“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.
October 22, 1959
FEATHERBEDDING MUST STOP
It has come to our attention that the railroad unions, by clinging to practices established decades ago, are succeeding in making real the loafer's eternal dream. In some instances, they are collecting for work they do not do, and hours they do not put in.
Of course, it was not accident that this came to our attention. We have been bombarded from every direction by publicity from the railroads (put out at great expense) designed to build public support for a frontal assault against the railroad unions. Their three-year contract expires November 1, and negotiations begin for a new one.
No matter what the circumstances, however, the condition is dishonest and must stop. Interestingly enough, President Gilbert of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen has stated that the work rules must be revised and modernized! In other words, the railroad brotherhoods themselves, which are recognized even by railroad management as some of the cleanest and most democratic unions anywhere, realize that some antiquated and unfair rules are on the books and must be changed.
The status of the “fireman” on present-day diesel locomotives is in question. Admittedly he has no fires to tend; but as Senator Hubert Humphrey recently asked in Congress, “How would you like to ride on an airplane today without a copilot?” Possibly what needs to be changed is merely the name; today's “fireman” is in reality an apprentice engineer and copilot, and he is needed. While the engineer watches out the right window, he is at the left; without him, every train that swung into a left-hand curve at speeds of from 60 to 100 miles per hour would be GOING AROUND THAT CURVE ABSOLUTELY BLIND!
“Full crew” rules are also under attack. It must be remembered that the railroad accident rate IS RISING; and according to information released by the brotherhoods at least, one of the chief reasons has been their unwillingness to hire men enough to watch over the safety of longer and longer modern trains. Crew members on today's high speed trains are sometimes A FULL MILE APART, making it impossible to keep a close watch for “hot boxes” and other faulty equipment.
It may be of interest to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released figures showing that railroad labor has increased its production per man more than that in any other industry (agriculture excepted.) Their wages per hours, on the contrary, as shown by government figures, HAVE LAGGED BEHIND THOSE IN OTHER INDUSTRIES. (Agriculture also excepted here, we might add!)
It is also worthy of note that the railroad brotherhoods are responsible and public-minded in their approach to wage negotiations. They do not strike and tie up transportation; they submit requests to government arbitration boards and accept the decisions; meanwhile, they keep the trains on schedule.
Do the railroads represent themselves as unable to pay present wages? The Interstate Commerce Commission reports that between 1947 and 1957, railroad employee's wages rose an average 23.1%. During the same period, dividends declared on the common stocks of American railroads increased by 115.7%. Who is resting easier on the featherbed, labor or management?
It is clear there are certain genuine instances where trainmen collect a “day's pay” for a few hours work. The unions stand ready to negotiate changes in the outdated rules which are responsible. Beyond this, the reader and voter can write the whole thing off as a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign by the railroads against the trainmen in the coming wage negotiations.
The “featherbed”, in other word, turns out to be mostly HORSEFEATHERS.
November 19, 1959
A DOSE OF CASTRO OIL
The Cuban Purge has begun already to carry overtones of the Cuban Dirge.
Above and beyond the political and military struggle, as above every human conflict, shines the same quiet star that shone over Bethlehem. Hatred and violence are as mistaken in a good cause as they are in an evil one; those who live by the sword should not be surprised at their reward.
Some of what has happened in Havana has been reported in our news media. We are all familiar with Fidel Castro's long heroic struggle to overthrow the despot Batista, and with his troubles since that time.
Some of what has happened has NOT been reported in our news media. It is sickening to realize that much of what we are told must be held up to a mirror and READ BACKWARDS in order to get the truth.
There is fragmentary mention of anti-American demonstrations in which the Cuban people carried signs, reading, “This is not Guatemala!” In Guatemala, you will recall, the voters in 1954 elected to office a slate of candidates with distinct Communist sympathies. Elected or not, this was considered intolerable in the Pentagon. Out of nowhere appeared one Castillo Armas, his army equipped with American weapons, and his pockets full of American dollars.
The long arm of America was at work again re-arranging the internal affairs of Latin America. The American people claimed not to know it; but THEY KNEW IT IN GUATEMALA, and in Cuba, and in every little nation that lives in the shadow of their Uncle with the big wallet and the big stick!
Officially, we were never in Guatemala – but a recent article in TRUE magazine about our Master Spy, Allen Dulles, states baldly that the Guatemalan coup is now “generally accepted” as the work of our C.I.A. agents.
Isn't it curious that Urrutia, the Cuban ex-president, had somehow alienated EVERY CUBAN IN THE COUNTRY HE RULED, so that in the moment he was being politically annihilated on TV by Castro, there was no-one to carry his resignation to Castro but AN AMERICAN MAGAZINE WRITER? What did Castro say... “Let him form a new cabinet; after all, it will only take fifteen American secret agents!”
Castro's first act in victory was to close down the plush American gambling casinos in Havana. This earned him powerful enemies in the country in addition to the deposed Batista, and the Dominican enemy, Trujillo.
Next he seized some American sugar plantations to cut up among his peasant followers. More powerful enemies.
Last month, he sent his men to seal the files of U.S. oil companies operating in Cuba. As of that instant, he was in trouble. The oil companies pushed the button, and alarm bells went off in Washington.
Finally, SOME OF WHAT WAS REPORTED DID NOT HAPPEN. When the Oil Trust said “Jump!” the American undercover agents went into action, and Cuban officials began to resign and flee the country “as a protest against Castro's Communist tendencies.”
Dr. Castro most distinctly is not a Russian tool. If he is a Communist, he is a CUBAN Communist, which may be just as bad. Without doubt he is Revolutionary, and fancies himself the Savior of all Latin America, freeing it (including Panama) from foreign domination.
A cynical view of world history would suggest that revolutions are “wrong” when they fail, and “right” when they succeed, because then they write the history books for generations that follow!
So the Oil Trust called, “Here, Fidel! Here, Fidel!” instead, Fidel nipped their aspirations to control the new Cuba as they controlled the old.
Overnight, in the big papers, the Bearded Beatnik from Below the Border became a monster. Long articles dwelt on the armies in exile arising to unseat him. These, particularly, are figments of the imagination. Good or bad, Castro is Cuba's national hero, and is not to be unseated by the paltry few millions it costs us to change prime ministers in small Middle Eastern countries.
Even when we have unravelled the lies about Fidel Castro, the truth is not a great deal more attractive. Without question a courageous and patriotic man, he became shrunken in spirit and embittered by the long conflict, until in victory he demonstrated not generosity but the same terrorism and brutality which had inspired his rebellion. Originally devoted to democratic institutions, he has been led by fear of his enemies and by the intoxication of power to “temporarily” suspend elections in his troubled country.
So are we altered when we try to use evil means to attain good ends, until we become the kind of person incapable of living in the Paradise we seek.
The star is still there... the same star that was above Bethlehem.