers who make up the great part of that body chose to turn their contempt, not on the idea, but on the old man personally. They strafed him with questions which suggested all too clearly that he was a thievish scoundrel. That, indeed, was only their usual manner with witnesses in the courtroom and the Old Doc seems to have taken it a great deal more to heart than men with more acquaintance with lawyers would have taken it. Still, they were not in a courtroom, but in the legislative chamber of the nation. The Old Doc wasn't an accused criminal but a citizen summoned to give information. And the thought of his serving a jail sentence for his quite natural, if naive, indignation was not a happy one.

The Sum of the Parts

There seem to be a great many people with the fixed conviction that this nation needs to be saved by law from its own aggressiveness. The neutrality act--which, by the way, is a flop of the first order--the proposed Ludlow anti-war amendment, and the sentiment for a navy adequate to the defense of our shores and no more, all these show an intent to bind our arms against the day we'll feel the will to raise them and strike somebody.

It is commendable that a revulsion against war is developing, but it must be conceded by those who are really realistic about it that a revulsion usually develops after every war of any consequence. That is perhaps the reason our wars are spaced at long intervals instead of coming one on top of another. And while this itself may be seized upon as an argument for capturing the peace mood and preserving it by statutes enacted while the mood is upon us, it mustn't be overlooked that the nation has never yet been licked in a war--except when it fought against itself--and that we are among the most vengeful peoples in the world. The doctrine of turning the other cheek has never obtained a slight foothold here, for all its incorporation in the Christian code. If you punch an American in the eye, you may confidently count on being punched in return--or at least on having the cops called.

Until the movement for national peace at almost any price is accompanied by a noticeable decline in respect for the manly art of personal self-defense, the movement for peace is foredoomed to get nowhere. We state it dogmatically, for it is so. A nation cannot rise above the characteristics of its individual citizens.


We do not think it matters a great deal one way or the other, but on the whole the school board seems to have done the sensible thing in voting to allow the students at Central High School to petition for the establishment of an ROTC unit there. The students appear to want it, and naturally enough--for adolescence is incurably fond of uniforms and parades. And, remembering some of those conventions we have watched wherein bald and romantic gentlemen cavorted pathetically and painfully we are convinced that it is wise to work off adolescent tendencies in adolescence.

Anyhow, a little military training is undoubtedly an excellent thing for both the bodies and the manners of youth; makes for alertness and precision; and, in the competition for rank, offers a healthy outlet for the energies of boys. Perhaps it does make in the general direction of regimentation, but not enough, we believe, to be more than negligible.

And as for the argument that it creates a love of war--that seems to be on a level with the argument which has it that a big navy will get us into war, quite as though the ships themselves had some evil volition in them. The war-making nations are one big drill and parade ground, to be sure. But primarily the obsession with drill and parade is the effect, not the cause, of a war psychosis. Germany, Italy, and Japan are warlike, first of all, because war is continually presented to them as a glorious and necessary instrument of national policy. And if it be granted that incessant military exercises do eventually turn back to become a secondary cause on their own account--why, the fact still remains that a few hours of drill a week is very far away from that.


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