“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.
April 23, 1959
A CALCULATED RISK
The fences continue to come down. Fences are a minor menace to mechanized equipment; they must be mowed and kept in repair; on occasion, the plow-ridge in the fencerow may impair drainage; and of course, a fence costs you two rows of corn or beans.
Against this can be placed only one dusty little fact out of the history-books of forgotten civilizations that, one by one, exhausted the fertility of their soil AND PERISHED.
That fact is, that NO SYSTEM OF AGRICULTURE HAS EVER PERMANENTLY SUCCEEDED, THAT DID NOT INCLUDE ANIMALS.
There has been a vast increase in Man's knowledge of the make-up and functioning of soils. Techniques have been developed for using green manures and commercial plant nutrients to replace the animal manurers lost to the soil when the fences are taken down and the feedlots plowed up.
Whenever Man can learn to control Nature to his advantage, he can safely go forward. The question remains, however; HAVE WE REALLY ATTAINED CONTROL? Have we really accepted our responsibility to supply the growing crops with the elements they once gained through livestock rotations? Can we do it even if we are willing?
Dr. William S. Albrecht, chairman of the University of Missouri Department of Soils, and probably the world's greatest authority on that subject, once told this writer, “We have been raising crops like they do razorback hogs in the Ozarks; they turn them loose to feed themselves all summer, and in the fall go out with a rifle and shoot them!”
We must do better than that, if we are going to farm without fences and without animals. Some of our level black land has been plowed a hundred years without substantial damage; but the history of our sons, who must be fed from this soil, will be written in the thousands.
Farming without fences and without animal manures may succeed and show a profit; but it is nothing to be undertaken lightly, without a planned program of replacement fertility. Otherwise our mistake may be written in one more of the deserts whose sand-laden winds lay bare the bones of continents, and which now encompass one-fifth of the world's land area.
April 30, 1959
THE MILK OF DEATH
We have printed in this issue a letter from Max Scott of Maroa. You will recall the front-page feature from our issue of last May 22nd. It reported the death from leukemia of Mr. and Mrs. Max Scott's four-year-old Maxie, and contained a moving appeal that we stop the testing of nuclear weapons until we determine what effect is is having on the health of our children.
You may recall also that it was this story which won for The Prairie Post a third place in statewide newspaper competition; we feel the award was a recognition of the moving sincerity and vital importance of the message, rather than of literary merit.
Many questions remain unanswered about the danger of fallout. Some rather frightening facts emerge, however. The dosage of radiation which is considered “safe” by responsible scientists has been reduced year by year until now it stands at only 5% of what was considered “safe” in 1936!
It has been discovered that the genetic make-up of future generations is altered by even slight radiation damage to their parents, and deformed stillborn children are the result.
Perhaps the most frightening element in the fallout picture is Strontium-90. It closely resembles calcium; the cow delivers it in her milk from eating grass polluted with the invisible dust; when we drink the milk it travels with the calcium to concentrate in our bones, where it has an active life of FORTY YEARS. Here is the tragic part; we adults use very little calcium; those who do use it are the little people, from one to four years of age, who are building bones at a rapid rate.
Years will pass before we know for certain how many infants have been killed by bone cancer and leukemia directly caused by fallout poisoning FROM THE BOMBS ALREADY EXPLODED. Estimates vary from thirty per year, up to hundreds, in this country alone.
Now enters the AEC, the Atomic Energy Commission. It is charged by our government with developing this vast force in the best interests of humanity; but the efforts of this handful of men, working in secret, have been bent almost entirely toward creating larger bombs with which to kill more people.
Apparently convinced that the American people are incapable of facing facts or making decisions, the AEC has repeatedly concealed from the public facts vital to their health and well-being, and HAS REPEATEDLY ISSUED, AS FACTS, STATEMENTS IT KNEW TO BE FLAT LIES!
Senators such as Clinton Anderson of New Mexico and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota have forced the AEC to admit that they danger level of radiation is reached much more rapidly than they had claimed; that the potential genetic effects of fallout are enormous rather than “insignificant”, as they had claimed; and that the scientific ability of the various countries to detect nuclear tests in other countries is far greater than they had admitted...
All of which points up the determination of the AEC, and the Pentagon, to continue testing these lethal devices no matter what the damage to the health of the world's children. The representatives of the world's major governments are still in session at Geneva, trying to work out a cessation of atomic tests. The stuff circles the globe impartially, and Russian tests are probably poisoning children in Kentucky, while American tests kill infants in Turkestan. The Russians, for all their viciousness, at last seem ready to recognize this; why does the AEC continue to conceal the facts from the American people in order to prevent us from approving a ban on tests?
A year ago right here in Maroa, Max Scott told us how serious this might become; by now authorities everywhere are insisting that tests must be stopped; and STILL the AEC continues to hide the truth from us. “The need and right to know”, declares Senator Hubert Humphrey, “are not a slogan, they are a basic requirement of responsible, democratic government.”
Read Max Scott's letter. Then write your Senators asking them to vote for Senator Humphrey's resolution, now before the Senate, for a suspension – under strict controls – of all further nuclear testing, anywhere in the world!