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Lou Charloff: Sweet Land of Bigotry

Lou Charloff
July 30, 2011

by Lou Charloff

My return home from the army after World War II was not completely free of unpleasantness. For one thing, I learned that shoeshine boys had raised their price from ten cents to a quarter. Was this why we had fought against the evils of fascism?

I learned, too, the identity of the man whom many called the worst member of the United States Senate. Indeed, many people called him the worst senator in the entire history of the nation. He came from Mississippi, his name was Theodore Bilbo, and a more vicious, foul-mouthed voice could not be heard anywhere in our country.

In almost no time at all, I was inducted into a group of six people who manned a bridge table on the sidewalk of Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. We urged passersby to sign a petition calling for Bilbo to be given an official reprimand — only because we felt that an ouster was beyond the realm of possibility.

Many people enthusiastically added their names to the petition and I was pleased with the sentence I had concocted to urge them to do so: “Step right up and fight fascism with a pencil!” The memory of the war being very strong in every mind, we collected a very impressive number of signatures.

Shortly afterwards, the Daily News printed a story that had been told to them by a young Black woman who lived in Harlem. She had sent Bilbo a letter expressing her disagreements with many of his statements. The Daily News reproduced in its entirety the Senator’s response, which began with the salutation: “Dear Nigger . . .”

My kid brother’s name was Harvey, and he, too, had written a letter to Bilbo. Although Harvey did not send the Senator’s reply to any newspaper, he was proud to show people Bilbo’s letter, which began, “Dear Kike . . .”

Isn’t it encouraging to know that your stupid idiocy need not necessarily prevent you from achieving high office in this glorious nation of ours?

By the way, if anybody ever tells you that he doubts the existence of poetic justice, merely point out to him that Bilbo died of cancer of the mouth.