Civil Rights justice: Overdue, vital

Most rational people would agree that premeditated murder is wrong and that it’s in society’s best interests to pursue murderers as a means to both serve justice and show respect to the families of the dead.

But not everyone sees it that way, apparently.

An Associated Press report in The State that details the FBI’s attempt to solve long-dormant murder cases related to the Civil Rights movement has brought out some oddballs. Consider “Zekemire,” who had this to say in The State’s comments section:

“WHY ARE WE WASTING THE ASSETS OF THE FBI ON CASES 40 AND 50 YEARS OLD WHEN THEY NEED TO BE INVESTIGATING AND ARRESTING TERRORIST AMONG US? The groups like splc, wwi, naacp, and others HAVE TO PUSH THIS TO GIVE THEIR RADICAL RACIST ORGANIZATIONS AN EXCUSE TO EXIST!”

(As an aside, you’ve got to love people who write in caps. It serves to let others know that the writer is most likely not capable of composing anything remotely resembling a coherent, lucid response. Yes, heavy is the burden for he who dons the tinfoil hat.)

One wonders if in 40 years “Zekemire” will be saying the same thing should the US be pursuing Osama bin Laden’s few remaining minions?

There will likely be other “more pressing” issues for the government, so at what point do you say “You know, it’s been a long time so maybe we should just give up and move on to something else.” Hopefully, never. Murder, whether perpetrated by a redneck or a religious radical, is equally appalling.

Somehow, one gets the impression “Zekemire” and those like him put slightly more value on the lives of Americans killed by Islamic terrorists than those who fell in the fight for Civil Rights.

The fact is, the passage of time in no way lessens the crimes that occurred 40, 50 or even 60 years ago. We have an obligation to help prevent the repetition of such crimes and to show survivors that while justice may never fully be served, it won’t be completely swept aside, either.

Of course, the problem with many of the murders associated with the Civil Rights era is they were never investigated properly in the first place. Sadly, if it was up to folks like “Zekemire,” it would remain that way.

We didn’t get it right then; the least we can do is try to get it right now.

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Detroit: Post-apocalyptic America

And you thought things were bad in rural South Carolina…

A story in The Week details the myriad woes of Detroit, and they are legion. They include:

  • In July, the median Detroit home price was $7,000. “That’s not a typo,” the Week points out.
  • The Detroit public school system today is so bad that it is under emergency control of the state.
  • Detroit’s population in 1950 was 1.85 million. Today it is 770,000.
  • Half of Detroit’s children live in poverty; one-quarter of the adult population didn’t graduate from high school.
  • The median household income is about half the national average. This is a whole city that is poor, says Wayne State University professor Robin Boyle.

The article’s opening paragraph paints an ugly picture of a city, once the fourth-largest in the nation, in utter decline:

Outside the city’s downtown core of office buildings, Detroit looks like a post-apocalyptic nightmare. The collapse of the auto industry, political dysfunction, and epidemics of crime, drugs, and arson have battered Detroit like a slow-motion hurricane, leveling entire neighborhoods and causing a major chunk of the population to flee. Nearly 30 percent of the city, an area almost the size of San Francisco, has been abandoned to “urban prairie” — vast, depopulated stretches of high grass and shattered asphalt.

And, according to The Week, Detroit’s hopes for revitalization don’t look too rosy.

City officials are hoping that a trickle of homesteaders now moving in to take advantage of dirt-cheap housing will turn into full-scale gentrification, according to the article. They’re also hoping that a new generation of hybrid and electric cars will pump new life into the U.S. auto industry.

But the city faces a deficit of nearly $300 million and is so desperate for cash that it has sold the brass poles from some of its firehouses.

(Hat tip: On Hockey Blog)

Remembrance Day, 2009

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In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

In Flanders Fields was written in May 1915 by Canadian physician and Lt. Col. John McCrae after he witnessed the death of his 22-year-old friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, at the Second Battle of Ypres.

In January 1918, while commanding a Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne in Northern France, McCrae died of pneumonia at age 45. He was buried with full honours in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Wimereux, just north of Boulogne.

Poll: Add grain of salt to kids’ answers

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Every so often a student survey is trotted out to show the current generation’s lack of knowledge regarding history.

The latest comes from Scotland, where according to a recent poll, one in 20 Scottish children think Adolf Hitler was Germany’s national soccer coach, 21 percent believe Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was a “well-known Jew who wrote a diary in his attic” and 15 percent believe Auschwitz was a World War II-based theme park.

Here’s a question that wasn’t asked: How many students gave idiotic answers because they were either trying to be funny or simply didn’t care?

These kind of multiple-choice surveys are obviously imprecise, but they’re often held up as examples of a faulty education system, a society that doesn’t appreciate history, a citizenry that has forgotten the sacrifices of past generations, etc., etc.

“Some of the answers to this poll have shocked us,” said Major Jim Panton, chief executive of charity Erskine. “Schoolchildren are the future of our country and it is important that we help them to learn about our history.”

Yes, it is important that children know and understand history.

However, if these results were gathered from testing that reflected on students’ actual grades, it would be easier to assess whether schoolchildren today really have a serious lack of understanding about the events of the 1930s and ’40s, or whether they’re just passing time by trying to be funny.

‘Spring’ – Konstantin Pankov

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Born into a family of hunters in the far northern region of Russia in 1910, Konstantin Pankov became the first Nenets artist. He started to paint his landscapes in the 1920s, although he had never seen a single painting because of his family’s remote location and lifestyle.

He joined the Red Army as a sniper and scout at the outbreak of World War II and was killed in action in 1942.