The Charlotte News

Wednesday, June 1, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Last evening, as we thought first about going out to do some running and biking, a thunder boomer came up, and so instead we changed our plan and mowed the grass, admittedly, we are shamefaced to say, with a fossil fuel burning machine, albeit the push kind and of only one horsepower, so only about a quarter of a gallon did we consume in our 45-minute task. (And we make a point to do it as irregularly as we can. You might think about that statement some.) We have a manual pushmower, without a motor except for our exertion of force upon it, which on occasion we use, though not nearly enough. One of these first days we are going to figure a better way even to mow the grass using neither manual pushmower nor fossil fuel burner. (The electric mowers are one way, but they aren't very efficient at this juncture in our experience.) Whatever the case though, we'll be damned if we shall give in to that riding contraption which so many use and which is only going to make one fatter and less fitter while corrupting the atmosphere as well. If you do, remember how much that thing is costing our planet every use, around the country, especially since they are not regulated as to emissions, as are cars. It's a drop in the bucket, of course, to the car, the truck, the SUV, but every little bit saved helps. And there ought at least be some form of emission regulation on them, too. In any event, the thunder boomer started, but it did not start to rain until we had done with fully mowing the grass--and we were not struck by the lightning.

"Freedom Means--Freedom"--seems we encountered this fellow a few days ago--again brings up the mind-tickler on the gent or lady who takes to the stump at some place and rips into this or that group of aliens or Reds, or what-not, or simply the time-worn generics "outside agitators" or "them"--whether them be Republicans or Democrats (though if "they" are Nazis, we'll accept that condemnation cheerfully, ourselves)--and starts to talk about eliminating them from our midst or provoking them, they being less than human and thus disentitled to that which all else of us are. (Nazis are not truly human, see, as history amply demonstrated 60-70 years ago and thus it is properly ascribable to anyone seeking to emulate them that they, too, are only some distant cousin, not our anscestor. Yet, they, too, are quite mutable into something certainly human.) Of course, the gent or lady has every right to say it, as long as action is not unleashed behind the words.

We still hear such stuff occasionally. The hysteria presently over border security is at base little more, in our estimation, than an attempt over a period of years to whip such propaganda to another common enemy--especially since we have "won" the fight against our former common enemy, Iraq, and that one therefore no longer appears appealing to the people to satiate the need.

So find us another one to hate and against whom to demonstrate our rancor. Always that, isn't it? Someone on whom to cast the petty grievances of which we all abound daily. Someone to cast out as our personal whip-demon.

We think we'll go mow the backyard now.

Danse Macabre

At least 248 people got up in the United States Monday morning with no thought of death in their minds, and came to violent ends before the day was over--by lightning, by cloudburst, by fire, by drowning, and above all by traffic accident.

Ah well, it's trite enough to say it, but we are most precariously poised and most fragile little blobs of little plasma jelly, and the old medieval representations of the danse macabre, with the grinning skeleton tapping the knight as he rode out in glory from his castle, the banker in his counting room, the lover as he kissed his sweetheart, were true enough. We live always with the grizzly presence at our elbow, and, alone among creatures, we have the dubious faculty of foreseeing that he'll certainly get us soon or late. Fortunately, though, we are, by and large, an incorrigibly cheerful and hopeful race, and, as W. H. Hudson once observed, do not ever quite believe in the thing for ourselves until the very moment when we hear his stoaty feet rushing upon us.

Winborne to Winborne*

When Hugo Black, then Senator and chairman of the Senate Lobby Committee, virtually rifled the files of the administration's political antagonists to see what he could get on them, the country didn't like it a bit. When Senator Minton inherited Black's inquisitorial place and, later, the right to examine income tax returns just to see what he could dig up on anybody who should be so bold as to oppose the New Deal, some of our most ordinarily restrained commentators, such as Walter Lippman, held up their hands in holy horror.

This assumed authority of public servants to vilify and ridicule private citizens on any old grounds is, on the face of it, an exceedingly dangerous tendency, and we are starting to see it exemplified in North Carolina. It was exemplified, all right, in State Utility Commissioner Winborne's disclosure of the size of his opponent's electric bills in 1932 and 1937. The point Mr. Winborne made was a telling one, to be sure: but it was privy information that he was capitalizing on, information that he had either been given access to in his official capacity or which he was prevented ethically from using because of that same official capacity.

We are going to vote for Mr. Winborne, if that is pertinent information, but we shan't do it with any greater pleasure because Winborne the Utilities Commissioner has nudged Winborne the candidate and told him a secret on his opponent.

From the Bottom*

The Douglas Administration has not favored a slum-clearance project for Charlotte, arguing that the undertaking would be too costly and that the city has no funds for such an enterprise. The Mayor has also pointed out that by and large Federal housing projects have built too expensively for the slum-dwellers supposed to be benefited.--From a story in Monday's News.

On the last count, the Mayor is not to be contested. Cameron Shipp showed conclusively in his Colliers article that not a single slum-dweller had moved into the slum-clearance houses built by the Government. The rent's too high, and has to be because the houses cost too much. But if the Federal Government moves in too grandiose a way its slum-clearance wonders to perform, there is another way, and it is the way any decent city ought to take without having to be tempted by a Federal subsidy or a survey or anything else.

That way is to lift the blighted areas out of the mud and the darkness. To condemn as uninhabitable houses which actually are uninhabitable. To condemn as fire hazards houses which actually are fire hazards. To condemn as insanitary houses which actually are insanitary.

And where would their occupants move? That is not the City's look-out. Such slum-clearance as we are talking about would be done in the public interest, the interest of public health and public safety and public order, without a vestige of paternalism towards the slum-dwellers. It would be reversing Federal policy, which causes fine apartments to materialize in the hope that slum-dwellers, somehow, will be able to occupy them. This policy would be to cause obscene hovels to disappear simply because they were no longer tolerable on the landscape of a self-respecting community.

Site Ed. Note: Meanwhile, here's a suggestion we thought about evening before last while out riding our bicycle, like Orville and Wilbur, through the neighborhood in which we grew from a little tyke to adolescence. We shall not go into detail just now as to the specific means by which this idea came to us, though it was in itself interesting. Involves hieroglyphs on the street, walking over a bridge in the semi-dark of a deserted park where we once attended school, stopping midway, suddenly to find ourselves transported to a Japanese landscape elsewhere, perhaps one seen in A.K.'s pieces some time ago or the Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, looking to one side of the bridge at the seemingly perfectly still water while on the other side, to which the water passed continuously underneath that bridge, to be struck in our ears by the gentle sound of the babbling brook, the flow being made manifest only by the charting of the waters over and around the rocks in the stream, added to all of which, by the hieroglyphs, was a 1927 small replica of the Washington Monument, once useable in the town as street signs. The idea is to use existing things, city fire hydrants in particular, to generate hydro-electric power via small underground generators sufficient for the power needs of the area ordinarily serviced by the hydrant. The hydrant pressure, always constant anyway, is simply utilized in circularity, without expending the water, like a water wheel, to turn the chipmunks, or as the chipmunks, as you please.

We have no idea whether it will work, mind you, or whether it is entirely practical, but it seems rational enough. And since we need to do something to prevent the slow erosion of all that is, we had better make firm beginnings now at the basest and most local of levels, not wait for some purple-haired genius elsewhere to come up with the grand technological fix--such as, after the flood, irradiating the whole place and shipping everyone off in a big Hummer to Mars.

So either think of a good reason, Mr. Engineer, why it won't, or start putting it to the city water commissioner in combination with the power producer for your community. Start at Georgia Power & Light, or perhaps at the Massachusetts power cooperatives of which we've heard, or maybe over in the old Tennessee Valley, we suggest, for some ideas, as they seem to have had some good ideas and receptivity to good ideas about developing alternative energy resources in recent years, from what we have read and heard.

Anyhow, that's what we think about sometimes when we're out running and biking. We wade in the water. Harder to think like that within the hustle and bustle of traffic while piloting a motor vehicle.

And if he doesn't, thinks it's just all whacky, keep it all as it is and all will be swell, lasted a hundred years since Edison did his stuff, good enough for him--well...

He Must Like the Recessions

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the few proposals ever made by the President which both of North Carolina's Senators turned down. Generally, Bailey has gone along on foreign policy and Reynolds on domestic policy, but along on this they each positively refused to go.

That was in 1934, and there were plenty of arguments in favor of the mammoth project, in spite of what the railroads, the Eastern Seaboard port interests, the Mississippi Valley Association and the utilities had to say against it. But that, we say, was in 1934, and meanwhile we have learned a lot more about the President than we even suspected then. We know, for one thing, that he is not above asking Congress to appropriate money extensively for navigation, flood control, irrigation and fertilizer manufacture when it is primarily public power production that he is after. We know that this fixation of his has something more than a billion dollars of the utilities' money scared off from undertaking needed new construction--at a time when it would do a wondrous amount of good.

And we know that at the fag-end of this Congressional session, with elections in the offing, the Senate is not going to distract itself with the tedious business of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway. Hence, with the matter hanging over until next session at the earliest, the first effect of the President's revival of the project will be to make the utilities even more scared than they are at present. This hardly appeals to us as a good way to start the ball of investment in employment rolling again.

Freedom Means--Freedom

This is impolitic, but it illustrates so perfectly the popular misconception of freedom of speech that we are bound to use it.

The principal Memorial Day address here was delivered by a preacher who offered a five-point plan for perpetuating the freedom for which our World War soldiers died. Point No. 2:

Drive from our midst propagandists who, under the guise of free speech, are trying to destroy our confidence in our present government and sway us toward an autocratic form.

Now, obviously, that would be on its face an abridgement of free speech, hence an abridgement of a democratic privilege, hence itself an effort to sway us toward a form of government no less autocratic because it happened to be called democratic. Besides, who would determine what was gospel and what was propaganda? And who would do the driving from our midst? The Government? Why, then, messires, you would have precisely what they have in the dictatorships of the world--a tight little censorship which perpetuated itself by limiting the speech of the people to Yea, Yea, with excommunication for those non-compliant spirits who sought to utter a simple Nay.

Site Ed. Note: Another version of the statement quoted below from Matthew 10:27 goes: What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. That representation, changing the first clause from the second person to the first, changes the whole meaning of the entire statement.

Yet, are they not both, in their separate ways, equally salutary?

That is what we mean, Pilgrim. It's all poetry, all of life, even the Bible, not literally the literal words of God, to be hung on as if each and every syllable was perfect or even understandable to our modern ears in some parts. But, those who drafted it were indeed poets, pastoral poets, of a high and estimable order, with clarity of spiritual understanding.

To attempt exegetically to understand such things is fine, as long as one tempers that understanding with the notion that the understanding could be indifferent to what was meant by it, especially if one did not perform so well in understanding the language in which it is written in the first instance; but even if one did, to approacheth the matter with caution, and with due regard for the various changes made through translations in time. What makes sense in reason, ultimately.

Can one carve exceptions into certain absolute proscriptions? Killing in self-defense, for instance. But then one must determine what truly is self-defense, that is, under the laws of this country, generally the right to use like force against like force which is reasonably perceived to be immediately in the offing. Someone pulls a gun and couples it with words or actions which a reasonable person would interpret as a threat of use of the gun on yourself or someone else within range of that gun, then the right of self-defense or defense of the other comes into play to allow the use of even deadly force, that force necessary and reasonable under the circumstances to repel the apparent use of force by the initiator of the action. (Applies well as between nations also.) But what if you are wrong and the gun was an authentic looking replica, not an actual gun? Or that you thought the bulge in the pocket was a gun, but instead... Still, the reasonable person standard applies and the jury would have to see the gun (or the gun in the pocket, as 'twere) and determine how real and menacing it all looks to them under the circumstances of the moment. So there you are.

That is not, however, based on the Bible, but rather an interpretation of long experience by the law to fit suitable rules to ward off the worst of the occasional basest nature of mankind.

To try to take a particular translation and literalize every single verse, carefully and perfectly memorized, whether the Bible, poetry, the law, or any other thing in written or spoken words, leaving it out of its whole contextual fabric in the doing, is not only foolhardy in our estimation, but in the end likely to drive either the first or the second or third person, or all three, in one's midst quite crazy as bedbugs trying to sort it all out to the point where one basically could do nothing at all, for the Bible (or whatever else it is becoming which is being reduced to an abstractum thusly) prohibits doing everything, or the converse, that forgiveness enables thus everything--in the end enabling the literal killing of the witch...which would undoubtedly turn out to be the first or second or third person, the one who, for instance, the Memorial Day speaker referenced above wanted to eliminate, just as Hitler began fervently condemning the scapegoat to exhort the exhortable, more so by the numbers as economic conditions worsened, to new unity in nationalistic pride in Germany in the beerhalls in 1923.

Good rule of thumb: Be reasonable in speech, in interpretation thereof, even if you can't read or understand the language. And reason is not to say: "Well, I just do what Bossman tells me to do." For, like as not, Bossman in that instance would be a Nazi or you would be willing and have no perceived inhibition regarding the ability to think for yourself in every circumstance, based on the particular training you have for the job you are doing. Nor is reason necessarily always to be polite, especially when confronted with some iron-bound and willing Nazis. Anyhow...

From the House Tops*

Since the sudden death of Charles E. Barnhardt last week, expressions have been coming to us of his life and works. He was known, of course, as an upright and devoted man, one to be counted on to do his share and more in any worthwhile undertaking, but it now appears that he was, either by choice or by nature, self-effacing in his charitable, civic and religious activities, and that the extent of his good deeds was known only to those who happened to be closely associated with him.

And that is a double distinction, the first for his generosity and sympathy, the second for his wholly understandable reticence at revealing them. But in the end, these things are known of a man. As Jesus told the disciples, Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the house tops.

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