The Charlotte News

Monday, March 31, 1941


Site Ed. Note: We were talking, we think, about the space between us all...

We started the following note weeks ago, before the controversial radio comment about the women's Rutgers basketball team, before the murders at Virginia Tech.

We have encountered great trouble finishing this note. It involves no great social issue such as gun control or drunk or reckless driving or freedom of speech or crazy people or war or law or other things of which we are wont to discuss.

We shall go ahead and finish it now because it becomes even more perhaps as some time has now passed.

There was a young man with a bright future. On March 23, 2007 he was struck by a vehicle on a road in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Route 4. He played a mascot for basketball and football events at a school. His name was Jason Ray.

He was walking along the road, apparently along the shoulder where he was supposed to be, when a car hit him. The highway patrol said that the driver also did not appear to be at fault.

Three days later, he passed away from his injuries.

Mr. Ray was, by the accounts, a bright, conscientious student, one who enjoyed dressing up anonymously a couple of times a week during the winter months to provide entertainment to the children who attend the basketball games. Football games have a real mascot, in this instance a ram, also.

The real ram is docile always, chewing its grass on the field in the falls.

The pretend ram is not so docile, waving its four legs all agley in motley jest within the winter confines.

The rams of this school, both the real and pretend, traditionally are named Rameses, after the great pharoahs of Egypt--simply a little collegiate color: for if students are slaves to a ram, after all, or if they themselves are gotten up as Rameses, the ram, they can scarcely think themselves too much the pharoah in charge of much besides the other sheep--or something along those lines, probably.

What causes this sad story to be more than usually passing strange is the fact that nine days before young Mr. Ray was struck on the side of the highway, we were writing up something about Genesis and Abraham, as we have referenced already in relation to another sad story on college life this sad spring.

As we said before, we held back these last five March, 1941 pieces for some unknown reason when we originally dictated them and placed them in our tin can for safe keeping two years ago; probably because then nothing seemed to come to mind to say about them or because we had just grown a little stale and needed a change of scenery at the time.

And so we went about the long voyage through time, over seas, through hurricane winds, typhoons, earthquakes, wars, siren songs, myths of warriors long ago and not so long ago, dragons, dragon slayers, great orators, shallow Machiavellian princes, stages of time with characters in dramatic masque, sometimes in comedy, always dancing their way through the parts from spring to summer, fall and, finally, always, somewhere down the line, winter passing, always winter passing in sadness, strained, fitful breathing in winter passing.

So we treaded and sauntered and swam and sailed through the late spring and summer of 1939, circling back around to the fall of 1938 and then through the winter and early spring of 1939, then through the spring and summer of 1938, next, the haunting pieces of December, 1939 and January 1940, as we came to the close of March, 2007, two years on from where we began that long ago journey through time.

Not so long ago, really, when considered in the light of time melting off the wall. It is, after all, but a mere second or two, something quite ensconced within the living memories of many still alive, who will be yet for some time to come.

It is nothing such as the 6,000 years, for instance, of which Cash would whimsically address in "Time Capsule", April 5, 1940, one still no doubt buried there a mere 67 years on; the questions posed by Cash way back there in 1940 remain, however, for the 5,933 cycles yet to go before it may be opened.

It is a set of reference points on a calendar of time, nothing more. It changes little more than the twirl of the planet on a given spin of day to night and back, changing by the seasons, eternally, within our conception of it.

For equally unknown reasons, we decided in late March, indeed just a couple of hours after Mr. Ray's accident, and before hearing the news of it later that night, as he lay in a coma, to come back around to these five pieces left off two years ago, and finally to place them online, though still having no notion of what really there was to say in connection with them which we hadn't already said somewhere else. We thought we might just drop them in on a Saturday or Sunday and leave them alone, even though quite a few empties had already occurred when we began March, 1941 two years ago, for whatever reason of want for a muse.

Then, as things transpired, as things will at times, we have been forced to slow down over the past month and a half, to try to understand the events better as they have transpired, and say something of them in each of the five left off dates, as they begin eerily to relate in the transit of time to other things already set down here, either related to those dark times of war, or things since, some dark, some not so.

As tragic as this month was in April 2007, it is one we shall be forced to remember in time, after all. For we always remember the tragic months. It is our way as a species. Consciousness has bestowed to us, with its gift, the concomitant penalty of sadness at recognition and rekindled memory of loss. But it is also the way we learn, collectively. We may learn individually from that which we know we avoided. Yet that which we avoid rarely makes news, rarely is something long remembered, as much as it should be. It is a far easier way to learn than from tragedy, yet we usually choose tragedy as the hard means which teaches profound lessons.

As we did not say in the earlier note accompanying January 29, 1940, when God tempted Abraham to kill his second son, Isaac, Abraham found a ram caught in a thicket, and instead sacrificed it to satisfy God's instruction.

The meaning of this Biblical parable, of course, seems clear enough: to end the custom in some in the ancient world of sacrificing the youngest son in obeisance to God, usually ritualistically, usually in warfare, and substituting for it instead an animal, a ram, a real one, not a pretend one, for the sacrifice. A parable about laying down the sword of sacrifice of the innocent, of the young. That Mars was long ago satiated, after all, and is today a stony, red, poisonous place, no longer in need of human blood to quench its cold, deserted thirst, being obvious by our robotic space probes roving its surface to span photographs through time and space back to us.

Just whether any of those things, these tragedies we have seen transpire during this past sad month, relate to one another, we cannot say. Whether they relate in some mystical way to our collective consciousness of things, whether transcendent, whether somehow willed inadvertently, parochially within our own spheres of relationship, whether willed omnisciently, not to punish those who lost their lives, but to teach us, the living, something more profound about our lives, a lesson needed for the repeating of its breaking through time, through all time, even through 6,000 years of time, we also don't know.

For our little block of space and time is circumscribed to a tiny place, just a small, wee space, so small and infinitesimal that it would take the most powerful atomic microscope ever built to see it from a mere foot away if it were on the entire scale of all time, eternal time and space, which is no block, no wall, but that of which we cannot conceive, something which goes on forever to horizons where there are no boundaries, no walls, no water, no watches, no alpha, no omega, only that which is the Eternal, in a state of permanency without time.

There is some feeling of injustice in all of this sadness and tragedy and loss of the finite, a tendency to desire some higher explanation for it, especially the end of lives so young and promising for no apparent reason of fault, just someone in the wrong space at the wrong time.

Yet, we know that within this microcosm, of accidental death, accidental destruction, careless tongues, reaction to careless tongues, murder, suicide, warfare, all of which we have seen in just these few short weeks, greater force of destruction, hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, all of which have manifested themselves also in the last couple of years during our journey through time here, all of these sad and tragic consequences of nature, of man within nature struggling against it, against his own nature at times, is a whorling morass which has plagued mankind in all places and in all times since time was first recorded even by the informal recognition of some glint of differentiation between light and dark as passage began to be clocked and marked down as time. Often, one leads to the other in series, these manifestations of the cruelty within nature, including man to his own kind.

In this cycle of it, in latter March through mid-April, 2007, however, the events appear on their face to be disconnected, disparate, three of the episodes bound only by their having occurred in a short space in time, in relation to college life within the United States, and by their having become news. And so we might say dismissively that such is life, that there will always be tragedy, tangentially coinciding tragedy even, that we should simply forget about it and move on. Discrete episodes which cannot be explained in any higher or rationally connected sense.

We venture to say, however, after our observances of the past, that it might be otherwise. And that we should stop and examine it all some, slowly through time such that these deaths will not be forgot and might prevent others from suffering the same fate somewhere down the line.

Perhaps the common lines which intersect all of these events at the crossroads form the expression ultimately that we can do better, avoid the worst of these tragedies in the future, if we proceed more slowly through time and space and give greater ease within ourselves to understand each other and the nature of the world in which we find ourselves, whether within the universitas of the university environment, of which the Pope spoke last summer, or out in the world at large, after that university experience, or without it formally, yet picked up through a thorough studiousness in life, of the poetry of life, both of its harmony and its disharmony, its pleasure and its pain, its cognizance and its voided dissonance--that there really is no rush to get there, wherever it is we might be headed at a given time on a given day.

A wise person used to say to us regularly whenever we might start to rush or feel pressed for time: it will still be there in the morning. That person lived to be 92 and passed away in the afternoon, having dressed for the day. And so we take the counsel as coming from someone who lived the advice well enough.

There are times, obviously, when life is at stake, when our futures hang on a certain timely action or not, when we must act with efficient dispatch. But those times are rare, unless one is employed in emergency services. For most of us, we can move through life more slowly, and in that, perhaps call on emergency services then far less often.

We hope that we won't forget this spring of 2007. It is one by which we might learn, not just for the sake of the future, not just for the sake of college students, but for the sake of all of us, tomorrow and next year, as well as for the longer term.

We thank the students of Virginia Tech for their magnanimity in time of crisis; we were hard on them as a society, prying into their time of youth, into their time of healing and tragedy over a time in youth they will never quite forget, one by which they will be able to teach others a positive thing; we learn from them, too, just as we learned in our day on another campus in times of crisis less immediate to our environs, but nevertheless affecting each of us, then as now, in the transit of time.

We did not know Mr. Ray. But we have a feeling that the world is a little sadder place for his passing.

From a piece which appeared on March 24, we shall quote a writer who did get to know Mr. Ray, as a senior at the university where he dressed up to pretend to be a ram named Rameses: "Mascots don't die. And neither should college kids."

Peace to the souls of all of the young men and women in college, the living who hold the future in sway, as well as those who did not survive to graduate in this troubling spring.

They did not die, not really. You will see them around. Just look and listen as you pass the crossroads.

Legal Point

Mr. Wheeler Is Very Tender Of Nazi and Fascist Rights

Burton Wheeler was at the old stand yesterday.

Said he, of the seizure of German and Italian ships:

"We have no right under law to seize these ships. This is another act of war."

He was just as wrong as he was when he called Canada a colony and thought the King of England had the right to declare war on his own account.

In point of fact, the seizure was made under a World War statute, of which the Germans and Italians had ample notice.

But if no specific statute existed, the general law of Admiralty would still have given ample room for the seizure to be made. It has always been the basic assumption of that law that ships enter our ports not by right but on sufferance. And shipping in any port is always subject to be seized for the necessities of the nation in whose ports they happened to be.

On orders from Rome the Italian sailors were busily engaged in putting their ships out of commission. Object of that was quite simply to defeat our foreign policy of aiding Britain to overcome the Axis, had in it also the purpose to cripple our shipping in the event we are forced into war with the Axis.

That gave the legal sanction to the seizure, since a sabotage in a port is always and everywhere ground for the seizing of ships.

But in any case, the move was one designed to injure the United States and so justified to everybody who doesn't want to surrender to the Axis out of hand--as Wheeler plainly does.

Face Loss

Matsuoka's Visit Turns Out To Have Been Badly Timed

The diplomatic beating Adolf Hitler has taken is so extensive that it is hard to cast up the account as yet.

What is most notable about the Yugoslavian revolution and the repudiation of the Axis pact is that it was not merely a popular revolt but that it was engineered by the Yugoslavian army. Armies do not by ordinary participate in such revolts unless they feel that what they are doing will pay off in the end. And what had happened really means that the most responsible military men in Yugoslavia had bet that Hitler is now not going to win the war in the showdown.

That is the first time that any neighbor of Germany has bet that way ever since poor Poland fell. The cases of Holland and Belgium are not comparable, because their backbones stiffened only after they were actually invaded. Yugoslavia has defied Hitler beforehand.

Just as terrible for Mr. Hitler is that it turns out that the timing of Mr. Matsuoka's visit was very bad. It was supposed to be timed to show that America's aid for Britain made no real difference--with Yugoslavia tagged as Exhibit A. What happened was that Mr. Matsuoka got to Berlin just in time to see that American aid did very much matter, just in time to see Hitlerism suffer its first great loss of face. To Mr. Matsuoka face is everything, and now he is going to Rome which has just heard the bad news that its African empire is virtually ended. It is unlikely that Mr. Masuoka is going to emerge from all this in a mood to accept Berlin's demand that Japan attack Singapore and challenge the mighty American Navy?

The answer, of course, is that it is not likely.

Arrested Man

Valtin Will Die Horribly If He Is Deported to Germany

In New York Friday immigration authorities arrested Julius Hermann Krebs. This Krebs is a man illegally in this country, having jumped ship to land at Norfolk in 1938. He was also a man with a prison record, having served three years in San Quentin for an attempt at murder while illegally in this country on another occasion. Too, he has a record as a Communist and Nazi agent.

It sounds pretty bad. But there's more to be said about Herr Krebs.

He is Jan Valtin, author of "Out of the Night," the current best-seller.

In that book, Herr Krebs tells us, apparently in full candor, the story of his fanatical devotion to the Comintern, his--often criminal--activities in its behalf, how he fell into the hands of the Nazi swine and for years lived in constant brutal torture, having pretended to become a Nazi agent, how the Bolos betrayed him and left his beloved wife to die at Nazi hands, how in disillusionment he fled with both Red and Nazi prices on his head.

But it is in many respects a sordid story. Herr Krebs reveals himself as in many respects a shabby man. And yet somehow he emerges from the tale a man on whom on the whole you like and often respect--a battered human creature who, with all his shabbiness, managed somehow to retain a conscience, a man with great if misguided powers of devotion and loyalty, a brave man despite his own revelations of occasional cowardice, a man at last who loved humanity and honored truth.

The immigration authorities are holding him for deportation. If he is deported to Germany he will be executed after horrible torture.

Fortunately for him, he isn't likely to be deported. The United States does not send men to certain torture and death.

The Rusty Cut*

Initiator of Bond Election Argues for Its Defeat

Now here's a funny thing. The City, taking advantage of Federal proffers of assistance, started out to build a secondary airport. And all of a sudden an uproar is heard, and the leaders of the opposition begin to say, "Well, by Jiminy, if we can't have the primary airport we won't take one at all."

If the airport bond election is defeated on Thursday no airport at all is precisely what they'll get. The Legislature has to authorize special bond elections. The Legislature doesn't meet again until 1943.

That isn't the half of it. A United States Army Air Base is established in Charlotte. One would think that Charlotteans would take pride in having a facility--a municipal airport--to turn over to the Government and would be anxious to co-operate in every possible way in this crucial, headlong effort to prepare for eventualities that look pretty ominous.

To the contrary, it is publicly and unblinkingly argued that the bond election ought to be defeated because too much of the money is to be spent on the Air Base.

What this country needs, obviously, is a Committee to Defend America by Aiding the United States.

And that isn't all. To provide the Air Base with sufficient land, which the City government could not legally do, a group of 50 public-spirited citizens borrowed about $10,000. More land became necessary, and the same citizens offered to borrow the additional money with which to buy it.

But it seemed advisable to the editors of the two local newspapers that the municipality finance its own municipal undertakings, buying land for the secondary airport and re-paying the money which had been borrowed by these citizens, and so by an unusual prearrangement both the editors of these newspapers wrote editorials suggesting to the Mayor that he call a mass meeting of interested citizens.

That mass meeting was held, and out of it came the proposal of this very bond issue which is now before the people for a decision. And what do you suppose is one of the arguments used against the bond issue? Why that the city intends to use some of the money to pay off the note which these 50 citizens endorsed in the City's behalf!

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