DECEMBER 27, 1961
HYDE PARK—A lovely Christmas card came to me from a poet in one of our Southwestern states. The message is more beautiful in French than in English. He sent me both versions, but the English one conveys his thought and I want to pass it on to you who may have felt in this joyous season a little pain as well:
Over the winds
The stars come from
Of the atom bomb
That is a comforting thought to carry with us. Human love cannot be as all-understanding as is divine love, but it derives its warmth and beauty from the divine.
* * *
It is distressing to read of the situation which has developed in Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana over the past few weeks. This attempt by the states to prevent the putting in effect of integration in interstate travel smacks not of America but of South Africa.
Most Americans, including our Southerners I think, have been deeply troubled by the situation that has grown and become more and more dangerous in South Africa. In both cases—in our Southern states and in South Africa—the condition arises out of fear. The colored population in some southern states is more numerous than the white and in South Africa the native population is, of course, far more numerous than the white.
One trembles from the fear of an explosion that might someday come about in South Africa, but one reads with utter depression the reports from our own Southern localities. Our citizens know that, in time, the law must be obeyed. They would not have it otherwise because ours is a country that really believes in living under law.
But in certain of our states we are trying to delay the inevitable as long as we can and in so doing we are putting ourselves on a par with South Africa. We are doing harm to our position in the world. We are losing our influence with the countries where our help and influence is most needed. In some Southern areas the mass arrests and the conditions created for certain people—many of them very young people—make it most uncomfortable and costly for these people before they can free themselves. It is unfair and unkind. They are often placed in jails and their friends and families are not aware of where they are. There is a general feeling of distrust created by the pure harassment which is not worthy of anybody in our country who believes in fair-minded and generous treatment, even of one's opponents.
Many people in the South are saddened by the present situation that exists and they struggle year after year to get better local legislation so that they will not be in conflict with the national point of view. But so far there is no real improvement in the general attitude which for the most part, we have to concede, is an attitude brought about by fear.
* * *
If, as our newspapers reported the other day, the Katanga Assembly rejects the accord made between President Moise Tshombe and Congo Premier Cyrille Adoula, then one must feel that Mr. Tshombe negotiated merely to be in a position to say that he had made the effort but that his ministers had turned him down. He could claim that in the last analysis they were, of course, the deciding factor, and he was powerless.
This would mean more bloodshed in Katanga and the shattered hopes for the time being of a quick settlement which would make out of the Congo a federation with a viable economy.
The situation is regrettable, but it is clear that perhaps the self-interest of people who think they can control the Katanga province and protect their investments more satisfactorily if it remains by itself have not been circumvented. In the end they may be the ones to suffer most, but in the meantime they are only looking at the immediate situation—and greed is stronger than foresight.