The Charlotte News

Thursday, August 28, 1941


Site Ed. Note: "Paul Collette" implies that Pierre Laval and Marcel Deat, two of the foremost traitors who sold out France to the Nazis in 1940-41, were assassinated by Collette. They weren't. Whether the story of their assassination was fabricated to afford the Nazis an excuse to raid and arrest members of the French resistance loyal to De Gaulle within occupied France, or whether the editorial simply assumed sub silentio an accurate understanding of the recently reported facts by the reader, the two were in fact only wounded the day before while reviewing troops at Versailles.

In the case of Laval, the Nazi-favored leader-to-be of Vichy since the occupation began, he was given dictatorial powers over France by Marshal Pétain in April, 1942 and in that capacity did virtually all that the usual Nazi war criminals did, including persecution and deportation of Jews to concentration camps during the course of the war before Liberation by the Allies in 1944. He had always been a political opportunist since his days as a corporate lawyer fixing deals for the favored. (His daughter ingratiated him to French society by marrying French nobility, the nephew of Alice L.) In 1945, after the war ended, he was tried in France for his war crimes, convicted, and executed, just as he self-sacrificially predicted he would be when he came to power in 1942.

Deat, who Time erroneously reported in its September 22 issue to have died of his wounds, fled to Italy after Liberation, survived the war, was convicted in absentia of collaboration, and died in the insular security of a convent near Turin in 1955 without ever being found.

Collette was condemned to die but was spared by Pétain who commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

Even if Laval and Deat were detestable traitors to democratic ideals, as they were, we disagree with the spirit of this editorial. While an understandable emotional response to trends afoot in the world at the time threatening war with the United States in a world already quite at war, and while we agree that a dead fascist is most usually a dramatic improvement upon a living fascist, to support, even under such circumstances as extant in 1941, political assassination is to invite later retaliation in kind--something which the country may well have seen in the 1960's.

Moreover, especially in the case of a country such as France, one forcibly occupied, to have assassinated a dozen such puppet leaders doing the bidding of the Nazis would not have lessened the totalitarian grip on the country. While perhaps given the lessened presence of Nazis in France during this period of the Russian offensive, there was perceived an opportunity to deliver a weakening blow to that hold, the better target would have been the Nazi occupiers themselves, rather than occupation's native marionettes.

In any event, no matter how strong the sentiment and how bad the dictatorial regime in a given sovereignty, for the United States or its citizens to advocate violent overthrow of a foreign regime is to invite vindictive behavior toward the United States by the faction thus overthrown or threatened with violent overthrow, if not immediately, later, perhaps decades later. Such fanatical, fascist groups tend to have long and violent memories. To say that is not to justify such retaliation; it is simply to state an obvious fact of life to which Americans should always be sensitive. We did not care, for instance, for the reported plot in Iraq on the life of an ex-President during the 1990's; a punitive bombing raid was then ordered by President Clinton. We must always reflect on the fact that those in foreign countries, no matter how much we may find their methods and beliefs deplorable, are nevertheless still human beings with feelings for their leaders--even if we have our doubts about Adolf Hitler and his minions in that regard and lean toward the notion in that case that one bullet well placed there might have saved several millions of lives. Then again, there still remained Goebbels and Himmler to take his place after him...

As to "Heavenbound" and its somewhat presumptuous suggestion that practical works have a hand in getting one to Heaven, if correct, we would opine that FDR made it, hands down, even if his hands-on style of administration sometimes led to some bureaucratic chaos down the line. No doubt, his sparing the entrance to Arlington the presence of the Quartermaster depot saved the interruption of pastoral appearances of that hallowed ground for all the many who had to endure the grim task during the war of burying their sons, brothers, and husbands there.

Dorothy Thompson's piece, about the heroism of the normally quiescent, retiring professional classes of Britain during the blitz, suggests something about how things usually work when the chips are down--it is more typically than not those who in normal times are, not the loud-mouthed nationalists wearing their patriotism on their sleeves, rather those who keep their patriotism on the quieter side, that relative to humanity itself, not sloganeering in nationalism for the sake of it, who do the thing which most ardently and ultimately represents true patriotism at the end of the day.

Jonathan Daniels, in a brief letter to Joseph Morrison in August, 1964, after responding to Morrison's inquiry regarding his friendship to Cash, stated blissfully and briefly in conclusion, and, as we have pointed out, given the timing of events on the days leading up to Cash's death, not without serendipitously symbiotic, and historically consistent presentiment, that he was "off to nominate Lyndon", just a month and a half after the July 2 signing by LBJ of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tonight, on an anniversary of both the 1955 death of young Emmett Till, born July 25, 1941, and the hot August afternoon in Washington on which Martin Luther King, reminiscent of the Easter in 1939 on which Marian Anderson sang from her heart on the same hallowed steps, dispelled the heat of the day and the tensions of the times for an hour for the sake of the future, with an address which still echoes across both the Mall and the years of time intervening since that tumultuous Southern summer of 1963, we sit down to listen again.

So, we shall watch now, "Just to watch ol' Jordan roll..."

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