From Hallmark, CORE, or Thoreau .. . Merry Christmas, Everyanybody AUSTIN reading for the 150 or so University “It is not so important that many Like everything else it makes impersonal, habit has ruined Christmas of Texas students who are demon strating now for the admission of should be as good as you, there be some absolute as that goodness cards. The revolt against them is growing and is evident in surprising quarters. A week or two ago my favorite comic strip, “Mickey Finn,” was devoted to the Sheriff’s resolve against the commercialism of the custom. \(He weakened, however, for a Christmas card industry, sensing the invasion of the’ American way of life by a new subversive idea, has begun broadcasting “the history of the Christmas card,” from which one infers that when -the custom began, one meant, by sending a card, something like, “We are thinking of you at Christmas, and want you to know.” Now, however, one seldom receives such a clear message, and even less often knows it. The gaudily-stuffed mailbox means many things this morning. Here is a politician who is saying, by his card, “I’ll be running for office again in 1962, and I want you to remember I remembered you.” Here is a lobbyist who is saying, “The association pays for these, and it’s my job to send you one.” Here is a person we trade with who is saying, “I’m glad you have brought us your money, and I hope you’ll keep doing it.” PEOPLE WHO MATTER to each other always find ways to go on being with each other, together or apart, and the Christmas card habit cannot stop that ; but, it haS succeeded in concealing, in the glut of the standard cards and even the printed signatures, the personal feelings which sometimes lie behind these things. In this “the Christmas card industry” has perpetrated a real offense against us. Everywhere we turn in the culture now, we seem to find fewer and fewer personal things and more and more of the habits,. the forms, the formalities, so that we run through life like cattle through the mazes of cattle chutes ; red rights, green lights, one ways, hamburgers 24 cents, double stamps on Wednesday, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We have stopped sending cards; but the reaction has taken other forms. For example, J. Frank Dobie’s cards have been delights for years: he often sends something he has written, handsomely printed. People concerned about the world often send United Nations International Chilthe flags of the nations and messages about the needy. From Lubbock we have a handsome abstraction of a dove, the globe and three people, and a quote from The Diary of Anne Frank, “I still believe that people are really good at heart . . . if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” On the back it says, “Proceeds from these cards further the interracial work of the Congress of Racial Equality \(CORE, 38 Park Row, New York generally tainted by the promotions of impersonal commerce can be vehicles for real values and emotions. \(I think back to the funeral in San Antonio of Elgin Williams, the tragic young man who might have written and might have painted and might have lived. Many of his friends did not send flowers to his grave, but a contribution to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeoTHERE ARE OTHER good ways out. We have some friends who make woodcuts and print their own cards from them. Bob Sherrill has drawn us four cards and delivered them in quick, dodging forays from his house across the street. Many people use the commercial cards, since we seem to be stuck with them, for writing notes. One other way out might be sending something one has read and thinks about and wants his friends to have. My Christmas card, if I had one, would be drawn from a Negroes to the two theaters on the University Drag : Ex c e r pt s from “Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau: “The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished ; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got its way . . . Let every man make known what kind of government would command his , respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. . . “Can there not be a government in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. . . . “The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comiatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense. . . . A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. . . . THE LONGS OF LOUISIANA, by Stan Opotowsky, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1960, 271 pp., $4.50. PRINCETON, N.J. “There is no dictatorship in Louisiana. There is perfect democracy there, and when you have a perfect democracy it is pretty hard to tell it from a dictatorship.” The speaker was Huey P. Long, and he was making a point both liberals and conservatives might give serious thought to now and then. As history, Opotowsky’s study has faults, a few of them serious, but the book has one solid merit. The author does not stop with reporting the cavortings of the Long family but tries to judge whether the sovereign citizens of Louisiana who elected the Longs got their money’s worth. Opotowsky hedges, emerging finally “with the feeling that those who were willing to sell their freedom were contented with the price they received.” The ,results of any election in which a man named Long ran for governor could have told us that. But should they have been content? AFTER WORLD WAR I Huey Long won a seat on the Railroad Commission and waged war against the big corporations. He forced a telephone company to cancel a rate increase and made the cancellation retroactive for two years. He also began a long feud with Standard Oil Company. He ran for governor in 1924, stressing a few simple themes roads, schools, hospitals but lost when rain kept too many Northern Louisiana farmers away from the polls on election day. He won four years later. Once in office he was ruthless, using to the limit his legal authority and coercing a cowardly, corrupt legislature Into giving him almost unlimited power. In 1930 he won a seat in the U. S. Senate, though his term as governor had two years to run. Before leaving Louisiana, he engineered the election as governor of Oscar Allen, Huey’s hapless puppet. Earl Long thought he should have somewhere; far that will leaven the whole lump. . . . Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. . . . Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote. . . . “Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform. . . . “Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations ; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families ; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine. . . . “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go . . . but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong I condemn. “Under a government which hnprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. . . . A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority. then; but it is irresistible had the job and ran for lieutenant governor on an anti-Long ticket. This was not the last time that Long would oppose Long in Louisiana. By the time Huey was shot in 1935, he enjoyed a nationwide following, capitalizing on the emotions unleashed by the Depression. It seems unlikely that he could have achieved his ambition to become President, but FDR was said to have called him one of the two most dangerous men in America. \(The other was Douglas death, federal agents were hard at work in Louisiana, collecting evidence of tax evasion and mail frauds. At the end of Huey’s seven political years, Louisiana had more beds in charity hospitals, dental and medical schools, modern free bridges, new industry, public conservation projects, and 3,000 miles of newly paved roads. Huey had given free textbooks to every school child, cut the tuition at Louisiana State University, and established night schools which taught more than 200,000 illiterates to read and write. Although Huey put some new taxes on the rich and powerful, most of the money for his projects came from sales taxes. The state’s indebtedness rose. He opposed federal relief projects because he couldn’t control them, and he told a labor group, “The prevailing wage is as low as we can get men to take it.” Huey’s projects were expensive in other ways. Constitutional governthent went out the window, and the state legislature became a rubber stamp. As Westbrook Pegler wrote: “They do not permit a house of prostitution to operate within a prescribed distance of the state university but exempt the state Capitol from the meaning of the act.” More sinister, those who opposed the Long regime risked kidnapping and beatings by hired toughs, and often by state highway patrolmen. The young doctor who shot Huey had been in Austria when Hitler took over. He had been brooding over the ease with which a desperate people lose their freedom. when it clogs by its whole weight. . . . “I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through before they could get to be as free as I was. . . . THE AUTHORITY of government, even such as I am willing to submit to,for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do bet .ter than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well,is still an impure one : to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a, progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.” R.D. Opotowsky spends better than half his book on the other Longs, particularly Earl and Russell. He gives an excellent if brief description of how Earl’s enemies used the racial issue to break his power. The Longs were unique among Southern demagogues : they never rested their power on the lava-like base of racial hatred. In return, they kept the Negro vote, which wasat least until recentlyabout ten per cent of the total in Louisiana. ONE WONDERS, these days, how much of the money the Longs put into Louisiana’s educational system went toward anything that deserves the name “education.” Read the morning headlines and try to ‘guess how many educated men in any sense other than merely liter acythere are in Louisiana today. Maybe it is significant that the mobs of women bullying white parents into keeping their children out of integrated schools in New Orleans have been dubbed “cheerleaders.” Probably some of them were cheerleaders in high school. Huey Long brought about a social revolution in Louisiana. After his election as governor, the poor farmers held the balance of power; indeed, almost all the power there was. The obvious point to make is that unless enough people plan and allow for social change, someone else will grab a whip and bring it about at any cost. Why is this a point for liberals to ponder, as much as for conservatives? In the end, liberals probably have the greater stake in order and legality. Who wants a perfect democracy in New Orleans right now? Huey Long thundered against the large corporations, but like Mussolini and Hitler, he was never really very rough on them as long as they stayed in line. The poor paid for what they got in high sales taxes. Those who valued a liberal tradition of political choice and personal freedom lost most of all. FRED BALDWIN iS The Longs of Louisiana
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