“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.
November 10, 1960
HUCKSTERS AT WORK
We are impressed by the effectiveness of the video screen in the campaign just concluded. T-V permitted millions to see and hear the candidates and to choose on the basis of their own reaction to the men themselves, in addition to their printed statements and disembodied radio voices.
We must confess a shock, however, when we heard singing commercials employed in a political campaign. We can imagine the incredulity and distaste on Paul Douglas' features when his campaign managers unreeled for him a singing commercial which plugged “Paul Douglas” as if it were the newest detergent or cake mix.
For some candidates the singing commercials were entirely in keeping with the cheap emotional appeal of their campaigns; these men wanted the votes of people who never read beyond the headlines and the comic strips.
We cannot imagine, however, that men of Paul Douglas' stature would really care to represent voters who chose on the basis of which candidate had the cutest singing commercial!
November 25, 1960
We have begun to favor our wastebasket with an assortment of advertising orders – many enclosing checks – for a kind of advertising which we suspect is, almost in its entirety, misleading and fraudulent.
“Wanted, responsible party to take over payments on piano in your ares” (or sewing machine, or what have you.) The suggestion is made that someone locally has failed to keep up payments on some valuable appliance, and you (lucky you!) can have it simply for taking over the missed payments. The larceny in our natures leads us to believe we are about to profit from someone's loss, and we become easy prey for the sharp deal that waits behind the ad.
No down payment, possibly; but you may to your sorrow discover that the contract you have signed adds up to a thumping good price for what you get. You may also find the goods damaged, “off brand”, or low quality.
Almost without exception, we have found, THERE IS NO REPOSSESSED PIANO, SEWING MACHINE OR OTHER APPLIANCE IN YOUR AREA. They bring one out from their headquarters, generally from some dingy storefront in a city one hundred or more miles away.
If you have a complaint, to whom do you complain?
We have long ago stopped accepting classified ads that want suckers to buy a route of candy or cigaret machines and “get rich” collecting the nickels from them. Henceforth, we shall accept none of these “teaser” appliance ads unless we are dead certain the goods are as advertised.
So the checks continue to go into the wastebasket. We have no obligation to send them back to these operators, as we did not solicit their business. Throwing money away may sound like a funny way to run a business, but we feel that we – and the communities we serve – will profit in the end. We are convinced it is not necessary to cut someone's purse in order to eat bread.
If you need an appliance, check with your home-town dealer. The price will be about the same, and you may be sure he will be there to sell you repairs or back up his guarantee.
What's more, your neighborhood merchant is the same man who supports the Little League, the fireworks, the High School Annuals, and every conceivable local charity that knocks on his door. He is, in other words, the man who supports you community. It is time you supported him.
December 1, 1960
IN SEARCH OF PEACE
Out in Connecticut the other day, the Navy launched an atomic submarine, and some young pacifists in rowboats attempted to row into its path and had to be removed by the Coast Guard.
The guys must have been crazy.
Out in the Pacific last year, a little sloop named the “Golden Hind” with a crew of four pacifists on board, set sail directly into the forbidden zone where nuclear bombs were about to be exploded.
The Navy had to go and tow them away, and there was a furore in the press all over the world.
The guys must have been crazy.
In his book, “1984”, George Orwell explained that the police state would come quietly, and so cover its tracks that the citizenry would be convinced they still lived in a free country. History books would be re-written to jibe with the current fictions, and even the meaning of words would be reversed to serve to policies of the moment. “War is Peace”, declared one slogan. “Truth is Falsehood” was another.
How far distant is 1984? Those boys in the rowboat who held up the launching of the nuclear sub were no doubt described as “dangerous.” The nuclear sub itself, designed to drown seamen and massacre populations ashore by thousands, is “an instrument of peace.”
Of the four men who sailed in the “Golden Hind”, the writer has known and admired two of them for many years. They are men of keen minds, true; but what is more, they are hard-headed realists with an understanding of history and of human character. Beside such men, the generals in the Pentagon seem curiously lop-sided and immature. The crewmen of the “Golden Hind” understood far deeper than logistics, stockpiling, trajectories and discipline. They understood Jesus when he said that only through suffering can men redeem the world. So they told their families goodbye, radioed their course to the world, and set sail into the forbidden area. They were prepared to perish in the nuclear furnace. It was a testimony and a protest.
Obviously these men are very dangerous, so they were put into jail. “War is Peace”, remember? Of course “Freedom is Slavery”, too, according to another motto in the police state of “1984.”
Have you read of the other protests, over the world, against warfare and nuclear bombs? The Aldermaston March in England, hundreds of thousands strong, marching, singing, praying. Bodies of French students and German students, who a few years ago would have been shooting each other, joining forces to defy the border guards and TEAR DOWN THE BOUNDARY POSTS between their two nations!
The guys must have been nuts.
“Prepare for war, and you will have peace.” It is just barely worth mentioning that history does not read that way, and those who prepared for wars ALMOST ALWAYS FOUND THEM. It is just barely worth mentioning that, two thousand years ago, the Carpenter's Son taught us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you...”
He taught his followers not to bear arms, and indeed FOR TWO HUNDRED YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH NO CHRISTIAN EVERY SERVED IN ANY ARMY. He refused to permit his followers to defend him with the sword, and he permitted himself to be taken and crucified.
Was he crazy too?