The Charlotte News

Thursday May 1, 1941


Site Ed. Note: The letter of profuse and obviously sincere thanks on today's page from Annie Lee Gurley over the song lyrics having been provided by another letter writer to what we know most commonly as "Jackaroe", though going under other guises, provides a bit of nostalgic cheer to the day, that a simple act of courtesy and appreciation over something so smokily ephemeral as an old folk song could transcend all the darkness and genuine evil then pervading and threatening the brace of the world. That the same old song could pass on to another generation through the folk movement of the fifties and sixties, though not one of the better known ones of the time, is emblematic of the same sort of comfort which those old songs provided to yet another younger generation in time of darkness and war. The tanks and the guns and the bombs from the planes, and even the threat of the splitting of the very heart of Old Man Atom, and maybe from one nosed downward toward your bed off a rocket stage released high above the earth from the coldly silent vacuum which is space, can't ever more than temporarily impact the intransigent quality forever adduced to the human mind and soul by the songbirds of poetry and song. These are qualities, along with humor, whose expression and reception all the dictators throughout time have never been able to conquer or for much longer than a day to deter.

And we note that the last letter of the day provides a brief congratulatory note on the circulation mark of 50,000 having been reached by the paper from a then assistant vice president of Wachovia Bank who would later rise to become its chairman.

But before those two lighter notes, we read the first letter, from a Charlotte minister, which conveys the notion that Ms. Nell Dixson Russell, of whom we have made mention in the last few days as being particularly colorful and dogmatic in her letters to the editor, apparently had become somewhat notorious among the readership for her America First leanings, toward Germany and against Britain.

Then, we proceeded to read the circuitous second letter, suggestive of the ideas which characterized the opposition forces to aid to Britain as mentioned below in "Old Faces", "Good Cause" and "Bold Claim". And we read the letter before seeing who authored it--as we routinely do when possible, to avoid prejudices one way or the other toward some of the regular contributors. We don't mean, incidentally, by highlighting some of these letters in critical fashion, to pick on anyone who 67 years ago sat down and spoke their mind in a letter to the editor. But such letters, to which we find our eyes drawn still on the editorial pages of newspapers, provide sometimes some useful, even if spotty, insight into the thinking of the populace and thus the times historically of any given period, both the hopes and fears, concerns and troubles, as well as the arguments, persuasive, flawed and downright silly, to which various factions in the country hitched their opinions on any given issue.

In this particular instance, we read and read, wondering to ourselves just what in the world the writer was saying, on which side of the issue he or she was going to come to rest, for Britain or against Britain. Suspense hung in the air.

And then we completed the letter, understanding the final stance as being against Britain, but not at all comprehending the logic of how the author reached that position. Then we saw that the letter had been composed by Ms. Nell Dixson Russell.

While Ms. Russell was certainly knowledgeable of certain aspects of her times and seems reasonably to state each thought, when viewed separately from the rest, with basically appropriate English sentences, the overall effect is one which does not seem to have a clear thesis or consistent stance, and certainly not a very rational one in the end. It carries therefore the hallmark of propaganda, the Big Lie, whether consciously so or not, which Hitler promoted in Mein Kampf. Say something which sounds rational to the boobs, and say it in such terms which will sweep over the casual reader who will not take the time to analyze the import of what is being said or its overall logic or unstated implications, couple it with appeals to emotion, either cheap identification with class or racial characteristics, or resounding calls to national pride and patriotism against the straw-man horde trying to take it away, as a prime motivating force for adherence to the personal philosophy of its champion, all the while building a kind of elaborate pyramid scheme for personal self-aggrandizement and accumulation of power and wealth in the process--in other words, the very scheme which Hitler used to achieve power in Germany and to lord over the countries his armies had taken in Central Europe during the previous 20 months.

Although we have no basis to accuse Ms. Russell necessarily of all of those motives, the tack is essentially the same, a willy-nilly course as the winds direct, bereft of any consistency of logic based on any sound premise, as all propaganda.

Take the first paragraphs of her letter, which opine that aid to Britain under the country's established foreign policy should not be increased. The conclusion of the letter does not flow from them, nor from anything intervening. The argument initially runs that the U.S. should not provide arms and material to Britain which the U.S. will need after Britain presumptively loses and the U.S. is left to fight alone against Germany. And besides, it goes on, Britain had lost its last foothold on the Continent, its dominions were complaining over excessive loss of men in the fight, and so Britain appeared, for all intents and purposes, to have lost already, both in battle, with the retreat from Greece, and morale. To provide them aid therefore, she concludes, would be fruitless. The letter's latter paragraphs then plump expressly for Lindbergh and suggest that the advocates of increased aid are really arguing in the same vein as the Colonel and his fellow Firsters, that Britain has lost, that the "real Defeatists" in the country are those who say America could not stand alone if Britain fell to the Nazis. While that in itself is illogical, Ms. Russell then concludes with the topper for incohesive thinking: "And I personally believe that we have no choice, we can either stand alone--OR GO DOWN WITH BRITAIN. That sentiment is growing--hourly--despite the Administration's frenzied efforts to squelsh [sic] it."

How, pray tell, would it have been better to have fought Germany alone than to have aided Britain to wage the fight when Britain stood on the other side of a narrow channel from the Continent and America on the other side of a vast ocean? The illogic is made especially manifest given that with Britain in Nazi hands, the Royal Navy, prestige of the Atlantic and still acting to blockade supplies effectively to Germany through the North Sea and Baltic and in the Mediterranean, also would have been in the possession of the Nazi, giving Germany virtually indomitable control of the vast sea lanes of Europe and, more importantly with respect to the United States, control of the North Atlantic.

The conclusion advocated by the Firsters, and also incidentally in this letter, amounted to lunacy in terms of any real goal of fighting and winning against Nazism. The underlying motive appears to have been instead to act as a shill for Nazism. We cannot say of course whether the particular letter writer, Ms. Russell, was consciously so acting or whether she, like many Americans of her day, thought of Lindbergh as a national hero and thus placed undue confidence in what he said, a type of blind commitment to personality and fame, fan worship, which led her on to echo without incisive scrutiny his various espoused theories and conclusions with respect to the security and best interests of the country. But, regardless of Ms. Russell's personal motives, it is plain enough that the letter betrays the sort of muddled thinking, or absence of any, which beset a substantial portion of the country at the time, thinking or lack of it which was the very reason for the country not going to war earlier than Pearl Harbor or at very least why the constituency didn't overwhelmingly demand that Congress consent to more substantial aid to Britain much earlier, in 1939, when such aid might have avoided the debacle of Dunkerque, the evacuation of the Continent by the British and the fall of France in spring, 1940, turned the tide quickly against Hitler, and avoided then American involvement altogether in the war.

As is obvious enough, no one wanted to fight a war again in Europe, and just twenty years after the bloody first one involving heavy American losses. Roosevelt had campaigned in 1940 on his vow not to send any American men to war short of direct attack on the United States. But aid to Britain was something else. Why did the Firsters not want to send aid to Britain by spring 1941 with Britain having held up and suffered under the repeated and unrelenting bombing raids across the Channel for the previous eight months?

The only conclusion to be derived, from any thoughtful analysis for even a moment of world geography and the state of the situation in Europe, was that the primary impelling force and esprit de corps behind the Firster movement was a genuine sympathy with the Nazi cause, a desire from the beginning of the war, a desire even before the war began, for Nazism to become a world movement, that irresistible wave of the future of which Mrs. Lindbergh spoke in her book.

Ostensibly that sympathy derived from the idea that Nazism would act as a bulwark to Communist Russia. But at this time in history, Stalin was still a tacit partner, albeit an uneasy one, of the Axis, having taken Finland essentially for the Axis in early 1940, walking a schizoid fence between joining the Axis fully and fighting against it, as implied by both Stalin's threat of retaliatory action with respect to any aggression by Hitler in Turkey and the Russian nervousness displayed in consequence of Hitler's successful invasion of Greece and the Balkans, edging closer therefore to the Ukraine. The course Russia would take would be dependent, therefore, not on ideological but practical considerations of the country's own interests and, necessarily coincident with them, the personal interests of Stalin against revolt in the country leading to his own overthrow and execution by the proletarian masses, growing increasingly restless after twenty years without fulfillment of the egalitarian ideals promulgated as the manifesto for the Revolution of 1917.

Thus, with a very weak argument to be made in spring, 1941 that Nazism was acting as any hedge to Communism, rather seeming to promote it in partnership with Nazi goals in Europe, is it not reasonable to conclude that at the heart of the movement against aid to Britain was not a reasoned, thoughtful determination that Britain was doomed, thus to aid them, folly, wasteful of manufacturing energy better left on reserve for our own pre-ordinated, lonely fight against the Nazi--once they achieved otherwise inevitable victory over Britain and all its vast array of military might and dominions in both the Atlantic and Pacific--, but rather a profound sympathy from its origins with the whole Nazi ideal of world domination and the emotive driving forces behind it? Is it not therefore reasonable to believe that these Firsters were completely in sympathy with the motivations of Hitler, built in part at least on sympathy with his anti-Semitic and racial superiority notions, just as the boobs in Germany had fallen, in growing numbers, for the same sort of rhetoric in eerily hypnotic, lockstep fashion during the previous decade? Were not conditions in the United States, though markedly better by 1941 than in 1933 at the height of the Depression, still ripe enough, among widespread labor unrest and dissatisfaction with the New Deal's seeming sloth in effecting economic and social progress, to stimulate a minority of about one-third, just as such a minority vaulted Hitler to the Chancellorship in Germany in 1933 from which he managed his dictatorial coup, to make a bid to take over the country--once, that is, Uncle Adolf came ashore, instituted a form of martial law over the country, and manipulated elections to his own desired ends, much as he insinuated Nazism into the countries of Central Europe not overrun by brute force with the Panzer divisions, after he had forced capitulation with Roosevelt and reduced him, like the other goose-stomped prey, to a stooge, soon to be dead and out of the way?

Ah, but we won the war after finally stepping into the fight in force, even if it took an attack by the Japanese to get the U.S. into it. Yet, despite the Allies' winning the war militarily, did those adherents to the Nazi ideal suddenly vanish into thin air with the surrender of the last defeated remnants of German armed forces, with the suicide on Walpurgis Night, 1945 of their former Reichsführer demigod?

The great fight which had to be waged in the 1950's and 1960's on the part of many citizens in our country for the acquisition of merely the right to vote, the right to attend schools and other public facilities not partitioned by color lines in a given locale, the right to have equal pay for equal work, a fight which still persists in many locales just to afford residence and to acquire then acceptance in formerly segregated neighborhoods for instance, at least without immediate flight by some to suburbs further suburban than the former from which they fled, the persisting attitude on the part of many that those who dare remark on such matters with any authority of fact must be treated with disdain, disrespect, alienation, made to look either irrational or dishonest, to be despised and ruined--all of these things combine perhaps to answer the question. Persisting de facto segregation not only in our neighborhoods but by and large in the very institution of society where integration ought first to occur, where the modern civil rights movement in the country had its genesis, the church, add further evidence to tell a tale which is dark in its implication for humanity at large, not just Nazi Germany and that part of Europe engulfed by it in the 1930's, a dark aspect of humanity in need of a regular and recurring sounding to avoid the very pitfalls and dead-spots in the human head inherent from a failure to reason, that Boschesque emotional pit into which Germany fell when it voted one-third of the membership of the Reichstag in 1933 from the ranks of the Nazi Party, after which the old-guard leadership of the country combined in compromise to make Hitler Chancellor to combat the prospect of the Social Democrats achieving control of the assembly.

An obscurantist's form of thought is one which primarily emotes, finds rationalization for that emotion from whimsically derived "facts" strung together without regard either to their logical consistency or whether they in fact obtain singly or in series in actuality, whether they are lies or truth or merely questionable, just that they form a neat rationalization for whatever conclusion the obscurantist likes emotively, and so are deemed subjectively to equate to one another, each taken as a whole truth without qualification, and in sum to lead to the hazy conclusion reached for the sake of that pressed effort and no more, no truth sought other than a foreordained confirmation of the emotive premise. This obscurantist sees only to the end of his nose; he refuses to embrace or admit that there is a world beyond the narrow tunnel of relations in the world with which he identifies his own membership, from which he draws his sustenance, and by which he defines his existence in the world. The rest might as well not exist to the obscurantist--indeed is unworthy of recognition of existence, must disappear from the screen as conflicting too much with the obscurantist's telescoped view of the world. The obscurantist easily rationalizes predatory conduct therefore toward these others for whom existence should not be; he does not have to take into account the logical consequence of such predation to others, and finally to society at large, including the obscurantist and his narrow group of relations, that once turned loose with impunity in society, blood-lust and vengeance and counter-vengeance, being lashed taut in union with the most primitive drives, abhor rationality, know no end until all are dead. He does not need to take into account that consequence because he refuses to see it, as the broad scope of relations in the world is not something to be admitted, rather obfuscated by his pride and emotion struck around the primitive concept of the world, the concept of a typically developing child before the age of five, that the world revolves around him and his own immediate sphere of relations and characteristics of identity, not that they are integrated with those of all others, regardless of heritage, race, religion, or other attribute.

The obscurantist identifies completely with the Nazi because essentially, save for the armbands, salutes, and other symbols of national identification, they are cut from the same wholecloth. And at the end of the day, while the world may be largely rid of Nazis in name and symbols, the world will likely never be rid of obscurantists. Which is why we should continually seek to educate with clear thinking on what happened over time, societally, to dissociate a whole nation and culture from reality, and from that education enable the realization of the intrinsic integration demanded of humanity for humanity long to subsist in the world, to avoid the conditions which produce en masse such a form of thought which denies the right of the other to co-exist, and to do so in freedom and dignity, those same goals to which each of us who is sane would aspire for one's self to attain.

Old Faces

Tobey resolution brings out a familiar line-up

The vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Tobey resolution yesterday could have been predicted with your eyes shut.

The immediate question on which the vote was taken was whether or not public committee hearings should be had on this resolution which would have absolutely forbidden the convoy of supplies to Britain.

The resolution would, of course, have played right into the hands of Britain's enemies. For one thing it would have given the same opportunity for the whipping up of hysterical dissension which the isolationists use to such advantage in the Lend-Lease Bill hearings. For another, it would have delayed whatever action with regard to convoys that the Administration intends to take.

The committee voted 13 to 9 against such hearings. Those who voted for the hearing were:

Democrats Robert Rice Reynolds and Bennett Champ Clark; Republicans Hiram Johnson, Gerald P. Nye, Capper, Vandenberg, White, Shipstead; Progressive La Follette.

It is the bitter-end roll of those who have all along fought virtually every proposal to aid Britain--British-baiters like Reynolds, Clark and Johnson; professional pacifists and isolationists like Johnson, Nye, Shipstead, Vandenberg and La Follette; Republicans who hold that a Democratic Administration is always wrong.

And the man whose name heads the list is the man who seems destined to become chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, which will play one of the most important roles in implementing the prevailing policy of aid to Britain.

Good Cause

Ironpants' Attack On Policy Fitted Ill With Army Status

It is more than probable that the President was personally glad enough not to reappoint Hugh (Ironpants) Johnson as a brigadier general on the Army's reserve list. The General has been roaring against his old chief ever since the NRA debacle and his own departure from the ranks of the Administration. And often he has been very harsh in his judgments of Mr. Roosevelt's motive and purpose.

But apart from all personal considerations, there was good reason not to reappoint the General.

He is 58 now and none too robust--so there was little possibility of his ever being recalled to active service even in the event of all-out war. Whatever services he can render, he can render as a civilian.

On the other hand, he has recently become a very active member of the American First Committee, and has been going around the country making speeches--at $750 each--for its policy of appeasing Hitler by reversing the settled policy of the nation and abandoning Britain to Nazi mercies.

It is his right as a civilian to champion that course, and it does not justify attacks on his patriotism. But nobody supposes that it would be the right of a brigadier general on the active list to follow such a course of public opposition to the policy of the Government and the Army. And it is very questionable that a reserve general ought to have the right, either. For the public is likely to take a brigadier as a brigadier and as representative of Army thought and feeling, without bothering to inquire as to his active or reserve status.

A Masterpiece

How To Get The Least Done At Greatest Possible Cost

Prize red-tape exhibit of all times turned up at the University of Pennsylvania.

It was one of those huge bulky mimeographed things that all bureaus, Federal and State, love to turn out. This one had 71 pages, came from the Pennsylvania State Purchasing Agency.

Presumably the reason for setting up a state purchasing agency is economy for the taxpayer. But observe how it often--perhaps usually?--turns out.

Seventy-one mimeographed pages run at least 14,000 words. A good hard day's work for anybody, as working newspaper men and writers can tell you. The man that turned this job out probably worked at least two days on it, for the bureau pace is leisurely, its hours light.

Say he made $10 a day (it is a conservative estimate, for in bureau circles only a Big Shot would be held capable of such a mighty effort of mind as 14,000 consecutive words). That gives you $20. Add, say, a dollar for the stenographer who wrote down the great man's deathless effort, another dollar for the clerk who ran the mimeograph, twenty-five cents for paper and ink and wear and tear on mimeograph.

Grand total--$22.25.

Confronted with this mighty effort, Dr. Mabel L. Walker, director of Pennsylvania U's tax institute, naturally felt duty-bound to read it attentively. She did, at page 59 finally found that it was a request to quote a price on one pamphlet.

The price of the pamphlet was 25 cents. Out of curiosity, she found out that the cost of mailing the request, alone, came to 30 cents.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Bold Claim

Hitler Asserts Right To Arbitrary Rule Over Ocean

The Nazi trumpeting of yesterday about torpedoing any American ship--of war or commerce--which enters the "war zone" is undoubtedly directed to try to excite the appeasers among us to renewed uproars and efforts to sabotage the Aid-Britain policy.

Chances probably are good that, if Adolf Hitler does not leap off the deep-end in one of his fits of prancing rage, he will not choose to bring the war with the United States to the shooting stage as yet. His whole policy is plainly directed to lulling this country as far as possible, to persuading dopes to play his game over here and paralyzing action as far as may be, to keeping our aid to Britain ineffective, until he has destroyed her and got hold of her navy and control of the Atlantic. Then combined action of the Axis in both oceans can settle our hash in short order.

Shooting now, he knows, is likely to bring us fully into the war, end our half-hearted methods, and so seal the doom of himself, his gang and his infamous nation. Meantime, however, these resounding threats are useful in aiding the appeasers to start up anti-war hysteria.

The remarks of his spokesman yesterday are instructive as to what alternative to seeing that England survives we actually face.

Said the swine:

"We made a categorical declaration with reference to combat zones. It was pointed out that it was not a question whether these zones were recognized or not, but we declared whoever goes therein will be torpedoed."

The "combat zone" referred to is not fixed under our own so-called Neutrality Act. It is one which was arbitrarily extended to Bermuda in the Atlantic and which even reaches to within three miles of the shores of Greenland, the northern outpost of this continent. It has not been recognized by the United States, has been explicitly repudiated. It rests on no legal right, on nothing at all but the arrogant assumption of the German swine to tell us where our ships can and cannot go.

In the last analysis, it means that Germany claims the right to fix limits in the Atlantic--and by extension, in other oceans--into which the ships of any other nation cannot go without German permission.

For the present, Hitler prefers to confine it to water still fairly far from our own shores, saving the case of Greenland, now our protectorate. But if we yield to the assertion of his right to such unilateral action and allow him to defeat Britain rather than dare his threat, we shall soon learn that there is no sea left on earth which is free to us.

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