The Charlotte News

Tuesday, March 5, 1940


Site Ed. Note: So, aside from Constitutional considerations, which cannot be pushed aside, but nevertheless, even considering matters in the abstract for an increment of a moment without them, is the letter writer of this date at all correct? Should Bible study be a regular regimen within our public schools?

Well, we have covered this topic amply elsewhere and so won't belabor it, at least not in the same terms, that is, the Constitutional considerations surrounding the inquiry. But even looked at from a simple and practical standpoint, it should not escape notice that despite all its piety, Charlotte's murder rate was the highest in the nation at the time. While it is strictly impressionistic in formulation, not subject to any wise test or survey to which anyone would likely lend credence, it is nevertheless worth noting that as Charlotte's general piety lessened over the decades since 1940, so did its murder rate, and despite its population increasing by seven times. In 2006, Charlotte had 83 murders in a population of 700,000, or a rate of 11.9 per 100,000, one-third its rate when the population was about 100,000 in 1940.

While Charlotte has gone through its share of religiosity over time, with it being the locus for the PTL Club, for instance, between the early 1970's and that organization's debacle with the law in 1987, it has also been growing into a metropolis, attracting thereby to itself a more and more cosmopolitan population over time.

And, even during the height of the PTL Club's presence there, it was very difficult to find among Charlotte's more educated population anyone who treated that organization with more than disdain at its mere mention. Thus, Charlotte should not be shod with its legacy. And it was Charlotte which ended its ride and put it effectively out of business.

So, does religiosity in a community actually increase violent crime? We cannot give a precise answer on that. But we can again anecdotally look to those communities where mass school shootings have occurred, for instance, and see a pattern almost uniformly of "God-fearing" communities which seek by rote to inculcate in their young Christianity, or some form of it, anyway. Yet, we draw no conclusions from that anecdotal notion.

What is clear, however, is that schools provide a place to learn, not only information, but moreover, how to process and think through information and ideas in a rational manner. Religion, by contrast, is largely emotional, built on faith to a large degree, and does not take the time to ask "why", but rather ordains certain matter as being the rule and the law from which all else flows, expecting and demanding compliance with same, whether rational in a given setting and time, or not. To consider these issues in a comparative context, to teach, not morality per se or the laws of a particular religion, but rather a method by which religion, any religion, may be considered philosophically, is one thing. Such training, however, in philosophical thinking with regard to religion, because of its necessary embrace of initial skepticism and abstraction, a basic assumption that acceptance of a premise must first be grounded in some rudimentary proof of its soundness within the sensate world, before moving on to the more difficult metaphysical questions which have as inevitable antecedents the necessary proof of the physical world as foundation, would likely quickly draw the ire of those otherwise wedded to the notion of teaching religion and morality per se, by the rote and regurgitative methods with which they are accustomed in a Sunday school class or at church.

To try to teach, for instance, the Garden of Eden as parable, as poetry, as literature, as a mythological account derivative of and similar to Roman and Greek mythology, intended by the ancients to explain simply, in storybook fashion, the origins of the world in a time prior to rationalism, and, as a conduit of traditional continuity in culture, a vehicle by which such mythical origins may be passed along to those too illiterate, including most young children of any time and age, to understand otherwise a more rational explanation for the universe and its basic origins, not as a literal historical account of the beginning of Time and Space and the World, would be considered by some blasphemous and unholy. So, for those pushing it in the first instance, to have public school embrace it at all, is to have it teach the matter as literal history, as preposterous to a system of rational understanding of the world as it would be to teach Roman or Greek mythology as a literal truth.

Obviously, teachers themselves set examples and are expected to set high standards for behavior generally in an educational setting. In that very example, sufficient regard is provided to the teaching of morality and ethics, as well as through the inculcation of adherence to school policies regarding general honesty--which do not embrace obviously unreasonable dress codes or unreasonable restraints on freedom of expression. But to try to extend those notions of high example and honor code into a formal teaching regimen regarding "Christian" thought and principle, as opposed either to Judaism or Islam or Buddhism, or any other religion, is, of course, ludicrous, assumes falsely a uniform population receptive to such teaching, would inevitably brand as heathen and rebellious, even immoral, anyone who actively refuses or passively abstains from such teaching, and would lead on only to chaos. If someone wants to enroll their child in a religious school, that of course is their right also. But it is not the business of the State to inculcate religion, nor should it be, nor can it be under the First Amendment to the Constitution forbidding the State from establishing a religion.

Religion is by its nature a private matter and a private choice. Certain moral principles are necessary to maintain reasonable orderliness in society at its base, and simply because these principles happen also to coincide with Judeo-Christian principles, such as proscription against murder, stealing, lying against your neighbor, and certain other basic precepts of behavior, obviously does not mean that those precepts, as well as the reasons for them, in a strictly secular sense, should not be taught. But that is a different proposition from teaching Christianity, as the letter writer advises.

The push in the past few decades toward that very end may indeed be one factor which is driving the violence in some schools, as pushing morals in regimented fashion on students who are bright enough to think for themselves will always produce rebellion. And the more institutionalized and insistent that sort of intransigent morality, and its concomitant punitive aspect for slight incursion of it, becomes, the more likely, in turn, rebellion against it will become equally entrenched, to the point eventually of violence.

As we have suggested before, freedom and tolerance in society appear to be, through time, inversely correlated to the level of violent tension therein, not the reverse, as the "law and order" crowd, which often tend hand-in-hand with the "moral" crowd, would have us believe. And a brief sweep through the history of the times extant in 1940 teaches that rule of thumb very sternly.

And, what does this particular letter writer advocate? A lessening of stress on sports, less reading of "comics", and more devotion in their place to religious teaching, for, as he sees it, our time is meant on earth to prepare for the next world, and it should therefore uniformly be spent wisely and solemnly. While, candidly, there are aspects to this view with which we agree, we also recognize from personal experience that there is no better teaching ground for interpersonal respect and fairness to one's fellows than participation in athletic team sports. And, the "comics" have their place, too, as does comedy generally, without which the world would be pretty dull and loathsome most days; and it is certainly no waste of time to humanity or discovery about humanity to engage in or be entertained by comedic representations aimed at that end, as the letter writer seems to believe it is. As we have pointed out before, there is a fair amount of humor contained within the Bible itself, should one wish to view it that way, rather than approaching it with strictly solemn dignity which one deems to be requisite. But who told us that was the necessary precept? Should a just god care whether one comes to church in a suit and tie or arrives in rags, or even as stark as Adam and Eve in the Garden?

Our view instead is that we live in this world for a reason, and if it is not to understand it better, to try to impart to it a better mutual understanding, by both study of its wens and warts and participation in it to the extent necessary to enable that better understanding by analogy, then why are we here in the first place?

The letter writer might place it as a test of faith, to discern who is fit for heaven, as if heaven were a country club maintained by the Almighty and some jealous Board of Admission at the Gate. But that devolves rather quickly to the silly and flies completely in the face of the doctrine of forgiveness of sin. Was it such a test which afforded the reason to Nazis to act as gods to their chosen minions and execute six million Jews for the crime of their religion? What, save the ready availability of Storm Troopers to enforce his will to religious fervor, separates the goals of the letter writer from those of Adolf Hitler?

And speaking of political action committees and movements within the American middle class, presuming it, as a mirror to one's self image, to embody an homogeneous set of morals, values, customs, and beliefs, without reckoning with the implications of that dictatorial mindset which such a stance inevitably also must presume for enforcement of those presumed uniform values, see "Ignis Fatuus", July 7, 1939.

Island Cost

Robert Wants To Double Our Naval Expenditures

One of the most pertinent arguments against the scheme of the Hon. Robert Rice Reynolds, Lundeen, & Co. to embroil us in a bitter quarrel with Britain by demanding that she hand over her West Indian possessions as a payment on the war debt, is that these islands are not only (with the exception of Bermuda) economic liabilities, but also would be a great military liability to us if we got 'em.

Bermuda itself would call for a great extension of our naval lines--lest some power (to be explicit, Nazi Germany) attempt to seize it as an air base.

And the same consideration applies to the other islands. And another of even greater importance. Britain clings to these islands not because they pay her economically--they don't--but because of their strategic value as bases for the protection of Canada and the British sea traffic to the Western Atlantic. We do not need them for any such purpose, have all the bases we need already. On the other hand, as things stand now, if any other power intends to seize these islands as bases of operation against us or Latin-America, the British Navy automatically comes to our rescue. If we owned the islands ourselves, we should have to provide protection for them on our own account. It probably would mean the doubling of our navy.

Site Ed. Note: For more on this idea, see "Sucker Bait", and its noted links, March 2.

Ignes Fatui

Appeals And Embargoes Will Hardly Settle This Problem

Mr. Pridgen, in his story in Sunday's News, had "the cotton people complaining of vanished world markets and a poverty-fetching tariff"--to the Republican Congressmen here on a farm junket! Complaining of the tariff to Republican Congressmen is like the rabbits complaining to the fox about being eaten. The Republicans want not less tariff but more. Else why that fuss over Hull's trade treaties?

As for the tobacco people, they were very hot in their requests to the Republican Congressmen to override the New Deal and clap an embargo on American tobacco seed, so as to insure an American monopoly of the better grades of tobacco. We can think of no particular objection, save that it would be of little help in the present emergency and probably of no avail in the long run.

In any case, it seems plain that the tobacco growers are pursuing a will-o-the-wisp. The history of such embargoes as they propose shows that they never work. Brazil attempted to establish a monopoly on rubber in the nineteenth century by prohibiting the export of the seed or the trees. But an Englishman smuggled out 50,000 young plants. And the result of Brazil's attempt was that she was ultimately almost completely crowded out of the rubber market.

Best bets for restoring the American markets for American tobacco and cotton are probably the extension of Mr. Hull's trade pacts and a loosening up on normal commercial credits to the Allies. But the trend seems to be dead against those at present.


The Sources Of These Cries Are Easy To Come At

Last night when H. R. Knickerbocker was speaking at Central High School, a heckler suddenly charged into the aisles swinging his arms and shouting that Knickerbocker was a British propagandist trying to betray the United States into sending its sons to war.

Mr. Knickerbocker, one of the ablest and most experienced of the American newspaper men who have made it their life business to report Europe, a Pulitzer Prize winner, had just said what must be plain to everybody who cooly examines the facts, what is borne out by virtually all the correspondents who are not notoriously sympathizers of the Nazis and Red Russia. He had just said, that is, that what is at stake in Europe is Western civilization.

Who the heckler in this case was we don't know.

But in any case, there is no doubt at all as to the source of the cries he raised--and however innocent of propaganda intent he might himself have been--as anyone may see for himself by looking into the New Masses and the Daily Worker or the releases of the German Library of Information, an official Nazi propaganda bureau in New York. Nazi-Red line in this country at present is to set up as advocates of "peace," to yell that this is merely another imperialistic war, and that anybody who attempts to analyze the European case realistically is a British agent seeking to betray us into war. For the nonce the Nazis stay in the background, the Reds take the lead. But it is the former who mainly invented these arguments. And, ironically, they are getting aid in circulating them from all sorts of conservative agencies.

First Again

Charlotte Appears To Be Murder Champion For 1939

As we predicted in the last months of the year, Charlotte seems to have emerged again as the victor in the great murder sweepstakes for 1939. There is a bare possibility that Chattanooga or Montgomery, Ala., may have the edge on us. According to the report of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chattanooga had 50 murders during the year, we had 35, and Montgomery had 30. But at the last census, Chattanooga had one and a half times as many people as Charlotte, and if she has kept up that average the lead is still safely ours. Montgomery had 66,000 people in 1930, but if her claims as to her growth since are so, we still seem to have the honors by a hair.

The next closest contender, Miami--with 40 murders--is definitely distanced. And so is Atlanta, which in 1938 nosed out Charlotte for first place. In 1939 she could do no better than 99 for a population at least three times as large as Charlotte's. As for Nashville, which threatened for a while to be a serious contender, she ends up with only 53 for nearly twice as many people as Charlotte can show. And Memphis, which used regularly to run away with the crown, can claim only 52 for three times Charlotte's population.

As for our showing against the great sinks of iniquity in the North: New York, swarming with aliens, had 291 murders for 70 times the population of Charlotte, or a little more than 4 per 100,000; Chicago, swarming with aliens and gangs, had 239 for 40 times as many people as Charlotte, or about 6 per 100,000; Philadelphia with 25 times as many people as Charlotte had 129, or about 5 per 100,000; Detroit had 79 for 15 times the population of Charlotte, or a little more than 5 per 100,000; Boston, with about 800,000 people, had six murders, or about .75 per 100,000. It appears, therefore, that we are approximately 9 times as murderous as New York, 6 times as murderous as Chicago, 7 times as murderous as Philadelphia and Detroit, and more than 45 times as murderous as Boston!

Another interesting thing worth noting is the way in which we outtop the other cities in North and South Carolina. Our nearest competitor for the title of metropolis in Tarheeldom, Winston-Salem, can show only a paltry 14 murders for 1939. Durham had 7, Greensboro, 13, Raleigh 5, Wilmington 5, High Point 5, and Asheville a niggardly 2. In South Carolina, Charleston, which until the other day outranked us as Carolina's megapolis, had a mere 12, Greenville 9.

All of which seems to throw some doubt on the proposition that it is merely the presence of the Negroes in the city which explains our murder rate. Every one of these cities has as great a proportion of Negroes as Charlotte, and Winston-Salem, Charleston, and Wilmington have a much greater proportion.

It looks as though we'll have to find a more plausible explanation. Maybe the truth is that it's just a gift.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i>--</i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.