Hard Hearts and Empty Heads

Hard Hearts and Empty Heads

When the state has to exercise its monopoly on the instruments of physical violence it is symptomatic of either a breakdown or a weakening of authority. This applies to Little Rock as well as Budapest. Little Rock, of course, is not a Hungarian Revolution, and one of the ways the two differ is that the use of force at Little Rock obscures rather than clarifies the basic issues.

After the Supreme Court decision ordering desegregation President Eisenhower was asked whether he personally approved it. His answers were never to the point; his set response was that as President he was obliged to enforce the decision. The clue to his real opinion is indicated by his repeated statements that “laws cannot soften the hearts of men,” e.g., Prohibition.

Eisenhower then justified sending the troops to Little Rock on the ground that unless laws are enforced “anarchy” will result. From beginning to end, then, Eisenhower has insisted that the Supreme Court’s decision must be obeyed because it represented the voice of duly constituted authority. It is this continual emphasis on the necessity of preserving “respect for the law” which has twisted the entire civil rights situation out of perspective.

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