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Archive for October 2009

“A two-bit mayor” in the Midwest

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Shah of IranWho would have guessed a two-bit mayor of a little town in the American Midwest could wind up going into the exile-creation business? Twenty-six Iranian students were involved in a disorderly protest against the regime of the Shah of Iran earlier this month at a Methodist Church in Jefferson City, Mo. They were arrested and appeared before the local police court on disturbance charges. Fair enough, and that should have been the end of it.

But no. Jefferson City Mayor Robert L. Hyder, former chief counsel of the Missouri Highway Department, took it upon himself to send the names and photographs of the kids to the Shah.

In Iran, it’s not a matter of a police court but of a police state, where opposition to His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is punishable by anything and everything that strikes the fancy of the Shahanshah or his agents, with no niceties about venue or statue of limitations to protect the students — when and if they return.

Granted, the state bureaucracy is not much of a place to learn about how things like torture work elsewhere, but that’s hardly an excuse for Hyder; he chose to ignore explanations and pleas made before his mailing.

— From “We hope he sleeps well at night,” a FOCUS/Midwest editorial published in the Nov.-Dec. 1974 edition. The Shah was overthrown in 1979; Hyder died in 2001.

Written by writer. Edited by editor.

October 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm

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Reflections of a radio demagogue

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Father CoughlinDuring the Great Depression, an estimated 50 million people tuned into Father Charles Coughlin’s radio programs, which were known for their ultra-conservative denunciations of the Roosevelt administration and poorly concealed anti-Semitism. Coughlin left the airwaves in the early 1940s. Nearly a quarter-century later, FOCUS/Midwest contributing editor Bernard Eismann interviewed Coughlin, and found a substantially different man.

The white-haired priest, cassock skirts flapping, moved with short, quick steps along the snow-spotted pavement that runs parallel to broad Woodward Avenue in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak. As he turned to enter the church his ruddy face, hardly showing seventy-one years, was brought into sharp relief against the gray stone background of the Shrine of the Little Flower that dominates the corner with a 150-foot tower supporting a stone image of Christ on the Cross. The priest is the Rev. Charles Coughlin, a living ghost of the angry Thirties, described in a chronicle of the decade as the master in “the arts of vituperation and demagoguery.”

In his study the radio priest of the Thirties, whose vein-straining oratory enraptured hundreds of thousands more than two decades ago, recently talked after keeping silent since 1940. The fire is not gone after the years of public exile, but Coughlin has mellowed, suffering no longer from what he calls the arrogance of youth. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by writer. Edited by editor.

October 5, 2009 at 7:43 pm

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