The Charlotte News

Monday, March 24, 1941


Site Ed. Note: "As sad and deep as you…"

When we were young, 13, we saw a story one summer afternoon, a story on television, captured as it was happening, yet again from the state of Texas. It originated a few floors above the steps below, from which W. J. Cash had given a commencement address to the students and faculty 25 years and two months earlier, facing a lawn, where then, that August 1 afternoon in 1966, several lay dying in their own blood, caught in the sight of the huntsman.

The young man, a bright college student, who had done the deed, who was born just 22 days after that commencement address in 1941, was a B student, they said, one who worked hard at it, so hard that they would have expected an A average from most who put in so much time.

He had a brain tumor, they later said.

Later, during our eighth grade English class that following school year, we recall, our teacher asked the class, as an exercise one day, to write about a quote attributed to someone whose name has fled from the certainty of memory, Poe, probably, we think: that there is a fine line between genius and madness.

We recall writing that it is so because there are pressures and weights on those who are bright which may cause, after time, the breaking of the mind.

We hesitated, after thinking through that thought, we recall, before placing it to paper. Would the teacher, who we respected and who appeared to respect us, have cause to suspect us of being some mad person, by the insight?

We wrote it down anyway.

To our knowledge, the teacher never suspected madness by the insight.

In hindsight, not a bad insight probably for a fourteen-year old. But we had some inside track perhaps on that one, as we had already heard the story of W. J. Cash, for one, not to mention Van Gogh, both of whom immediately came to mind when the quote on which we were assigned to write was uttered. Indeed, Poe himself. Not to mention some of our then contemporary artists and poets, to whom the adjectives "mad" and "genius" were simultaneously ascribed. We also thought of the sniper in the tower, from recent current events, though genius he was not and never so characterized; had he been or had a hint of genius about him, he would have possessed the self-reflection to form his redoubt and back away from whatever thought led him, possessed of the gun, to those tower steps that day. Geniuses, true geniuses, whatever else they may do, do not murder people.

But there is more to it, we think with time, than just our simplified view of it four decades ago as an early adolescent.

It is a far more complex thing than just pressure which leads to madness. For most people at one time or another endure pressure, even extreme pressure, without going mad, at least in the sense of the madness characterizing the sniper at the tower that day in August, 1966, or even that milder form characterizing Van Gogh. (We leave out Cash, for we no longer are possessed of the notion that he was anything but possessed of all of his faculties at the end, and was never divorced from them. And there is no evidence to the contrary, though for understandable reasons, he was not receiving proper emotional support, the contrary in fact, from his significant other at the end, a person who had lost her emotional grip on reality, obviously, under the intense grip of pressure, personal pressure combined with that from the broader world at the time.)

Seven years later, one warm summer afternoon, we visited that friendly campus for the first time, as we ourselves were in college elsewhere. The scars of that day were gone from Austin, at least in any apparent sense, long forgotten, as student bodies had changed and matriculated.

We had not forgotten, however, the images impressed upon our young eyes in 1966 as we watched on television from a thousand miles away that drama played out, as puffs of smoke and small, seemingly inconsequential sounding pops came from the top of the tower every so often--until they finally disappeared in silence, and the free-hand cameras aimed at the building stopped jerking erratically, after a police officer caught him looking.

Collectively, we breathed a sigh of relief. But, in the aftermath, we were all not relieved. We were tense, talking tensely of this episode--again from Texas, again a sniper, but this time not a Marxist defector to the Soviet Union returned, a casually employed dyslexic, dishonorably discharged from the Marines, a "loner" in a troubled marriage working in a school textbook warehouse the day of the shooting; this was a college student at the University of Texas, a well-reputed institution of higher learning.

So, that day in August, 1973, we looked up to the top of that tower for the first time and wondered to ourselves, again, as seven years earlier, then from behind the protective gauze of the tv screen’s impersonality, why any human being would harbor such animus to humanity itself, could be so irrational as to pick up a gun, especially after what we as a country had witnessed less than three years before that afternoon in 1966, the blood on the nation resulting from high-powered rifle fire in the streets of Texas.

How could anyone, even the most depraved and venal, kill randomly, college students, faculty, others, merely because they were in the line of fire and were human beings? In that instance, after he had already killed his wife and mother earlier in the day, supplying him, no doubt, the mental excuse, the dead man’s hand, the point of no return to do the final deed, a glorious actor’s suicidal melodrama performed in front of the world, by killing others, a play staged with the killer as director and writer, the cameras poised as if by order, the victims, the involuntary actors and actresses.

Perhaps, some disgruntled person who didn’t get into college, a bigoted truck driver maybe who hates the "rich kids" or the "spoiled brats" or the "sinners" of the college campus, or some ugly fat kid loser with a complex from childhood mocks, some stupid kid with an I.Q. of 40, maybe such as that. But not a college student. College students are sometimes victims; but they do not murder people indiscriminately with high-powered rifles from towers. Thus, we had thought to ourselves in 1966; no longer by 1973.

We remembered in 1973 that he had been in the Marines, had been trained for warfare in Southeast Asia, had been thrown in the brig the same month of the assassination in Dallas, his court martial resulting from gambling, possession of a firearm, and threatening a fellow soldier over a gambling debt.

Whether those facts or the tumor had anything directly to say of the cause ultimately, however, no one has ever been able to say in forty-one years since that episode. Nor do we propose to say it now as cause and effect. For other people have brain tumors or worse, and never kill or do anything violent. Others have been thrown in the brig and court-martialed, or the equivalent in their particular circumstance of life, either unjustly or for minor offending conduct, without killing or harming anyone in the afterword. Indeed, many such people contribute later great and positive things to society.

As we have said before at this site, we returned there again, to that tower, August 26, 2001, took some photographs of it, for a different reason, as storm warnings gathered in thunder and lightning, stayed a night because of the ensuing gully-washer which nearly swept us from the road when we tried to leave; and so we chose to stay, wound up visiting again, for the first time since that August of 1973, the LBJ Library next day, coincidentally the day of President Johnson’s birthday; and we saw therein Poe’s writing desk, with a book posited thereon, curiously opened to one of his short stories, "The Gold Bug".

Not long ago, they re-opened the tower to the public for the first time since that day.

We still ask why.

One of the old sad singers, passed on since 1981, in 1972, released a record with a song on it about the episode, in which he posited, in persona, some suggested reasons for the sniper, for any sniper.

"Strange song," a very bright fellow student friend of ours then said to us, as we played it one day back in the fall of 1972. "Strange song."

"But maybe true," we replied. "Maybe, true."

We have posited before, and we speak from some limited experience talking to a few men and women who, under varying circumstances, have killed another human being, that what goes on in the mind of a killer, while unfathomable, and likely variable, and not necessarily to be trusted from the killer’s own recounting, ultimately resolves around unreality, a glaze, an ability to void the mind of human feeling and compassion, even if momentarily, to evacuate conscience, to view the being before the gun as simply a thing, an object, a gnat to be swatted away. In the aftermath, sometimes, conscience returns to the killer, and then there is suicide.

Of course, in truth, it is always a form of suicide, an expression of a desire to die, but only after humanity itself is made to pay for instilling in the person that horrible self-immolative feeling—a feeling which at one time or another virtually all of us have felt, even if momentarily, the contemplation of suicide, but on which feeling few of us ever act, whether by suicide or homicide.

There are other forms of killing: in warfare, execution by the state, self-defense, defense of others, those justified then by law. But whether justified by the conscience, even in those instances, is wholly another thing.

It is conscience which likely saves us all from self-immolation, if we are sane, in contemplating the sad state of the world, as sad and deep as you.

Now, another, a student who immigrated from South Korea at age 8, did well enough in American schools, was bright enough, to be accepted to a university which has high admission requirements, one who never served in the military, who never received training to kill in Southeast Asia or elsewhere, has killed multiple victims randomly: 28 students, 22 of whom, including himself, were undergraduates, eleven of whom were women, nine undergraduates, and five instructors and faculty, all accomplished, bright people, all people he did not know, including himself. He first accomplished two of the student killings elsewhere on campus, supplying the self-excuse then to continue with the rest of his self-imposed mission, his staged drama, leading to suicide, his final accomplishment.

The classic anomic act.

"It did not have to end like this," Mr. Cho said.

He was an aspiring writer, apparently. Not a very good one yet, we judge, by reading two of his plays, which can charitably be described as sophomoric, pubescent, tv and B-movie inspired junk—though certainly not grounds for "concern", funneling him to counseling, faculty committees to oversee him, and other such hysterically absurd reactions, in an era of hysterics of hysterics.

It was writing and some mildly eccentric, anti-social conduct.

Perhaps, he was inspired by novelist and playwright Yukio Mishima, who committed ritualistic seppuku in 1970 after a failed coup to restore the Japanese emperor, emasculated since the end of World War II.

"The revolution starts here," said Mr. Cho.

But Mishima killed no one else, only himself, and his art.

And there was no revolution or coup; the Emperor was not restored.

And, again, we ask why.

Some try to suggest there were signs, his being a "loner" personality, rarely making eye contact or any form of verbal communication. Others speak of his "disgusting" plays, full of foul language and violence, written for his creative writing course. Professors speak of fear of him, their perceived need for his counseling, because of the plays, because he wore dark sunglasses inside class, because he snapped pictures in class on his cell phone, one professor, a "poet", even booting him from her class because of it. Either he would go or she would, she told the department chairwoman. She then formed the overseers’ committee, to watch Cho.

We read that he played basketball; presumably, since he was a "loner", a player alone.

In his last months, he was not playing basketball apparently, but working out with weights and practicing at the gun range with his newly acquired pistols.

No one came to him with a ball, tossed it at him, and said, "Get up before you kill the grass, Cho, and let’s shoot some hoops, you little slant-eyed, foul-minded swope bastard."

That, after all, in this age, would have been unacceptably ungenteel. Too insensitive, too politically incorrect. We have to be nice; we have to be "responsible". Thus, when we see a "loner" in dark sunglasses in class, someone uncommunicative with his or her fellows, why, get upset, call the law, call the counselors, form a faculty oversight committee, call out the Guard, bar the campus doors, put in metal detectors, and get it all stirred up to keep a watch on the obviously disturbed boy or girl, have him or her committed for their own safety and that of the rest of us, for God’s sake.

Had they locked up those boys at Columbine for wearing those black trenchcoats, would not everyone have been safer?

Didn’t you see "Basketball Diaries"? God, they’ll kill us all.

Buy some guns.

Students said they perceived him as dangerous, that he might be a shooter potentially, though no one claimed to have seen him with weapons before that day, last Monday. Few knew him at all. They treated him with kid gloves. Stayed away from him. Some tried to communicate, but with no success.

One young woman, well meaning obviously, said she was curious about him, as he never spoke in class, followed him one day; but he rode away on his red bike, and she couldn’t keep up. She apparently didn’t try anymore.

He was, after all, that weird kid, "Question Mark".

Unfortunately, perhaps, they had never listened enough to radio stations playing their parents’ generation’s old songs, maybe the one about "96 Tears", before finding "Question Mark" so strange and weird as to be shunned, avoided, reported to the police for instant messaging once.

That was "stalking", wasn’t it?

Good. He was a loner. That’s not cool, to be a loner. Good. Report the little swope bastard.

Didn’t that guy, Clarence Thomas, do something like that? Not cool, definitely. Remember that when we were kids? Not cool. That guy. No.

Report it to the police, get the boy some counseling. Did you read those filthy plays with violence and chainsaws in them, all about some kid believing his stepdad was molesting him by touching his knee, how he thought his stepdad had killed his father to get into his mother’s bed, and, wasn’t it that he killed his stepdad at the end by stuffing a Rice Krispie treat down his throat? That’s weird, dude, uncool, sick even. Filthy, vulgar, profane, obscene language. Remember, our parents stopped liking Nixon over that. Get the boy some help, for sure.

Those who were acquainted at all apparently uniformly held either a negative or at least a wary opinion. At least, so we understand from the accounts reported thus far.

For he was a loner, and thus to be shunned.

He might be the campus shooter someday, some speculated, they now claim.

Good. Shun him. He’s the loner. Not cool. Don’t want to get shot, after all.

The poet even expressed fear to others of him, because he snapped pictures with his cell phone in class and wrote those dirty, foul-mouthed plays with violent imagery, even chainsaws, plots about a young boy who wants to kill his stepfather for the interloper stealing his way into his mother’s bed, only to be killed by the stepfather himself in the end by the stepfather’s bare hands, after the boy stuffed a breakfast treat in the stepfather’s mouth during a quality-time discussion. Another, about a molesting high school teacher who the students hated and for whom they had nothing but foul and sordid words. Terrible, twisted, sick, disgusting imagery.

And the language.

The police were too slow, after the first two murders, to seal off the campus, some students complained. There should have been warnings so that doors to buildings could be locked.

But what if the killer was in one of those buildings?

Evacuate the buildings.

What if the killer had been someone on a rooftop with a high-powered rifle?

Hindsight is always perfect.

The boy should have been locked away last fall over those dirty plays, that instant message stalking business.

Danger to himself or others. Isn’t that what the judge said by checking the checkbox on the form?


He was a loner; he wrote dirty, filthy, violent plays in creative writing class where all were encouraged to write their minds.

He sent stalking instant messages. He was stalking women, must have been anyway, with that instant message business—and the judge checked the box. Shouldn't have been allowed to get the gun, therefore, in fact.

He was foul-mouthed, wore dark sunglasses, identified himself as "Question Mark". Not cool.

His poetic professors didn’t even like his writing or him, because he wore dark sunglasses in class and snapped pictures on his cell phone, wrote dirty plays with disturbing, violent images in them, involving chainsaws, for goodness sake.

He was the next campus shooter, maybe. Steer clear.

Not cool.


Slanty eyes. Quiet, ominously so.

Maybe Al Qaeda, for all we know.

Aren’t Buddhists like Muslims, violent like that?

And those terrorists are all Muslims.

Saw where those slant-eyes, those Buddhists who supposedly like peace, beheaded people in World War II and then ate their victims for dinner. Not Christian.

All of them are like that, sick people.

--The answer, if there be one at all, is coldly obvious, perhaps, in the aftermath, as it always is.

Yet, it is not, as Mr. Cho claimed in his videotape to the world at large, any "you" with blood on our hands. It is not a movie, a song, a play, someone’s words, hedonism, someone with a Mercedes-Benz automobile, debauchery, mind rape, or the rest of it of which he complained, and perhaps not without some level of accurate insight to a confused, overly materialistic, hedonistic culture in which we find ourselves, in which we find ourselves at virtually any stage of civilization throughout history, anywhere in the world, as one finds out the longer one lives in this world.

Yet, it is not that collective "you" which has blood on its hands.

It is only, with respect to the 33 people, including himself, who he murdered Monday, himself with blood on his hands and his memory. He, and only he, chose to react to whatever it was cruelly inflicted on him by others, by picking up a gun. He had a choice, and could have spited all of them, his predators and mockers, real or imagined, by developing his talent, however sparse it was now, for writing it all out, writing up plays, maybe. Writing up scripts, foul, vulgar, violent. Or, growing up and realizing that all of his angst about whatever it was he deemed inflicted on him would in time seem small, as he learned of that inflicted likewise on others, all of us at one time or another.

We are all "victims" in your sense of the terminology, Mr. Cho, all of us. But retributive for your victimization, you chose others, having nothing to do with your victimization, because they were a part of humanity at large, to be your victims at the point of a gun on Monday. That because you had not learned to like yourself well enough to rise above those mocking or taunting remarks of you for your skin or your accent or your slight build or your lack of some perceived attribute the others admired, as yours were hidden. You could not rise above it and wait, patiently, for your attributes to shine later in life, as all such hidden ones do, positively, ultimately, somewhere, for money or not, should we simply be patient enough to allow them to do so. You chose that method of retribution, violence, like you chose your nickname, Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s maidservant, the one whose hand would be raised against every man and against whom every man’s hand would be raised, says Genesis. You could not choose positively, for you, you said, were a victim.

But--"You're just a human, a victim of the insane," as John Lennon once said.

Write all the violent plays, songs, movie scripts, with disturbing, disgusting images and filthy language you want, Mr. Cho. We respect that in this country; we revere that, in fact, as should be obvious by the first sentences of our Bill of Rights, as should be obvious by that which is on our popular movie screens, even if some of your fellow students and some even among your teachers didn’t, or forgot for awhile about that precious right to speak one’s mind, the one which is embodied in our First Amendment, for which Mr. Cho and his family no doubt came to this country, in part, to acquire more freely perhaps than in South Korea.

But Mr. Cho did not kill those students or those teachers, the ones who expressed concern about him and his plays. He apparently chose his victims at random, as if by sport at the gun range. Yet, the faces of his victims, when examined, the universe of faces from all lands of the world, from all age groups, from varied cultures and backgrounds, represent, almost methodically, as if chosen for a sociological survey, all cultures and backgrounds throughout the world, the East, the Far East, the West, African-American, Caucasian, European, Asian, the Indian sub-continent, even his native South Korea. The faces suggest less randomness than roulette whimsy by Mr. Cho.

Maybe, we should be examining this situation in conjunction with the story preceding it by a week, the one which then dominated the airwaves, now forgotten in a flash, the one about limiting speech on the airwaves, the one which gratuitously took up about ten days of media time saturating the airwaves, concluding the Thursday before with the final firing of the Us-man from the airwaves over some offhand remark about women college students playing basketball.

Maybe it is time we understand something about humanity, something about the Second Amendment, which does not supply the right to bear arms except for the purpose of establishing a well-regulated militia.

Maybe, it is time we understand something about the need in our society for free expression of ideas and speech again, not dictated by vapid "poets" whose militating ideas about acceptability of language are patently empty-headed and silly, even if they, too, have the right to communicate their empty-headed, silly, vapid ideas and insist that it is "poetry"—just as Mr. Cho did in his silly, vapid, empty-headed plays full of little more than copy-cat, pubescent angst, regurgitating variations on scripts viewed from movies and tv.

The poet, the overseer, in this instance wrote at the conclusion of one of her poems:

I am not an easy woman
to want

They have asked
the psychiatrists . . . psychologists . . . politicians and social workers

What this decade will be
known for

There is no doubt . . . it is

But when it came time to boot the young man from her class, an immigrant from South Korea at age 8, a loner, one who was bright enough only ten years later to obtain admission to a prestigious American college, somehow the poet forgot her poem, perhaps. Suddenly, his loneliness was to be exacerbated, not understood. His minor eccentricities and mildly annoying anti-social behavior reported to others as a dangerous thing, not molded into something creative and positive through his writing. She was too busy being a poet, no doubt, to waste her time with that.

He had identified himself in one class as "Question Mark" when all the other normal kids stood to tell their fellow students who they were, and did so properly as nice little boys and girls in college ought, not as he did in this immature, adolescent manner—(as we might have been asked to do, and would have dutifully, in elementary school or junior high or high school, but would have laughed any dumb, silly, empty-headed, asininely pubescent-minded professor off campus for asking us to do so in college in our day, actually). But he had done that, after all. Displayed eccentricity, a dangerous thing in our tremulous times. We must all agree, get along, be gentle and kind with one another.

Don’t worry; be happy.

He was a dangerous loner in need of a psychologist or psychiatrist or social worker, too hard for the creative writers, lending a part of their time to teaching creative writing, to handle.

Perhaps, we should go back and retroactively impeach several of our Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, James Earl Carter, and some others who were, by all accounts, "loners". Maybe, secretly, they were assassins or the next shooter, after all, just an accident waiting to happen. Lock them up before it can occur. Maybe that Booth guy was right; that Lincoln guy was going to cause more problems than he already had.

Perhaps we should have the thought police go arrest most of the writers and playwrights, now and then, who are not proper enough to teach creative writing in college, for having written tawdry, mediocre plays full of dirty language, violent, mediocre movie scripts, and all that. Don’t forget the actors and actresses, too—even if some are now, and others have been before, prominent politicians, in those violent movies.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t that movie "Natural Born Killers" released just a couple of years after the boy and his family arrived here? That must have been it, glorifying all the psycho violence in the world like that. Ban that from the video stores.

Oh, don’t forget to burn all of the plays of Shakespeare, too, starting with Hamlet and Titus Andronicus. Have you read those filthy, tawdry things, full of violent images? Unfit for children or adults. And to think they compel our children to read Julius Caesar and Macbeth in high school. Have you ever read the Cliff’s Notes of those? My man, violent is not the word for it. Beyond the pale. Multiple stab wounds on the floor of the Senate to the Emperor on the Ides of March, inflicted by Senators who were his friends. What will that lead to? And then there's blood everywhere, a throne of blood in fact, with that crazy Macbeth guy and his lunatic wife, seeing ghosts and all of that.

The Bible also, being plentifully sprinkled with violence. The Koran, most definitely for sure, the Koran.

Burn them all in fact, except that which the poet tells us is alright.

Let’s read that, for sure, the poet’s stuff. Nothing else. Then, everything will be cool.

For sure.

One of the victims, we read, was a survivor of the Holocaust, after fleeing his native Rumania when it was overtaken by the Nazis. He died on Holocaust Recognition Day, 2007.

Maybe it is time we come to grips with reality, and realize that language is language, the limits on which were the ultimate source of the stimulus for our Revolution which gave birth to this country, and that those who stifle it are nothing more than Fascists, against whom we have fought and won a few wars to preserve that precious right and liberty few have across the world stage, and that only bullets and other weapons of mass destruction hurt people in the end.

Stifle the speech, if you are going to do so, of idiotic pols who stand up and preach for the rights of their constituents to have guns, couched on their half-reading of the Second Amendment, and their desire for the gun lobby’s support and its members’ and supporters’ votes, those who want to be tough and favor the wild-west approach, until it is time to duck in the gunfire, ushering in more repressive, Fascist-inspired laws to chill our freedoms to do everything else except have guns—start there, by exercising your right to vote against these pols, whether they are Republican or Democrat or else, if you favor limiting the First Amendment, for they, in the end, these breast-beaters for the half-read Second Amendment, even if indirectly, advocate violence, the classic legal limit under the First Amendment, and are thus part of the problem, maybe the primary part of the problem.

Have we ever tried a nationwide absolute ban on all handguns or their bullets, to see whether violence would increase or decrease?

Words will and can not harm or kill, unless the recipient allows them to do so. Words are not assault weapons. Words, or lack of them, are not grounds for calling the police or counselors to examine the head of the boy, especially words which never suggested threats of violence or urged violence in others, as none of Mr. Cho’s in fact did.

We have warning labels on movies, on music; but yet we don't so much as demand a warning label on a gun. What is it that is so fascinating about a piece of metal and a missile to be loaded to it to eject misery into the lives of others? What tenuous power is afforded the powerless by that? What power but to enforce that tenuous power always by more from the gun? What admission is not thereby made of weakness, of lack of fortitude, of lack of understanding, of fear of the world at large, of girly-man weakness?

Ban the bullet, not the play.

Ban Mr. Cho’s guns, not his language.

Let us hear over the airwaves Mr. Cho’s language, as filthy and vulgar as it might be, not be accosted by views of his silent picture a thousand times reiterated, pointing at us his gun, pointing to his head his gun, holding his hammer and his knife, taking his movieola Sundance poses with him to his grave, for all the children to remember in nightmares now, tomorrow night, five, ten years from now—and because that, the picture, is acceptable, says the network chieftain, the same who a week ago fired the Us-man for an offhand comment about college students playing basketball—for it is the language, the foul language, ah no. Unfit for children. But the pictures, in limited doses, of the gun pointed at us, at his head, his hammer raised in anger, his knife outstretched. That is instructive and newsworthy and palliative.

But "Natural Born Killers". Ah, no.

Such carefully controlled business of minding the language in the way of news coverage and other presentations on the tv, after all, has worked so well for so long to spare us such redundant episodes of violence through time. Stick with that tried and true formula. Ban the language. Gunplay in the streets of Dodge? Okay, my friend, as long as you don’t show any image suggestive of blood. For that is too graphic for the little children to suffer. Might lead to bad things later.

Ban the bullet, not the play.

Then, peace, perhaps.

If for no other reason, then for these 28 students and 5 professors and instructors at this venerable old institution of higher learning, those who will never be able again to utter words, written or spoken, fair or foul, apology or caustic attack, to anyone in this life.

Killer Land

But It's Lucky Charlotte Didn't Set the Pace

The total numbers of murders in the United States last year, according to an announcement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was 7,540. Of these Charlotte, with 100,000 people, furnished 47.

That is approximately one in every 160.

If the rest of the country killed the same way, its population would figure out to 10,600,000 people. Or if 130,000,000 people had followed Charlotte's murderous proclivities, there would have been not a mere 7,540 murders but over 90,000.

[Original in italics.]

Site Ed. Postscript: Before we even had time to post this day's print, as we were writing the above note, we got word, out of Texas, that some engineer employee at the Johnson Space Center had overtaken a building, commandeering it with a gun, a snub-nosed .38 or .357 handgun; thus, we waited before posting. Now, we see that he and one of two hostages he took are dead. His co-workers said he was "competent" but some described him as "the office hothead". Whatever he was, he and his hostage are both dead, by the violence of a handgun, probably again one that is licensed and registered.

Take a look at "Wild Guns", May 1, 1940, "They Need Missing Practice", August 31, 1938, or just gander back at "Open Season", March 8, 1941, the latter of which we just posted six days ago, before the violence in Virginia. This is not a new phenomenon, this American violence by the gun.

But yet, still, after all these decades of violence, of deaths of leaders, of men and women of every race and creed, of every background, of young and old alike, this freely available gun being no discriminator among us as to whose aim it finds in its sight, some 60% of us, says Mr. Zogby in a poll taken this week, still think it's quite alright to have handguns available after a suitable waiting period and registration.

And, we see where a judge deliberates on the fate of John Hinckley, as to whether he merits release from an insane asylum, after, one afternoon, he shot and nearly killed the President, shot and nearly killed, maiming for life, his press secretary, and wounded a police officer and a Secret Service agent. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a jury, as no doubt he was that afternoon. Now, the psychiatrists say, 26 years later, that he is sane, while medicated anyway.

Perhaps, now, Mr. Hinckley is; but we have to wonder about the 60% in that poll, who may not be.

The University of Indiana, incidentally, beat the University of North Carolina for the national championship in basketball the night of that afternoon, in March, 1981.

"...Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy."

A Parallel

Which Is at the Least A Striking Coincidence

Maybe Charles A. Lindbergh isn't a Nazi admirer and sympathizer. But the evidence is certainly curious, to say the least.

The Nazi objective at the moment is to split the United States away from Great Britain, in order to destroy the democracies separately instead of having to confront them together. To that end they seek to paralyze the foreign policy settled on by the overwhelming majority of the American people and Congress by arousing a great wave of hysteria with the following propositions:

1--The Nazi system is the irresistible wave of the future.

2--The United States, like France and Great Britain, has waited too late, the Nazi air might is irresistible, and the United States is certain to suffer defeat if it aids Britain.

3--The United States really has no stake in the war and is simply the victim of British propaganda in thinking so.

Now observe that Charles A. Lindbergh is at this moment out to paralyze the settled foreign policy of the United States by calling for great hysterical mass meetings based on the following propositions:

1--The Nazi system is the irresistible wave of the future.

2--The United States, like France and Great Britain, has waited too late, the Nazi air might is irresistible, and the United States is certain to suffer defeat if it aids Britain.

3--The United States really has no stake in the war and is simply the victim of British propaganda in thinking so.

A remarkable coincidence, certainly, and especially so in view of the fact that the views expressed exactly contradict those of our established naval, air, and military experts.

Site Ed. Note: Nor ought probate of wills be presided over by assistant clerks or clerks untrained and unskilled in the law, some of whom are as ignorant as bedposts, some of whom are mere political appointees, obviously based on someones's glad-handing nepotistic cozenage.

But, then, there are those lobbies still, in this instance, for maintenance of an archaic system put in place 150 years ago when there was one lawyer per country mile in North Carolina and elsewhere. But, you see, when the corporate creditors come knocking on the casket to collect on the dead, they do not want interference from relatives or their lawyers who might suggest that an illegal loan was made to ma or pa at an advanced age, illegal under statutes passed for their protection by the Legislature. So, to get around those sticky statutes, perhaps a little Christmas gift in the old stocking is necessary, to sweeten the kitty of the little assistant clerk overseeing the probate of the estate, you see. Voila! No more troublesome statute or troublesome kin, even if the kin happen to be lawyers who spot the little problem and yell foul. Off with the lawyer's head, then.

An archaic system whose time has come to be abandoned, for the good of all, including the untrained clerks, as no longer necessary or proper under the law. It is an embarassment to the State of North Carolina that in 2007 men and women today who have little more than a high school diploma, and almost never any legal training, are regularly acting as temporary judges over every will probated in the state, often dispensing horrible legal advice, worse decisions, and then trying to cover it up when it is pointed out, however gently and politely, by anyone with legal training, or just someone with a sense that something isn't quite cricket--all corrosive of the reputation of the entire system, a system in probate which, soon or late, every family encounters, and usually at its most vulnerable time emotionally, often the only part of the system the citizen has or will ever encounter, all the more reason this part of it should be a shining example of efficiency and fairness, not as it is.

Shabby, and something to which the Legislature should forthwith address itself.

Why not rotate lawyers, on a voluntary and paid, appointed basis, as with attorneys who act as public defenders in small counties, to these posts as hearing referees in probate? The laws are far too complex in many cases for these untrained personnel to handle; there ought be available, at least in such cases where a legal controversy arises, an appointed lawyer to adjudicate the proceedings, not leaving it to unknowledgeable clerks, untrained in the law, to muddle through as best they can, often to the derogation of rights of people who have suffered a family loss and merely want their relative's estate resolved fairly and appropriately under the law as written, not as a clerk decides it ought to be because they are partial to pleasing the corporation or engendered only to a quick outcome, and are cloaked in some quasi-judicial power far beyond the scope of their abilities or training to handle judiciously.

No Right

Safeguarding of Deeds, Wills, Etc., a Proper State Function

One of our correspondents in the letter column Saturday protested that magistrates as a class have been unfairly attacked by The News and other North Carolina newspapers. And went on to think that a bill passed by the Legislature to make it illegal for jaypees to draw up deeds, wills, mortgages, etc., is a violation of the Bill of Rights.

We do not believe that magistrates as a class have been slandered. There are good magistrates, of course. But the body of them are ignorant men and some of them undoubtedly unworthy men. We have often cited chapter and verse to prove it.

Mortgages, deeds, wills--these are documents upon the proper drawing of which important rights depend. And they plainly ought not to be drawn by anyone but men with expert knowledge.

Nobody supposes it to be a violation of the Bill of Rights that the law limits the practice of medicine to those who have gone through a rigorous training, who have been examined and licensed by the State, or the practice of law in the courts to those who have gone through at least theoretically rigorous training and been examined and licensed by the State.

Yet deeds, wills, mortgages involve rights as important as those in these classes.

It may be granted that the lawyer interest was at work for this bill, that the guild wanted a monopoly on this work for its personal profit. Even so, the additional cost will be atoned for in superior security--provided, of course, the matter is selected with discretion.

Cotton Plan

Which, However, Has Its Faults, Like the Others

In a bulletin, "The Future of Cotton in America," the Cotton Textile Institute concludes that it is entirely unnecessary for the South to give up its present rate of cotton production. Present surplus is about 13,000,000 bales, present production is about twelve and a half million bales.

The way out thinks the bulletin is increased domestic consumption. It cites the fact that a few years ago it was only six millions bales annually, that last year it was around eight millions, that this year it may pass nine millions.

An obstacle to increased cotton consumption, it says, is the rapidly increasing consumption of competing lines, as rayon and paper. But it lays that to the subsidies and proposed subsidies on cotton, which it correctly designates as being in their nature sales taxes. They must go, cotton must be sold at "natural levels."

But the case is by no means entirely made out. What is immediately clear is that "natural levels" means low prices for the farmer, for only low-priced cotton can hope to compete with the other products. Forty dollars a bale is one "natural level" mentioned in the bulletin. That might help the mills, but when one recalls that the average consumption of fertilizers on cotton lands is nearly 300 pounds an acre, it is hard to see how it is going to help the farmer much. Certainly it is going to deprive him of that "parity" which he has been demanding.

Nor does the Institute take much account of the fact that most of the increase in domestic consumption is generally laid to national defense--which, we hope at least, won't be a permanent demand.

And that the Institute is not itself opposed to subsidies per se is clear enough. Amusingly, it calls in the same bulletin for subsidies on cotton bargaining for bales, for export subsidies on cotton goods going to South and Central America and for continuance of the Cotton Stamp Plan under which the Government simply makes gifts of cotton goods to indigents.

Revived Spirit

Paralyzed Dread of Nazis Is Now Clearly On the Wane

Chances seem that Adolf Hitler and the pro-Nazis in the Yugoslavian Cabinet will succeed in bringing that country into the Axis.

But the spontaneous uproar against it, arising from the whole Serb population and apparently even from the peasants among the Croats, is still significant and no comfort to Adolf Hitler.

The Czechs wanted to fight like that in September 1938. The Poles showed the same temper in August and September 1939.

But after that, no such spirit was in evidence. The story of what had happened in Poland, the dreadful rumors and moving pictures the Nazis themselves deliberately circulated, seem to have permanently frozen the populations of the small countries with horror.

Governments would indeed go forward with a policy they had loudly committed themselves to--attempt to resist in some cases. But Denmark folded up altogether without a fight, Norway almost without one. And if it can be said that the Serbians have mountains but the Danes only plains, then it plainly does not apply to Norway, naturally one of the most defensible of all countries.

Nowhere was there any real energy and determination among the peoples. The Nazis were irresistible--that was what they seemed fatalistically to accept.

But the great battles of Britain, Africa, and Greece have changed that. Now it has been demonstrated that there is nothing to the Wave of the Future notion, that Nazi and Fascist can be whipped also. And the knowledge of that among the peoples, both threatened and fallen, bode Hitler no good.

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