One key job of historians is to find patterns. Most things in history are circular and come and go throughout time. The majority of what I do with this column is to try to show that current events have happened before and that nothing is new. Knowing this can help us make better decisions in the future. One such circular event is crime and policing.
Crime and policing in some way are as old as time itself, yet there have been periods in American history where crime was more common or at least thought to be. The first period that comes to mind is the so-called “Wild West.” Whether the cow towns were actually violent is debated, but Hollywood has engrained in our collective minds the wildness of towns like Dodge City, Tombstone, and Deadwood. What brought order to these towns were men as tough as iron. These sheriffs were quick with a gun but sometimes were accused of being as violent as the men they arrested. To make the west safe, they had to enforce tough laws with a strong hand. Hollywood has capitalized on men like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Bill Hickock.
Another period known for lawlessness was the 1920s. Prohibition was the law of the land but that only opened the door to criminals who saw easy money in bootlegging. Gangsters became household names like Al Capone, “Baby Face” Nelson, and John Dillinger. There were also men like “Lucky” Luciano who helped organize the Five Families in New York. Then there were crimes that are not as famous today but were know at the time like the Osage Murders in Oklahoma. The crimes of the 1920s helped turn the new and undermanned Bureau of Investigation into the modern trained and efficient Federal Bureau of Investigation. The man responsible for the turnaround was the ruthless J. Edgar Hoover. Before the 1920s, the public feared a national police force that could turn into secret police. However, the crime wave in the ’20s and the inability or unwillingness of the local police to confront it, resulted in a public demand for help, even if some of the police tactics reminded some of a police state.
The Osage murders are a good example. As shown in David Grann’s book Killers of the Flower Moon, which is currently being turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Osage Indians were being murdered in 1921. The local police were unable or possibly unwilling to find the murderers. In one of their first big high-profile cases, the FBI solved the crime. I don’t want to give away more, but it’s a book worth reading.
Hollywood has always taken advantage of these times to make a bit of cash and that is no different than with the next major crime wave. In 1971 America was introduced to a new character and catch phrase, when Dirty Harry first asked the bad guy, “Do you feel lucky?” The movie about a crime-ridden city and an ineffective police force resonated with the public. It took an old school cop, one not afraid to use violence, to finally catch a sniper terrorizing the city. However, the sniper was released because Harry had not followed all the rules. Harry eventually catches him again, this time killing him, then throwing his badge into the river in protest to how crime was being handled.
Dirty Harry was not finished, however. His style of policing became so popular that he made four more movies and inspired several other similar movies. Another standout was 1974’s “Death Wish.” In this film, Charles Bronson’s character was a happy family man until thugs broke into his home and killed his wife and left his daughter barely alive. After the police could not help, Bronson began walking the streets at night in Central Park hoping to get mugged so he could bring his own form of vigilante justice to the city.
Movies like “Dirty Harry” and “Death Wish” reverberated with people who were themselves afraid to walk in places like Central Park. Crime rates had been on the rise since the 1960s but then started to fall in the 1990s. The reasons for the decline in crime are still being debated today, but many give credit to men like New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who started controversial but effective policies to reduce crime. (Yes, he had a career before Trump.) One thing he did was to greatly increase the number of cops on the street. Giuliani was attacked as a racist and his policies as Gestapo tactics, but people were able to walk the streets at night. What we have seen in all these cases is that the population tolerated more policing for safety. Yet over time, people became less tolerant, forcing less policing, and the cycle continued.
We are watching this cycle currently play out again. Not only are we seeing calls to defund the police, but in cities like New York, police officers retiring is up more than 400% from the previous year. Most are citing anti-police attitudes for the cause. It has become so bad that NYC now restricts the number of officers who can retire each month. Look at some of the movies that started coming out in the 2000s –”Training Day” in 2001, “Crash “in 2004, “The Departed” in 2006. All these depict police as corrupt and violent. Yet at the same time, starting in 2020, we have seen an increase in crime.
Time will have to tell if crime on the rise is a matter of COVID or new attitudes towards policing. Historically speaking, the attitudes towards policing and lower numbers of law enforcement will be followed by continuing higher crime rates until they get high enough that the next version of “Dirty Harry” will be required to clean up the streets. Who knows how long that will take, but until then the only question to ask yourself is, “Do you feel lucky?”
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Shifting of a Legacy?
With Martin Luther King Day approaching, I have thought a lot about the man who, more than anyone else, historically represents the Civil Rights movement and social justice. At the same time, I have noticed something strange. Is it possible that the keepers of King’s legacy is shifting right? I am not talking about the far right but the right of today’s progressive movement and somewhere in the realm of moderate Democrats and Republicans. I’ll explain what I mean.
King introduced himself to the world when he took over leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. His charisma, talent, and message of non-violent protest quickly made him a household name and, depending on your viewpoint, became either the most famous or infamous man in the Civil Rights movement. The left claimed him as their champion as he fought to change the status quo and demanded equal rights. The right feared him and saw him as dangerous when he said things like, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
To the right, especially in the South, King wanted to fight against 400 years of racial superiority. He wanted to change the only way of life they knew. King would feel the brunt of their fear as it was personified in hatred. He, his family, and friends dealt with threats, violence, prison, and even death to stand for what they believed in. Yet King never backed down from what he knew to be right while also never turning away from his belief in non-violence, or as he once said, ““Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
It is said that time heals all wounds, and that seems to be the case with the legacy of King. Moving into the 1970s and 1980s there was racial progress. Race relations were not perfect, just like they are not today, but when comparing life to the 1950s our nation has come a long way. Somewhere along that journey, King went from being a hero on the left to a national hero. By the time I began school in the early 1980s, King was being celebrated by all. I remember listening to his “I Had a Dream Speech” in school when I was a young kid in Virginia. Martin Luther King Day was signed into law in 1983 and done so by a Republican Senate and Ronald Reagan, a champion of the right.
The fact that the right accepted King is not what’s surprising. It’s the idea now that many on the right are seeming to champion his cause. Think about what you see or read in the media. When groups like Black Lives Matter chant their slogan, what is the response from the right? “All lives Matter.” Then somewhere someone will undoubtedly quote the most famous of King’s speeches when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have thought on this a lot recently and tried to pay attention to what different people are saying. From my very unscientific survey, I have found that people on the right outnumber those on the left when citing King in arguments. Granted, most are cherry-picking his quotes, mostly from the “I have a Dream” speech. Probably few have read King’s “Mountaintop” speech where he called for wealth and power redistribution, yet King’s major message may not resonate as much with some on the left as it once did. Especially with the young and progressive wing.
In the 1960s and with the older and moderates today, the goal of the left was a color-blind integrated society. For them, King’s statement of character over skin color plays perfectly. However, for others on the left today, racial goals include categorizing people into races. It’s not that progressives are wrong but are different from what King wanted. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the mission statement of “one nation, under God, indivisible, together with the commitment to activate the ‘strength to love’ within the community of humankind.” With organizations like Black Lives Matter, their mission statement says, “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” These are minor differences but also important ones.
In some ways I wonder if parts of the modern movement are more influenced by another important but lesser-known Civil Rights leader, Stokely Carmichael. Space is too limited to give his entire background, but Carmichael is worth looking up. He was a veteran of Freedom Summer and the Freedom Rides and took over leadership of SNCC. It was Carmichael who began to push the idea of “Black Power,” which called “for Black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for Black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” As for King, he did not outwardly criticize “Black Power” and said he understood where Carmichael was coming from, but ultimately opposed it.
I am in no way trying to criticize either side here, right or left. It is simply an observation and historical curiosity. I also see it as incredibly positive how most on the right have embraced Dr. King as a hero. I am grateful that the entire nation can honor what Dr. King did, but, historically speaking, it does seem as if his legacy has gone through a shift from left to center.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Oh boy! A cabal
Wow, a cabal! – I want to join. I worked for the Federalis for 30 years, and if that isn’t a cabal, nothing is. But here: Threats of destruction, secret sources, dead drops, random accusations of conspiracy, strange titles like interim (fill in the blank), dog attacks, now publicly admitted marital infidelities, threatening people who had nothing to do with things. Yep, it sounds like a normal workweek for me. But they have gone over the line now – they pissed Roger off. But be careful Roger, you might be walking down the street and get mauled by friendly bullmastiffs (if there is such a thing). That’s it, throw down the gauntlet, Gentle Knight, the gloves are coming off.
As fun as this may sound, you have to think, “Why can’t the Town ever do anything without lawsuits, accusations of wrongdoings, threats, intrigues, and temper tantrums. We remember such laughs as:
“We have no moral requirement to pay for the police station” (although the Town had the thing built and rapidly moved into it – I mean, it wasn’t like it just sprang up overnight).
The famed “trash-poop bust” at the Bentonville county dump. “Everybody in the County should be fired if not pilloried, ending with “THE Tederick” tantrum: ‘We’ll take our poop elsewhere; that will teach them a lesson’.” This letter penned by THE Tederick is a classic fire and brimstone saga.
The famed Afton Inn – finally being rebuilt without one scratch of Town help (although THE Tederick claimed he was responsible for the deal) even after they wanted to send a letter to the forlorn contractor threatening untold violence if he did not start construction by July. Which money tantrum do you want to have? – The “We aren’t getting our fair share of COVID money” or the “Why doesn’t the County pay for the pipeline” screaming fit.
And more recently the mayor accused his neighbor who reported his loose dogs attacking her and her son of “trying to beat the system” for a lack of proper business permitting.
So you say, “This sounds like a bunch of 10-year-olds battling over who is playing in the sandbox.” THE Tederick gets on the Grand Jury and then eliminates the Mayor with later dropped charges. And then, using his wealth of municipal leadership, he slides into the now vacant seat to begin his “interim” empire. This coup was a classic “THE Tederick” move.
Next, he invents a Town EDA, shuffles people around to temporarily run it while, what – waiting for his anointment as the Head?
You know, with all this intrigue, you would think they could get other things done like getting rid of the eyesores. But instead, with Admin help from inside Town Hall, the Mayor hustles the Planning Commission to fast-track his personal construction project of questionable physical dimensions. Yikes! Somebody leaked a document that would soon or had already been revealed. The “fast track” was not illegal, but it sure looks shady. This is after THE Tederick “right sizes” the staff, much like Cartman for “not obeying his au-thor-a-TY”.
You can have, at the local level, confidential personal information, confidential legal information, and at certain stages, contract-restricted data. But unless the Town has gotten into building stealth bombers (doubtful), there is no SECRET information. I take you back to when Jennifer claimed that all information regarding the EDA was SECRET, which caused people in my office to chuckle.
You give him way too much credit. And please, don’t give him the sobriquet of being a master of disinformation. Roger, you’ve got the whole Counter Intelligence thing wrong. At the level that he was in, there was no “spy vs. spy” activity. Counter-intelligence resembles intelligence, as military music resembles music.
Anyway, I want a cabal T-shirt. Wow, real secret stuff. Let me know where our next midnight meeting will be held.
Warren County, Va.
P.S. Just as I was ready to fire this off, THE Tederick exploded again. However, Chairman Cheryl Cullers interrupted to tell Tederick, “If this is going to be another personal attack, I won’t allow it.” “If it turns to personal attacks, I will ask you to be seated,” Cullers responded, leading Tederick to counter, “You listen to my comments and then determine if they’re personal attacks.” For the second time, Tederick requested and was granted a restarting of the three-minute clock manned by Board Deputy Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi, at which point he restarted his remarks.
“Sir, I’m going to stop you. This is turning into a personal attack. If you feel,” at which point Tederick interrupted to ask, “Is that where you’re going with this? Let me know today if you’re going to stop me.”
“Yes, sir,” the board chair replied, leading Tederick to leave the podium, but not before adding, “You’ll be hearing from someone.” Wow! A threat. He didn’t say who or what, but it sounds like somebody might sleep with the fishes. Be careful young Matthew; the Cabal is watching you.
Due diligence and ‘Second Step’ curriculum
With respect to the recent vote among our School Board to hit pause on the “Second Step” Social and Emotional program after two citizens expressed concerns at the most recent school board meeting:
The idealist in me opines that every parent and community member should, actually, read the “Second Step” program, and make an informed decision as to what they feel is best for their children. I have read it. It is well done. Equally, depending on who presents it and how it is presented (as is the case with many curricula) I can respect the concerns of those wanting to make sure that their children are not subjected to a narrative, as opposed to a hopeful civil dialogue and some good life lessons, as opposed to growing up talking with their fingers, as opposed to their mouths and growing up emotionally and socially inept.
Granted, it is only fair to articulate that parents should be guided to the appropriate resources through the schools themselves: first, maybe even have an open forum with the admin, counsellors and other presenters of the curriculum, and then decide if they are OK/not OK with their child participating. Perhaps the summer months can be used by school board members to educate themselves to curriculum of the upcoming year, and be part of open community discussions with the parents and even children, so that mutual respect can occur, as opposed to narrative-driven dialogue by confused and misguided elected officials.
The realist in me asks the following:
- How many School Board Members did not read the curriculum prior to this meeting, in order to make a fair decision for all, and just said to themselves: “Sounds good! Let’s do it!!”? In all fairness to whom I did and did not vote for, there is no question in my mind that at least two school board members were well aware of the curriculum, and had their personal thoughts/concerns entering the meeting. Whether these were narrative or information based is on them. I will give respect that I have no doubt that they read it.
- How many parents would actually show up for a meeting to hear a presentation on the curriculum, or take the time to read it? (I agree wholeheartedly that parents should pay more attention to school board meetings.)
- Since I do not know how well informed the School Board was on “Second Step” before this matter came up, I actually applaud the board for hitting the pause button, so that they could be more informed before their next meeting, and not just blindly vote for what is put in front of them. How nice would it be if we all did this before elections, as opposed to accepting “sample ballots” and punch lines, and just drinking the juice of a chosen narrative?
- I think all School Board Members should be personally polled and asked at the next meeting if they have taken the time to educate themselves to the program?
If not, they should recuse themselves from voting for not doing their jobs and, quite frankly, should reconsider if public office is for them. If they have read it, kudos and vote your conscience, not a political narrative.
Please stay well,
Front Royal, Virginia
Matt Tederick: Public Nuisance?
Tree-slayer Matt Tederick, during his attempted public commentary at the January 4 Board of Supervisor meeting, has expanded his campaign to disrupt the functioning of county business. His personal attacks on county board members are disgraceful and uncalled for.
Moreover, his threat to Supervisor Cullers that “You’ll be hearing from someone” after she disallowed his harangue is seriously out-of-bounds. Has Mr. Tederick become unhinged?
Front Royal, Virginia
How the rest of the world sees us
Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit our daughter and her husband’s family in Germany and travel to Greece on business. It was a long time coming due to the challenges of Covid, trying to find an opening in the outbreaks to spend time in both places.
Witnessing the effects of this Covid wave in other countries and the attitude of a clear majority of the people living under the new normal was extremely interesting. At the outset, we were apprehensive as to what freedoms and restrictions would be put in place. It was amazing what we encountered. EU countries are not going to fall into the situation that caught the world off guard the first time with massive shutdowns of business activities. Most surprising was the resilience of the people to adapt quickly to a fast-changing environment.
The flight from the US was uneventful and pleasant. Vaccination cards and passports were in order. Germany did not require a negative Covid test to enter as long as we were up to date with our vaccinations and wore masks during our time in the airport and on the flight. We witnessed no grumbling protests against wearing a mask, including passengers with children on both legs of our trip, and the flights up and back to Greece. Adult behavior, civilized. Maybe the Old World has some lessons for us.
When we arrived our daughter and son-in-law picked us up and took us to his parent’s home where we would stay for most of our visit. While Germany did shut down most traditional Christmas festivities, it did allow shopping and eating at restaurants at most locations, along with the normal tourist attractions.
The requirements to participate in these activities mandated a visit to the local pharmacies to show your vaccination card and a valid ID. If you were not vaccinated, you had to show a negative Covid test within the last 24 hours. The availability of testing locations was not an issue. Mobile quick testing sites are readily available, results within 10 minutes. When either criterion was met, you received an EU bar code document that would be shown when entering stores or other public places. Simple isn’t it. No shouting matches, no signs, no protests or counter-protests. No nonsense.
As we were leaving Germany, updated measures in anticipation of the next virus were being put in place, with stricter rules for unvaccinated individuals to help reduce the need to shut down their economy and reduce the danger to the health of friends and neighbors.
The item that was most notable was the attitude of those we encountered. Most were deeply concerned about everyone in their communities and each other. People worked together to address a common problem with the cooperation of villages, towns, and cities and elected national leaders. Cooperation rather than confrontation.
Whenever we talked about our situation in the US, they were quick to point out, from the outside looking in, that Covid had been made a political issue among manipulative politicians to maintain power, misleading the very communities they were elected to protect and serve. The anti-mandate, anti-vax fringe certainly bears this out. What could I say but agree that the misinformation that has been blasted across our county is for the benefit of a minority, a Pied Piper thing, power addicts.
The general attitude of the people we encountered was one of great respect for our country and what we stood for globally. They are hoping that our democracy will survive the upcoming challenges over the next several years. They are very concerned about the divisions they are observing from partisan reporting.
A number stated that their history has been full of similar challenges that the US has been spared over its 250-year history. Unfortunately, the US has also allowed itself to be driven by outside interference that promotes dangerous misinformation to support partisan positions that create division in our country, a divide and conquer scenario. Several pointed out two examples of outrageous misinformation: the Jan 6th insurrection, and the Senator who said that Covid can be stopped by mouthwash. I had no response.
Now, I imagine there will be some who ask why anyone would support a country that is correctly or incorrectly perceived as socialist. What I find is that most people who take this position do not understand that Germany is a democracy with over 28 political parties. They must have a majority of the parties, a coalition, in order to agree on the direction of the country. For some issues, this may offer an even greater opportunity for representation of the diverse interests of the people than a two-party system. Like our system it works. Each has its plusses and minuses. Both democracies.
There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. The definition of ignorance is simply not knowing about a subject or topic. We all own that from time to time. The danger we now face as a community and country are listening to the misinformation of facts about things deliberately intended to divide us. Arrogant ignorance will be the true danger moving forward in our country’s future. Look Up neighbor and see the danger coming. Don’t listen to rabble-rousers. Heed your own good common sense.
Note: The author’s reference to “Look Up” is from the latest Netflix movie, “Don’t Look Up.”
A New Year’s Resolution
This year I want to…
Write something worth reading
Read something worth sharing
Say something worth repeating
Give something worth getting
Choose something worth keeping
Sacrifice something worth giving up
Go somewhere worth seeing
Eat something worth tasting
Hug someone worth holding
Buy something worth treasuring
Cry tears worth shedding
Do something worth watching
Risk something worth protecting
Listen to something worth hearing
Teach something worth learning
Be someone worth knowing.
by Kelsey Harris
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Kelsey departed this life in April 2009, at the age of 16, after a long struggle against a malignant brain tumor.