The Charlotte News
Saturday, January 1, 1938
Site Ed. Note: Being there, though, sometimes, is almost like not being there. As Ernie Pyle would suggest in his last never-finished editorial, from which comes the quotation in the note accompanying August 7, 1939. It is often the removed, distant observer, less entranced by the initial emotion and inexorably consequent repression than by death's witness, who can better sort out from recounted facts the objective approximation to truth on a given tragedy than the latter, even though an indispensable percipient witness to the event, the sine qua non from whom the basic facts may be filtered by the more objectively removed observer, processing analogy through the unpleasant looking glass of time and space.
The rest of the page is here.
Candidly, we don't care for the eighth day of Christmas. Perhaps, it's because it marks the end of holiday festivities for another eleven months, probably that. Perhaps, again because it marks usually, sidereally or somatically, that blah feeling of the beginning of bleak winter, probably that, too. Perhaps, also, it's residual of the days when it meant again returning to the bleak green walls of the institution after the two-week furlough from same, when we were young and in the institution, maybe most especially that, the coming of winter exams on the returns' heels. Though in that, we didn't fully appreciate then how good we had it. And, it was always ameliorated by the fact that the other inmates were in equivalent straits and given to giggle right along with us on it all, all that bleakness of winter, the darkness of the walls, the fond farewell to old Apollo for three months, the hope by the candlelight that he might find it in his warm heart to return, to fire the bleak green walls yet again with his bright yellow rays of beckoning springtime, flowers, and the maids finely blossoming again--ah yes, the maids. It was always good to see familiar faces again, too, upon the return to the institution, even if we found ourselves most days half ensconced by a feeling of somnolence in the winter days passing us by, the lonesome in the park passing us by or us passing them.
Nevertheless, we never have gotten, or forgotten, those eight maids on this day. And so, we have to wonder why, after so many of these eighth days have passed us by, they have yet to materialize before our eyes.
Well, but they say they are but representative of the eight beatitudes anyway, not actual maids. That is, the blessings for the poor in spirit, the mourner, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
That's all well and good. We support that and try to live by it every day of the year, not just on this day. But as to the last, the summation of the rest, as it were, show us anyone persecuted, and they are more likely than not to justify it on the basis of righteousness, and the persecutors, more likely than not, to claim the converse as the reason. And we have seen it play out thusly even within the confines of the legal system, in which we strive instead for the ideal of justice, but where the legal system has all too often been manipulated and polluted by unrighteous politics and money, or just plain liars who took acting lessons and are playing their role with unequalled zest as if auditioning for a part before one of those tv judges which proliferate for the entertainment value (and advertising dollar) of it all, that carnival of players within the justice system--by claiming things which never were, the bigger whopper, the better for them to tell to test the bona fides of their acting skills, and, so far, having gotten away with their lies, and so against all odds of the ideal, all too often thereby corrupting the whole.
So how does one tell who is the persecuted for righteousness and who the persecuted for unrighteousness, with so many liars floating about?
Who to bless and who not to bless?
Well, the Spanish Insurgents had their answer: find a Fascist leader with it all, it all nicely presented in black-and-white--even if the blackness was produced in stealth by some of the Whites, patterned on the burning of the Reichstag in 1933--and run with him. The Nazis had theirs. The Confederacy had theirs. Looking into and through the looking glass of time, of times past and times present, and realizing that in so condemning one group in favor of another, the result will inevitably, and thus evitably, always wind up thusly, we don't want to have anything to do with any of that, however sociable Adolf and his pals, or ol' Jeff and his pals, or ol' Lester and his pals, may have thought themselves.
So what then?
We think we'll settle for those eight maids--Maflo or no Maflo.
Incidentally, we passed by that same house where all the lights were lit a week ago and found it quite dark this night, somehow depressingly so. And that even though the neighbors still had some more modest lights lit.
We have a better suggestion: Burn one decor of your manifold decor, and quite nicely done in sum 'twas, we offer, for each day of the Twelve Days, through the whole season. Then, all will be well on the silent night.
We weren't carping at you or picking on you: just a casual observation among many by us of the herein. Peace to you. Noël. Sing thee, Noël.
Now, for those nine ladies dancing...
Let's Try "Please"*
America's weakness is bluffing, a belief that the spoken word, backed by nothing, will achieve an effect. Consider the matter of 1938 automobile licenses. The word was passed down by the State authorities, very firmly, that nobody would be allowed to operate an automobile in 1938 with one of the 1937 pieces of tin on it.
Here it is 1938 and you may look around and see the 1937 tags on automobiles merrily whizzing along.
Before the Christmas season started well, the Chief of Police said firmly that anybody who shot a firecracker in Charlotte would be arrested. How many have been arrested? Not one person, for shooting firecrackers only. Yet firecracker have been exploded all around the police station itself.
The automobile license people should say, "Please get your tags sometime before the first of March. Please do." And the Chief of Police should have said, "I wish you wouldn't shoot firecrackers. Please don't." There may not be more tags or less firecrackers, but at least the public generally would not get in the habit of ignoring threats.
Almost Like Being There
We saw Norman Alley's remarkable news film--from which were taken, incidentally, many of the pictures that had already appeared in your afternoon newspaper. We saw the gunning and sinking of a peaceful American craft steaming under the one-time security of the American flag. We saw the flight of the crew, through the Yangtze marshes, and we saw, moreover, plainly, the murder of helpless Chinese civilians, their babies and their aged, caught in the stroke of a swinish war.
We hear too of another war film, the one taken by Ernest Hemingway in Spain. And we hear of the Modern Museum of Art's new experiment in "documentary" pictures. These are not current events, but records of life and industry as lived here and now.
All of which means, we hope, that the cinema is about to come of age and that the enormous power of moving pictures may be put to a by-product a little more useful than the mere entertaining photographing of pretty curves and handsome male profiles.
The Panay pictures, some of the most remarkable war scenes ever made, are in themselves an international incident. They are the proof of what happened, indestructible, and beyond hearsay.
A Dumb Resolution
A resolution adopted by the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Jersey City "supports Mayor Frank (l'Etat, c'est moi) Hague without any reservations" in his attempt to keep the CIO out of the town by suspending the Bill of Rights. The reason advanced is simply, "We don't want them here." And after that comes a pious little recitation to the effect that "we are in favor of the preservation of legal rights of both Capital and Labor."
A thicker-witted performance than that it would be impossible to imagine. The first of "legal-rights" are precisely those guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and suspended by Hague--the right to free speech and free assembly. And what the resolution is saying, in chuckleheaded fashion, is that "we are in favor of those rights of which we are in favor--the ones we like." And if it were true that CIO generally is "communistic and un-American," what sort of Americanism is it that begins by suspending just those rights in which the essence of true Americanism lives?
But even more thick-witted is the failure of the Chamber of Commerce to recognize its own self-interest in the matter. If Hague can suspend the Bill of Rights as against Labor, a pro-Labor Mayor tomorrow can suspend it as against Capital. And the Chamber of Commerce, to be consistent, will have to like it.
Once more this planet, which seems to us to be so mighty and which in relation to the universe is infinitely less than a dust-mote is to it--once more this planet, in its eternal peregrination about the sun, has reached that hypothetical and non-existent place that by convention we have agreed upon to mark the beginning of a new year. And most weighty with wrong and sorrow is our little hunk of iron and mud as it starts again upon its everlasting journey. In Spain they continue the business of killing women and babies. And in China they continue the business of killing women and babies. And in all the lands, including this one, there is flux and uncertainty and fear, for both internal and external affairs.
And yet we lift up our heads and hope. We are a hopeful race, we little people who cling to this curious spinning ball. We have had to be, else we should long ago have gone the way of the diplodocus and the archeopteryx. A murderous and a slippery breed, certainly. But a breed, too, carrying in the little round containers that are our heads the vision and the dream and hope of ourselves as creatures clean and splendid walking in a world all fair to see. Things are most dangerously poised for that vision now. And still to the new year we lift up our heads as to the morning rising clear and silent after the night of storm and hope that it yet shall be so. And because we hope, perhaps it shall be.
Public Servant or Errand Boy?*
One admirable thing about Tar Heels is their love for and pride in their State. "Down homers," they call them in states to the north of this, for the very good reason that transplanted North Carolinians are always boasting that "down home we don't have any bad weather like this," or, "down home we have chicken every day and Sunday too."
This same pridefulness in the stay-at-homes has enabled the State to call upon really capable and outstanding men and women to serve it. It is no accident that North Carolina has had a succession of administrations in Raleigh that, while they may have lacked something of progressiveness and were always involved in half a dozen family fights going on simultaneously, has still managed to bring the Old North State out from the rear to the forefront of the South. And by the same token--and this is leading up to the point--successive Legislatures have muddled through to real accomplishment, primarily because each of these Legislatures had the interest of North Carolina close to its collective heart.
And in a case like that, in a case where devotion to the State is a saving characteristic, it would ill become so influential a county as Mecklenburg to send to the Legislature one pressing a purely local cause, one poorly equipped by experience, outlook and aptitude to bring any ideas of Statewide consequence to the melting pot that is a Legislative session. For that good reason, it is going to be our bounden duty to elicit sooner or later from Mr. Chester Morrison, who has announced for the Legislature, the pertinent information as to what he has to offer the State. If it turns out, as we suspect, to be nothing more than a White Ribbon, it is going to be our further opportunity to work tooth and toenail against election of anybody who comes not as a public servant but as errand boy to the drys.
Site Ed. Note: For further progressive statistics on the rapid rate of shipbuilding abounding in the world at the time, see "The New Armada", November 29, 1938.
Incidentally, that "8" beside Italy is our guess. The number is (and maybe, as with Japan at the time in fact, was) hidden in a shadow.
Busy Navy Yards
The chances of balancing the budget grow slimmer than ever (already they looked like the Thin Man's ghost) with the President's tacit announcement that he'll probably try to build the Navy up to full treaty strength without delaying to 1942 as had been intended under the Vinson Act. Already, from spending half a billion dollars a year through the years since 1933, we had upped the appropriations for 1938 to three-quarters of a billion. And the twelve ships he mentions will perhaps raise it to close to a billion. As witness the fact that the single capital ship North Carolina, now building, will cost $55,000,000.
Yet it seems difficult not to agree with the President that this piece of spending is justified--is perhaps even imperatively necessary. Everyone knows that what actually moves him is Japan's activities and particularly the fact that she is casting eyes more and more on Alaska--and the threat to the Monroe Doctrine raised by the Fascist European powers' flirting with the internal affairs of the South American states. On the face of it, indeed, we might seem to have the best of it in any case, since we already have 15 capital ships to 10 for Japan, 8 for Italy, and 6 for Germany, and since we have 89 craft of one kind or another building. But, actually, all of our capital ships are old and capable of no more than 23 knots speed, while those of the other nations are mostly new and much faster. We have a dozen heavy cruisers, like the Augusta, which are unmatched by those of any country. But on the other hand we are vastly inferior in light cruisers, submarines, and various auxiliary craft.
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