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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Protecting Americans is the responsiblity of every citizen

By Joseph Sheppard

America has a number of things to worry about. Some of the big ones on our Things to be Worried About list are President Bedhead in North Korea, nuclear weapons in Iran, anarchy in Iraq, a flu epidemic originating from Chinese poultry, terrorists from the Middle East, and leafy green vegetables rich in Vitamin A and covered in E. coli from California.

A careful look at our Worried About list reveals that America may be worried about all things foreign. A look at headline national policies may confirm that suspicion. This year we've stayed the course in Iraq to stabilize the democracy and prevent terrorism. We approved construction on a double barbed-wire wall that blocks a third of the southern border. We painfully debated and approved legislation that denies rights of habeus corpus to foreigners suspected of acts of terrorism.

And yet, with the exception of North Korea's nuclear testing last weekend, the most recent disasters have not come from foreign shores, but from homegrown Americans. We can also see that our recent tragedies can't be prevented or resolved just by military or police force, but that they require the active involvement of the American people.

Three of the most devastating events of the last month have been school shootings: First we have 32-year-old Carl Charles Roberts IV, who entered the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School on Oct. 3 and shot himself and 10 schoolgirls. Five of the girls died.

The second: the shooting of Wisconsin principal John Klang by 15-year-old student Eric Hainstock on Sept. 29.

And the third: On Sept. 26, 52-year-old Duane Morrison held six students hostage at Platte Canyon High School in Colorado. He killed one of them and then killed himself.

Those three shootings all happened within eight days of each other. Nine people died. The murders were all committed by people with good Anglo-Saxon names: Morrison, Roberts, and Hainstock. None of them sound Middle-Eastern, or North Korean, or even Hispanic. Just good, old-fashioned American names--the names of people who live on your street.

Just to put that in perspective, let's compare that to the number of American soldier casualties in Iraq. During that same time period, from Sept. 26 to Oct. 3, 24 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq, according to CNN. So in that bloody week, a third as many Americans died from violence in American schools as did in the terror-ridden streets of Iraq.

The shootings painfully and powerfully make a point. For so long we've been afraid of those with foreign names and different skin tones. We are afraid of psychos living outside of our borders -- in Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran -- but never here. But there is danger here at home, and Americans are often the cause of it.

So what can be done to protect us from escalating threats at home? Well, in the case of schools we can try more armed guards at the school doors. Metal detectors are becoming more stylish. Maybe bullet-proof vests could become part of school uniform.

The trend of heightened security is certainly occurring nationally as wire-tapping and e-mail surveillance with and without court orders is being carried out by the Homeland Security Agency. The Patriot Act continues to be renewed. Wartime curtailment of liberties continues because a war against terrorism is not likely to ever end. But even if America's security measures were heightened to the making of America into a police state, the safety of Americans could not be guaranteed.

It is the case with every security problem: an iron executive grip cannot protect citizens from violence. The citizens themselves have to protect themselves. Just look at Iraq. Despite the presence of tens of thousands of security forces, Iraq plunges deeper into sectarian violence. Last week, 26 food-processing workers were kidnapped from a neighborhood in Western Baghdad, according to The New York Times. The bodies of ten of them were later found. Later in Baghdad that week, men dressed as police blocked off a street and kidnapped 14 men working in an electronics store. American soldiers and Iraqi citizens are learning that the largest threat comes not from foreign combatants flocking to Iraq, but from Iraq's own feuding ethnic groups as their militias inflict casualties on each other.

In Iraq 2006 was supposed to be the year of the police. As Iraqi policeman gradually took over the security process and American soldiers eased into the sidelines, the sectarian violence was also supposed to ease. But that has not been the case. Over the past two years as Iraqis have taken over security, over 2000 Iraqi policemen have been killed and over 4000 have been wounded, The New York Times reported. Iraq is discovering that a limitless supply of soldiers and police cannot guarantee protection to its citizens.

Now Prime Minister Nuri Kam al-Maliki is attempting a new strategy. Last week he announced a new security plan that would call for committees of neighborhood leaders to defuse sectarian violence in their own neighborhoods. The plan isn't completely developed yet, but it requires neighborhoods to look for solutions to the violence. Will it work? Who knows. But making communities responsible for their own security may be a step in the right direction. Iraqi communities are struggling to become responsible for Iraqis as American communities will have to become responsible for Americans.

Community involvement played a major role in reducing the tragedy in one of the recent school shootings. Principal John Klang and custodian Dave Thompson are being heralded as a heros by many in Cazenovia, Wisc., for their efforts to disarm Erin Hainstock. The 15-year-old student carried two guns into his high school. The first was wrestled from him by Thompson. Hainstock ran from Thompson and confronted Klang, who was shot three times as he tried to pull the second gun from Hainstock. Without the actions of Klang and Thompson, students could have been killed. They took responsibility for their community and saved lives. Despite the losses, this was a success for Cazenovia because their students were protected.

But the success was limited since the tragedy maybe didn't have to happen at all. According to the Milwaukee Journal, Hainstock said he took a gun to school because he was angry that other students were picking on him and calling him a homosexual. He said he was angry that teachers hadn't done anything about it. He was also unhappy about a pending in-school suspension. An unidentified teacher told News Channel NBC 15 in Madison that this was not the first time Hainstock had attacked students and that he had attacked teachers as well.

"He could be a very sweet and giving kid, but when he got angry he was a scary child to be around, he had that sort of look where you just want to back up. To some extent, I think the system did fail him because of the way that he acted. I think he was sort of crying out for more help," she said.

We can't say if Weston High School handled Hainstock and his problems well before the shooting. But perhaps if the neglect and abuse that had prompted Hainstock's actions had been addressed, the shooting never would have taken place. Community responsibility could have been taken to the next level if someone had taken Hainstock under their arm. He could be a normal happy teenager instead of facing a life in prison.

Community involvement and responsibility: that's the security measure that may quell the fire in Iraq. When more Iraqi Sunnis begin wrestling weapons from other angry Sunnis and when more Shias begin wrestling weapons from other angry Shias, then perhaps the violence will stop. Likewise it is the only security measure that will keep America safe from its own domestic threats.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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