Sunday, May 6, 2007


Masterman, where my son goes to school, is a tall and narrow building, five stories high. During the day, all traffic is funneled through one set of doors on the first floor. There are other exits, but they are all on the ground floor, and they could all be easily locked in a minute or so. The entire building is surrounded by concrete, so don’t even think about jumping out a second-story window.

The chief security officer is an elderly gentleman who mumbles. His only weapon is a nightstick he carries on his belt. At 150 pounds or so, he is smaller than some of the students.

His assistant is a middle-aged woman who moves a bit faster than he does, and weighs quite a bit more. A cursory glance at her physique reveals no hint of muscle tone. She appears to be completely unarmed.

For the past six years, every time I have walked through the doors at Masterman, the thought has struck me: this place is a potential slaughterhouse. A single armed maniac, with a little planning and determination, could easily lock down the entire building and, in the space of a few minutes, make us all forget Cho Seung-Hui.

Columbine, Trolley Square, Nickel Mines School, various post offices, and now Virginia Tech---every one of these places was a “gun-free zone.” Every mass killing in recent American history has occurred in a gun-free zone. Before 9-11, airplanes were gun-free zones. That, at least, has changed.

Masterman, of course, is a gun-free zone. On a typical school day, there are over a thousand children and adults in that building, and they would be completely helpless against a murderer. Such a person is not necessarily stupid, or irrational---to them, a gun-free zone is a victim-rich environment where they can go about their business undisturbed. In that sense, a gun-free zone like Masterman acts as a focal point for their fantasies. You never hear about a mass shooting at a gun show or an NRA convention, do you?

I am somewhat bitter about this.

On other occasions, I have written about some of the left-wing foolishness one must come to expect from a public school in Philadelphia. AIDS, we learn, was invented by the US government in order to kill people of color. The only thing white men ever did in America was enslave blacks, oppress women, intern the Japanese, abuse the disabled and beat up homosexuals. Students are taught to cherish their group identity and any attendant sense of victimhood. Etcetera.

That stuff annoys me because of its totalitarian nature. No dissenting voices are permitted. I am a distinct minority, but I am not the only parent who disapproves of their moral and political indoctrination, so the sheer unfairness of it bugs me.

Its effectiveness, however, is doubtful. For Tex, for example, all it does is sharpen his appreciation for how irrational and mean-spirited the extreme left can be. And he is not the only one. I know there are other students who react to the attempts to indoctrinate them by heading in the opposite direction. Teen rebellion being what it is, there will always be those who won’t knuckle under to the party line.

But though Tex and others will survive the indoctrination, keeping him for hours each day in a potential slaughterhouse is another matter. This particular manifestation of fluffy-headed left-wing bias makes me angry because it creates a real physical danger to my son and hundreds of other children. And for what? Because the school administrators think guns are icky? Because guns are “dangerous?” Well, maybe that’s why you need somebody who knows how to use one when a lunatic wants to kill children! No one is suggesting that 12-year-olds carry guns in their backpacks, but what possible reason can there be for the security guards to be helpless? What about the principal? What about the history teacher who was a marine for twenty years? Why can’t he keep a piece in a locked drawer?

Most people view political correctness as quaint, or silly. It’s not. It’s dangerous. Some of the students at Virginia Tech are dead because their campus was a gun-free zone.

Copyright 2007 Michael Kubacki

Thursday, March 8, 2007


As wars go, my father’s WWII was not the worst. He spent almost all of his time in North Africa and Italy (rather than, say, Iwo Jima), he didn’t kill anybody, and though he was shot at and bombed, he never felt he came seriously close to getting seriously hurt. In addition, as he pointed out more than once, the army was superior to his childhood in this respect: in the army, he always got his chow.
When Italy fell to the Allies in 1944, my old man was there, and he spent the rest of the war in the pacification of a place where a substantial portion of the citizenry was not averse to being pacified. While the de-nazification of Germany took about ten years, the de-fascistification of Italy took about ten minutes. Still, there was work to be done in getting the Germans out of Italy, and Captain Kubacki had to do some of it.
In 1945, when the Germans in Italy had (mostly) been defeated, my father was given a jeep, a lieutenant, two heavily-armed MPs, a strongbox full of money, and a long list of people’s names along with the towns and villages in which these people lived. As the American army had worked its way through the Italian countryside, cleaning out German strongholds, it had taken what it needed from the farmers and townspeople along the way, in each case promising to return with payment at some point in the indefinite (and uncertain) future. It is fair to assume that these promises, to a people who had dealt with the ravages of invading armies for the previous five thousand years or so, were met with a certain skepticism.
Captain Kubacki and his crew would drive into town unannounced, and the Captain would set off to find the mayor or some other nabob, to whom he would explain his mission. “We’re here to pay your people,” my father would say, in his imperfect Italian, “for the sheep and mules and tomatoes and gasoline the American army took last year. Please call everyone together so we can get started.”
The initial response to this, typically, was, “You want to do WHAT?”
Sleepy little Italian towns being what they are, however, people had already started peeking around corners to find out what the Americans were up to, and with entertainment in short supply at the time, there would soon be a crowd gathered in the town square with my father, the lieutenant, the MPs and the strongbox at the center of it. At which point, my father would unfurl his list and call out the first name.
“Vincenzo Massimo!”
All eyes would turn to Vincenzo, who was suddenly on the spot, and with a shrug of the shoulders and a puzzled look, he would approach.
“A mule,” my father would say. The lieutenant would count out some appropriate number of lire and hand the cash to Vincente, who would look at it, hold it up to the sun, wave it in the air for the crowd to see, and return to his pals, who would examine the notes intently.
Meanwhile, Captain Kubacki was calling out the next name: “Luigi Grieco!”
According to my father, the same scenario, with few variations, played out in town after town. In a few minutes, a table would be brought to the square, with comfortable chairs for the captain and the lieutenant. Shortly, a plate of olives would appear on the table, perhaps with a bit of bread and cheese. A few minutes later, a flagon of wine would materialize, along with a young lady whose job it was to ensure the officers’ glasses were never empty. As the soldiers worked their way down to the end of the list for that day, a fiddle or a guitar would be heard somewhere in the distance, and this was a sign that the party was beginning in earnest.
For two months, as their caravan progressed through the countryside, the most difficult part of the job was getting out of town, since it was impossible to accept all the hospitality that was offered. These were people who had nothing, of course, but who invariably insisted on providing my father’s squad with the best beds, the best food, and the best wines.
It’s an irresistible story, and I heard him tell it many times. It’s a war story and an anti-war story at the same time, as well as a tale of American patriotism and values. His favorite aspect of it, the part he seemed to savor in the telling, was the surprise and confusion that greeted their arrival and the realization the American army had actually returned. They were honoring a commitment that literally no one had expected them to honor. Unlike the dozens (or hundreds) of invaders who had come through Italy over the centuries, the Americans were there to make everything right, and pay for what they had taken.

Copyright 2007 Michael Kubacki