"Feed thine enemy’ another urban myth | SummitDaily.com

"Feed thine enemy’ another urban myth

SUMMIT COUNTY – War protesters are sending bags of rice to Washington, D.C. to discourage President Bush from initiating a war on Iraq, but they’re doing so based on the alleged success of an urban legend.

Protesters are distributing information encouraging people to send 2-ounce bags of rice to which is affixed a tag quoting a line in the Bible, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him.”

According to stories circulating on the Internet, a similar effort was under way in the 1950s when a pacifist group urged President Eisenhower not to attack China.

People mailed thousands of little bags of rice to the White House. For 10 years, war protesters believed their efforts failed because the president did not acknowledge receipt of the bags, and no rice was sent to China.

Later, the story goes, they learned that Eisenhower met twice with the joint chiefs of staff to consider U.S. options in the conflict with China over two islands, Quemoy and Matsu. Both times, the generals recommended the use of nuclear weapons. In return, Eisenhower asked his aide how many bags of rice they had received. When told they numbered in the tens of thousands, Eisenhower told the generals that if so many Americans were interested in feeding the Chinese, he was not going to consider using nuclear weapons against them.

Sorry, wrong story.

According to snopes.com, a Web site dedicated to finding the source of urban legends, the anecdote first appeared in David Albert’s 1985 book, “People Power: Applying Nonviolence Theory.” But Albert included no annotation or footnotes to indicate where he obtained the information that the campaign influenced Eisenhower’s thinking and to explain how activists learned of its purported impact in averting a war.

In reality, the anecdote is more accurately attributed to a 1954 effort undertaken by the Fellowship of Reconciliation of New York City to send small bags of wheat to the White House to provide food to China, where a flood on the Yangtze River left thousands homeless and hungry.

The tags attached to the bags read, “If Thine Enemy Hunger, Feed him.” In smaller letters, the tag read, “Send surplus food to China.”

Doug Malkan, president of the Summit Greens, which is encouraging people to send bags of rice to the White House in protest of a potential war with Iraq, wasn’t the only one fooled by the tale.

Based on information Malkan sent to the Summit Daily News, the newspaper ran an article relating the alleged origin of the grassroots effort – only to have a reader point out the error.

“It’s surprising, but it’s not going to stop us from sending our rice,” Malkan said. “It’s fun. It’s an easy way to participate in voicing your opinion in oppositionto the war. We’d like to have so much rice in the White House they can’t even move around anymore.”

Arguably the best Web site that outlines the history and determines truthfulness of urban legends is http://www.snopes.com, from which we learned the following true stories:

– A speeder caught on police radar submitted his fine – sort of – in the form of a photo of the money he owed;

– Schoolgirls’ used panties are sold in Japanese vending machines, along with pornography, disposable cameras, horoscopes and (new) pantyhose;

– The drug Premarin is derived from the urine of pregnant horses;

– Last November, Wal-Mart employees in Sterling put all the toys people had donated for charity back on the shelves for resale. It was a miscommunication, the public relations folks said.

– Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was created by Montgomery Ward.

– It’s “Donder and Blitzem,” not “Donner and Blitzen.”

– A couple in Council Grove, Kan. returned the VCR they’d rented but forgot to remove the tape they’d been watching – a homemade tape of a sexual variety.

Unfounded legends included:

– The Great Wall of China’s visibility from the moon. It becomes invisible at 180 miles, and the moon is 276,000 miles away. (There was no mention at the snopes site, however, regarding the visibility of New York City’s dump.)

– A special ingredient added to pools will change the color of the water if it detects urine;

– Men think about sex every seven seconds. Snopes says 54 percent think about it once to several times a day; 43 percent think about sex a few times each month.

– You will get a cramp and drown if you go swimming within an hour after eating.

– Dr. Spock’s son’s killing himself.

– A (your favorite body part) was found in a fast-food restaurant’s (your favorite dish).

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