On February 15, 1933, the 44th mayor of Chicago was shot in Miami. Eight months and eight days later, a silver bullet traveled over Miami. Where the mayor’s killer was too small to see his target, and missed his intended target, anyone could see the slow-moving projectile overhead.
On May 6, 1937, four years and seven months before the end of our peace, a final bullet—a dirigible of death—fell from the long sky over Lakehurst, New Jersey.
On that day, the memory of which outlives the survivors, the legacy of which numbers six years short of threescore years and ten, the sky was an inferno.
Not until September 11, 2001, would there be another fire in the sky over America.
Not until we prepare for the fire next time, and take time to listen and learn from the past, can we understand that man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.
Not until we respect the humanities can we know what it means to hear a man cry out “Oh, the humanity!”
The record that precedes the cry, like the recording that preserves the cry, lives on as a series of inscriptions.
The record contains deep and visible digs in lacquer, of a change in sound—a moment of silence—due to a crack in the air.
The recording lives on as a signature of words and as a signal of numbers, a translation of the language we talk into the language God talks.
The words belong to Herbert Morrison, a radio artist, who talks of a great floating palace—a glittering jewel—on a background of black velvet.
The words help us see the tower and cables of the mooring mast, the cone facing into the wind, as the propellers of the palace bite into the air and throw the airship back into the wind; as the ship moves with might and majesty, like a great feather, before disaster strikes; as the fate of the ship comes to symbolize the future of the state whose flag it bears, the two ending in a fireball of defeat and destruction.
Picture the ship as both an aerial torpedo and a burning torpedo boat, sinking as the tower becomes a flare stack.
Picture the dissolution of the pictures—the murals—inside the ship, and of the obliteration of the books and paintings throughout the ship, as the oldest process meets the newest expression of the oldest hatred.
Picture the remains of the dead, and a mass of smoking wreckage, according to a transcript of Morrison’s broadcast.
If only Morrison had seen the fire in Berlin on May 6, 1933, when vandals were as Huns and books were kindling for a new breed of firemen.
On that night, three months and six days after a long march into darkness, the land of poets and thinkers was no more.
If we had not met terror with silence, and published the truth instead, perhaps Morrison would’ve backdated his description of May 6, 1937, to May 6, 1933, at the outbreak of one of the worst catastrophes in the world.
If we stop denigrating the humanities, and start promoting excellence in the humanities, perhaps we can avoid another catastrophe.
Perhaps then we’ll love knowledge, recognizing that those who take instruction in words—and revere the wisdom of the Word—possess a goodness richer than the purest gold.
—Follow Bill Asher on Twitter: @BillAsher18