All Commentary
Saturday, September 1, 1962

Friend Battles Friend


The following editorial from the INGERSOLLETTER of June 1962, published by The Ingersoll Milling Machine Company of Rockford, Illinois, refers to a local situation. But it might happen anywhere.

Think of a good friend of yours—one you might ride to work with, eat lunch with, go fishing with. What would it take to get you to fire a shotgun through his front window? Or to sneak into his ga­rage after he has gone to bed and dump paint all over his new car?

You may think you couldn’t treat a good friend this way, yet others have actually come to act toward their friends in this strange and uncivilized manner.

You certainly wouldn’t believe you could be led to do such things because you and your friend dis­agreed over the terms and condi­tions of your employment. Most people wouldn’t think of that as a reason for abandoning friendship.

Let’s say, nevertheless, that you disagree with your friend as to whether you both should go to work at a particular place under certain specified conditions of em­ployment. Your friend wants to work. You don’t.

Would you just stay home and let your friend make his own free choice? You very well might, un­less it so happened that a third party had come between you—someone who specializes in stir­ring up trouble and turning friend against friend. This is the kind of situation in which sufficient en­couragement by such specialists can easily lead to violence and wanton destruction of private property.

If you think, “It could never happen to me; I wouldn’t be that kind,” you’re probably right… but then, you might be surprised. Of course, just the two of you—you and your friend— could settle almost any kind of difference that might come along, with no need for violence. But with a little “help” from the outside, from these specialists, it’s surprising how friend can be turned against friend and made to do the most awful things.

Not far from The Ingersoll Mill­ing Machine Company, not far from the place where you sit down with this friend of yours and eat your sandwich, not far from the roads where the two of you drive back and forth to work together, there are men who are commit­ting the most wanton acts of vio­lence and destruction against their friends.

The place is the Mattison Ma­chine Works.

The people are men just like you and your friend, and the things friend has done to friend include crimes more like what you’d expect in a Cuban revolu­tion.

Paint bombs have been thrown, windows shot out of automobiles with a rifle. A window was blasted by a shotgun with sufficient force to cause portions of the glass to slice the scalp of a woman sitting in her home.

Four men called on a woman 60 years old who had suffered a heart attack and frightened her so bad­ly that it was no longer possible for her son to leave her to con­tinue working to make their liv­ing. Tires slashed with knives, or punctured with nails strewn in the road; cars with the rear view mirrors torn off, or with paint scratched from end to end by nails held in the hands of men standing at the parking lot gate.

All these shocking acts are on the record. They have been per­petrated here in our own com­munity, by friend against friend, by neighbor against neighbor. They have demonstrated the star­tling extent of men’s capacity for inhumanity toward other men.

The record itself is a sorry one, but more shocking than all these acts of violence is the fact that with these things going on right here in our own city, the Rockford community as a whole approves of them by its silence.

If a group of boys on the way home from a weekend at the lakes fired a rifle into a school or store window, the story would be all over the front page and everyone would be talking about juvenile delinquency and what to do about the teen-age problem. Yet, when the offenders are adults involved in a disagreement over employ­ment conditions, most leaders of the community say nothing.

Clergymen who wax eloquent on the subject of man’s inhumanity to man in Laos or Cambodia sweep this disgrace of our own commu­nity under the rug of silence, al­though there has been complete disregard for the private property and safety of other people— the basis on which our society was founded.

It is no excuse to say, “This is a job for the police,” for the police are doing their best. But the po­lice are always hard put to enforce any law when its violation seems to have community approval.

And what is the issue that causes some men to treat others this way? It’s a very simple dis­agreement. One man says, I want to go to work today. His friend says, I don’t want you to go to work today, and I will do anything within my power to prevent you, including endangering your life and the lives of your loved ones.

True, most of us would never reach this state of mind alone. We would need encouragement and constant prodding by professional antagonizers.

But it has happened, is happen­ing, in our town, among people we know; and the best way to avoid it is to avoid the people who traf­fic in destroying friendships… the only people who have anything to gain by it.