Saturday, August 22, 2020

Coronavirus: Americans’ Independent Streak Began in WWII

One New York Times commentator suggested that anti-mask advocates would’ve spent World War Two shining their headlight beams into the sky to liberate America from civil defense blackouts. They practically did. Through the middle of 1942, bright beachfront lights illuminated silhouettes of American coastal Merchant ships. The leisure economy was back, fueled by war exports to Europe and Nationalist China, and resort owners were loath to give it up. Americans were offended by the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but were not yet in the mood for national sacrifice.

 Sheer losses of merchant ships along the East Coast changed the tune. Attacks by Nazi U-Boats began in 1941 before the US entered the War, and peaked in early 1942. Referencing the sinking of dozens of unarmed coastwise tankers, a poster proclaimed to motorists: “Think- Sailors have died to give you this ride”.

Despite the grim loss of life, rationing of coffee, alarm clocks, and sliced bread was lifted quickly upon popular demand. As pointed out by Kelly Cantrell in a dissertation, magazines during the War listed recipes with unrationed substitutes, such as corn syrup for sugar; but also featured lavish recipes- which were practically illegal on the basis of strict ration points. To produce a traditional Christmas feast, it was necessary to pool with another family, stockpile canned goods (against government policy), or purchase on the black market.

In contrast to Britons’ stiff upper lips in the face of Blitzkrieg bombings, Americans have a long tradition of flouting the rules, and it was certainly not limited to members of one political ideology.   

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Cancelled: School Resource Officers?

The School Resource Officer is the latest victim of #cancel_culture. Our schools are over-policed, they say. I beg to differ. Somewhere in America today, a young man is hatching a plan to kill people in a public place. That’s not me talking; it’s the gruesome statistic that these attacks are premeditated and predictable.

How quickly have we forgotten the televised body counts of school children? Between Columbine (1999) and Newtown (2012), many across the political spectrum hoped to wish the problem of school violence away. Not worth the cost, metal detectors criminalize inner-city youth, they said. Unfortunately that is not a responsible option today.  America has not put a high value on the development of youth. As far as school lunches are concerned, ketchup is a vegetable. Schools are often underfunded, or in large cities, the school funds misappropriated. Lapsing on recent school security advances would be par for the course.

The Director of National Intelligence has identified school violence as a significant national security threat, and it would be fitting for the Department of Homeland Security to devote some attention towards improving school security, as they have for airports and seaports. So far, however, these efforts have been led by individual states. In recent years, states like Maryland and Virginia have raised the school leaving age from sixteen to eighteen, seeking to leave no child behind from getting a high school diploma. Recognizing the risk of keeping unmotivated, and possibly troubled, teenagers in school, clear mitigation efforts were made. These include an increase of information sharing between government agencies, and to separate known dangerous juveniles from the general school population. Outcomes include hard measures like hiring school resource officers, and soft measures like training for teachers and the school community to take threats seriously, encouraging dialogue between students and authority figures, and acting on early indicators such as a disciplinary record of assault.

The School Resource Officer is partly a counselor and partly a police officer. They give a guiding hand to the wayward, and observe for inside threats (a cop can tell who is concealing a knife or handgun in his pants by observing his gait). In rare cases, they are the first responder to an emergency. This is why you can’t swap them one-for-one with a social worker. When an attack is successfully counteracted, it doesn’t stay in the news for long, and it’s nothing to celebrate. Only in America would a kid with a mission of menace reach the final line of defense. So to the school boards seeking to abolish the role of School Resource Officer, what do you think you are doing? While we can hope for a better day of peace and respect of others, the present conditions must be addressed today.