“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” - A.J. Liebling
My father Bob Wilson took this to heart, and bought one and started his own newspaper, the Prairie Post of Maroa, Illinois in 1958, and ran it until he died in 1972. It never had a circulation of more than 2500 or so, but every week, he would fire off editorials at everyone and everything from local events to the actions of the nations of the world.
He may have been a Quaker peace activist in a Republican district, but his love and support of the farming communities garnered him enough respect that he eventually ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962, though he lost. (He might have tried again, had he not died of an accident while only 49.) Many of his views ring true today. And he might have been willing to change the ones that fell behind the times. Although raised in the casual racism of the 1920s and 1930s, at the age of 15 he took stock of what he was being taught and discarded much of it as being wrong, and lived his life with respect for all.
I decided to transcribe his old editorials (I may make a book for some of my relatives) and every once in a while I will repost one here, as a view of how the world has changed wildly, or remained stubbornly the same.
August 13, 1959
THIS IMPERMANENT EARTH
The rains that came almost in time will give us reason to go to the field at harvest time. While the drought is still fresh in our minds, however, let's fact the facts about the future.
The winters have been getting warmer, possibly half a degree in twenty five years. The evidence is unmistakable. The cod and other fish are moving north into arctic waters. The arctic icefield has lost ONE THIRD ITS THICKNESS IN THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS!
The old-timers apparently are right; we DON'T have winters any more such as THEY had when they were boys!
One fact is sometimes overlooked; if the winters are getting warmer, the summers are also becoming warmer, by two degrees per century. And has they get hotter, they also get drier.
This area is blessed with deep soils whose chemical exchange capacity and mechanical properties place them among the world's finest. Our climate, while rigorous, produces and ripens hardy plants, animals and men.
What we must realize is neither soil nor climate is “permanent” (to the geologist and the historian, at least.) Both are in a state of change.
The best scientific theory now available would suggest that the world's weather is controlled by the ice in the Arctic, acting as a kind of thermostat.
The glaciers continue to melt as we move further into the warm dry phase of this cycle. According to this concept, within a “short” while (whether tens of years or thousands) the thaw will break up the rotting Polar ice some summer, and with one tremendous roar, the fabled “Northwest Passage” will open across a navigable Arctic Sea! (The beaches surrounding this sea could ONLY HAVE BEEN FORMED BY WAVE ACTION, and it seems apparent it will happen again.
The sudden release of most of the world's ice into warmer water, where it will melt, will (according to theory, again) bring a new version of THE GREAT FLOOD. The Flood, you will recall, is described by the earliest legends of primitive people ON ALL PARTS OF THE GLOBE. Large areas of land now beneath the sea were once inhabited, such as the Dogger Banks in the North Sea (where fishnets have dragged up stone axes), the passage between Alaska and Siberia, and possibly the fabled “Lost Continent of Atlantis.”
Supposedly, the temperate Arctic Sea will then begin to evaporate great quantities of water which will shroud much of the world in fog, turns the deserts into gardens by heavy rainfall, and start building new glaciers with steady snowfall in northern areas.
When enough of the world's water has again been tied up in glaciers, which by then will cover half of America, the oceans will be so low that they no longer pour warm water into the Arctic Sea; it will freeze again and stop adding snowfall to the glaciers.
This won't happen next year, if it happens at all. But the experts present some convincing argument that IT WILL HAPPEN.
While the weather is moving towards worse droughts, a period of snow and fog, and finally a new age of glaciers, the soil itself is slipping out from beneath our feet.
Vast eruptions hurl up mountains out of the seas, and the ooze and muck becomes rock, sprinkled with fossil shells. Then gravity, frost, rainfall, and even the footsteps of men combine to break down bedrock to gravel, gravel into sand, sand to silt and silt to clay. The more weathered a soil, the higher its clay content, and the worse its working characteristics. (Our soils are comparatively new.)
Thus in the end, soil as we know it is only a transition stage between bedrock, and solution in the sea.
Nothing is changeless, but the fact of change itself. We must expect it, and adapt to it. We can find means of livelihood on almost any soils, under any weather conditions. (This is assuming that some monster in the Kremlin, or some fools in the Pentagon, does not set off an atomic war and destroy the whole business just as we are beginning to learn how it works!)
If we can adapt, then change, which destroyed the dinosaurs, will only spur us to greater creative effort.
Remember and appreciate, as you regard the fertile Paradise around you, that the weather and soil conditions which produced it are not here forever, but have simply crossed lines of flight like mating eagles, and embraced in midair for one perfect moment.
August 27, 1959
THE TERRIBLE MEEK
At Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, a small group of men and women come every day to stand in front of the gates.
They do not march. They do not carry signs. They do not stop traffic, or throw rocks, they do not even speak. They don't do anything, unless perhaps prayer is doing something; and those to whom prayer is no stranger may fell prayer IS doing something.
THEY JUST STAND THERE.
Fort Detrick is the U.S. Army Chemical Corps new germ warfare plant.
In its first month, 300 Christians from many denominations have taken part in this vigil. These people have come to the conclusion that poisoning the water supplies of an enemy and spreading diseases among their children is more that the Carpenter's Son from Nazareth would tolerate.
A “strike” that destroys property and spills blood is one thing; a dignified prayerful vigil of protest is another.
These people are employing what Gandhi called “Satyagraha”, or “Soul Force.” It is the only weapon of the weak; but in the end, it is the only effective weapon.
The British Empire has struck its colors, and with trumpets and banners, America has entered that proud and lonely road. Do our fathers remember when we were the young democracy, the champion of free peoples, and the stalwart ancestors of our German population fled to our shores BECAUSE THERE WAS MILITARY CONSCRIPTION IN PRUSSIA?
Now we have peacetime conscription, and hardly a voice was raised against its extension by the recent Congress.
Now we have hydrogen bombs, and finally, germ warfare.
A handful of church people object, and go to stand in silent appeal before the gates of the germ warfare plant. Similar protests before the barbed wire of the bomb testing grounds out West have occasionally reached the papers.
REMEMBER, WE CRITICIZED THE GERMAN PEOPLE because their good church members did not protest the concentration camps and other horrors created by their military machine.
An organization of prominent scientists has stated of the germ warfare research, “We earnestly hope that scientists and technicians will turn away from this tragic misuse of scientific knowledge and apply their skills to the preservation rather than the destruction of human life.”
In the last speech before he died, President Roosevelt declared that spiritual power is the greatest power in the world and the only final answer.
The use of spiritual power has been attempted by the unjust; but it has never worked except for the pure in heart.
These people are the meek, the “terrible meek” of whom the Scriptures speak. A giving hand rather than an iron fist; a prayer rather than a curse.
If ever you come to doubt that people can be threatened into being good, or beaten into loving you, remember the people at the gates of Fort Detrick. They are the meek. It is written that they shall inherit suffering; terror; abuse; and finally, the Earth.