The Charlotte News

Saturday, November 1, 1941


Site Ed. Note: An editorial, "Retaliation", appears today on the sinking of the Reuben James. The editorial counsels staying the course, steady convoying of aid to Britain, not entering into a retaliatory full-scale war, drawing off strength from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and thereby encouraging Japan to attack, the very thing, the editorial opines, which Hitler wanted. The editorial concludes by supporting the President's firm course of no change in American policy because of the sinking, despite its consequent loss of life, by far the greatest loss of American life thus far in the war. As we indicated, the initial loss estimate of 77 would increase to the actual 112.

It would by no means be the last, with the next nearly four years seeing 256,330 total American battle-related deaths from the war, more than the battle-related deaths of all Americans in all previous wars, including both sides of the Civil War, five times that of World War I. By comparison, Vietnam had 58,000 American deaths.

A letter to the editor meanwhile issues a poem on the merits of the folk song... "A folk song captive is treasure indeed," it begins. Well, indeed. We might have changed that last little phrase from "of fears" to something else, maybe "its words", for instance, or "steadfast illusion", but so it is, and so we leave it be in the author's spirit as it was.

Incidentally, Stephen Decatur died in 1820 dueling with Commodore James Barron, his avowed enemy, after Barron was disciplined in 1808 for negligence by a board of inquiry with Decatur as a member. The resulting strip of Barron's rank for five years was based on the loss of his ship, the Chesapeake, to the British Leopard in a battle off Norfolk on June 22, 1807, the ship having been fired on after being halted for search--one of the incidents which eventually led to the War of 1812. Decatur had stood in the way of Barron's return to active service in the Navy. Barron had also served in the Tripolitan War in the Mediterranean as had Decatur. Whereas Barron became a Commodore out of that war, Decatur, despite his heroics in scuttling the commandeered Philadelphia out of Tripoli, the incident in which his life was saved by Reuben James, was made only a captain. Perhaps, there lay the jealous seeds of the dispute between Barron and Decatur.

Decatur, at the close of the War of 1812, in January, 1815, after the war had actually ended without his knowledge, had himself sailed in command of the President against some British ships, outrunning three, and defeating a fourth, but then being forced to surrender to others giving chase.

It all leads us to wonder whether Reuben James, by saving Decatur's life, ultimately did a good thing or not. But, one cannot predict the future course of human conduct over which one has no control, and so we conclude that he did the right thing; whether good or bad for the future, was up to Decatur only, not Reuben James. If you disagree, ask any criminal defense attorney for his or her view.

As to whether Barron should have been stripped of his rank for negligently allowing his ship to be searched rather than firing ab initio on the British ship seeking to perform the search, we think the answer is obvious: he should not have been held accountable, any more than Decatur should have been for the incident after the end of the War of 1812, threatening to start the whole war over again. Nothing happened to Decatur.

Whether the two men should have dueled to the death over the whole affray is of course by and large left to each of them in concert in their particular time when such ruthless rules of etiquette held sway over men's emotions, governing them at times, persuaded to think it gentlemanly to thus engage dehors combat, to the death. But memories of injustice to a person's life linger long and burn hard, and it is best not to inflict it therefore in the first place, especially out of petty jealous motives, lest the bullet to the heart in return be one literal or figurative in the long run, we opine.

Well, write your own folk song from it all, make it a hit--and be sure and send us a penny per as royalty.

Last night, incidentally, we were in a store looking for a Woody Guthrie disk, and over the loudspeaker they were playing one which went, "Your 15 minutes of shame, now everyone's gonna know your name, around the world you will have fame," or something like that. Whatever it was, it sounded more like the Gabissimos on the radio whipping a tirade than a folk song, and therefore wasn't very salutary to our ears, despite all the guitars playing loudly to the Muzak. So our conclusion is that some of the youngsters writing song lyrics these days can use some help.

First lesson: don't take trite expressions like "fifteen minutes of fame" off the dripping, gripping bloody lips of the Gabissimos and try to write a song out of it over your broken heart because your boyfriend dumped you for another. It sounds like sour grapes, and that's probably why your boyfriend left you in the first place, sourpuss. You tend to tell us by that stupid song that he was right, especially as the lyrics don't go anywhere after the chorus but to repeat the chorus over and over. Get a life. Put down the guitar. It's no good. The wine went sour somewhere. All you can do now is shout raspberries at the world. Most, of normal sensibilities, except bitter little grapefruit lips like yourself, don't need to hear that when we are shopping for Woody Guthrie, deary.

We have no earthly idea, by the way, and really don't care, who the singer of this masterpiece was. It simply wasn't any good, and so we thought we would say so, for what it's worth.

Hell, steal that poem on the page today and set it to music and say you wrote it. We won't tell, as long as you don't sing any more of that baleful "15 minutes of Shame". Sounds like you want to get a shotgun and blow someone's head off, all because they didn't find you to be the lasting Cinderella after you lost your slipper. We all go through it, deary. It's called adolescence and extended adolescence, and, in your case, perhaps, over-extended adolescence.

Ah, we know. We haven't forgotten. John Lennon once wrote a song, one we admit that we kind of liked, called "Run for Your Life", having nothing to do with the contemporaneous tv program starring Ben Gazzara. But, you see, we were 12 at the time. Ah well, everyone has to choose an audience and go for it, we suppose.

Come to think of it, that "15 Minutes of Shame" thing sounded eerily like that song by John Lennon, with 2just a few new lyrics substituted. So try writing something at least original next time if you're going to vent spleen at the world.

Here's one:

Decatur, he survived the stabs of Barbary
Only to be jabbed by the bullets of Barron,
The traitor, alive, but in gab, far-buried,
Over the Chesapeake's search in the Bay by the Leopard

There in 1807, his birched life in repay rapiered,
But in 1815, taking a little trip, Decatur, he too slipped:
The knots were fast, the sea was dry and long,
Yet there, Barron, requiting late his long lost love of song.

And, finally, the power of paces, wistful, the sater's strife thrust one,
Two, three, crimple, face about,
Fie the guerdon in cutlash's silence, cover the turn, eyes fixed,
A pop of the powdered face's pistol and Decatur's life was done,
Rued, free, erased of doubt,
Gyed of Charon in justice's balance over the burn, wye's Styx:
Few see the simple grace of shouts; fewer learn the Lie's tricks.

By the way, that fire down below we mentioned which happened Christmas night that time, scorching our tree, near the spiral staircase of cherry wood we had built two years earlier? It occurred just two nights before we saw that Kingston Trio concert. What does it mean? We don't know. But the people who set that fire, who didn't get caught right away, eventually did. They put them out of business this year, in fact. Remind us to tell you about it sometime. They had thought it was going to scorch us so they could get our house and home; but they didn't realize we was a carpenter, too.

One more thing, "Book Club" has trouble discerning the meaning of names of three of them, insofar as the editorialist may discern, thus sub rosa. While we make no pretense to interpret two of them, though each might be syllabicated into some drift of cryptic grasp, "Pro-Re-Nata" means, straightfowardly, "for the affair born", that is to say someone for an emergent event.

It's all very interesting, of course, appearing as it does following an editorial on the retirement of Josephus Daniels. For it was at a book fair, though, per se, not a book club, in April, 1938, at which Cash met both Mary Bagley Ross, his wife-to-be, and Jonathan Worth Daniels, son of the Ambassador, the sum of which meetings ultimately took Cash to Mexico. Thirty-four days after this date's page appeared, on Friday, December 5, Josephus Daniels would speak in Raleigh in honor of Cash at the presentation posthumously of the Mayflower Cup for The Mind of the South, substituting for the snow-bound Herbert Agar out in Louisville. Go figure.

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