Doughboy monument, Morton Grove, Illinois

By John Ruberry

This week marks the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I, then known as the Great War. Much of Europe had been engaged in widespread slaughter since 1914 when Congress, at the request of President Woodrow Wilson, voted to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

After the armistice ended the war on November 11, 1918, America was a transformed nation.

The war caused an American agricultural expressed a boom. Obliteration of farms and a lack of manpower in Europe created a huge demand American grain. After the war rural America was hit with an economic downturn that ran contrast to the robust industrial expansion in cities like Detroit–and many farms were foreclosed. Bold farmers who borrowed money to plant crops in marginally arable areas such as the Great Plains first endured falling commodity prices and then the Dust Bowl of the 1930s–and of course, foreclosures.

While the Great Migration of blacks from the South to the North may have begun a few years before the declaration of war, the demand for factory workers in northern cities clearly hastened it. Black soldiers fought the Germans in France–and like all American soldiers they were celebrated as heroes by the grateful French and Belgians. When these black troops returned home, they discovered that white American racial prejudices remained, perhaps they were even worse than before the war. A series a race riots swept America in 1919, known as Red Summer. The deadliest riot occurred in Chicago, with 38 fatalities. It began after an African-American man floating on a railroad tie on Lake Michigan unwittingly drifted into a white section of a segregated beach.

Victory Monument honoring African-American World War I soldiers, Chicago.

These riots were a precursor of the urban unrest of the 1960s.

While it’s now considered impolite to ask a person their ethnic background, especially if you don’t know that person well, it wasn’t in the 1970s and 1980s, at least in the Chicago area, where I grew up. For instance, one of my neighbors from my youth had an Anglo last name. But that name was changed, I was told, in 1917, from a German one when their grandparents had to close their business and move to a different part of Chicago because they feared for their lives after being victims of anti-German violence. Thousands of others–maybe tens-of-thousands of others–also changed their surnames and cut ties to their pasts. I know about a dozen people whose ancestors dropped their German last names during that time and picked ones that were more “American sounding.”

If you take one of those Anscestry.com DNA tests and you surprisingly find German blood in your veins, it could because you unlocked a Great War family secret.

During the war many German-Americans were jailed on flimsy evidence as America, for a while, forgot it was a free country. And that’s not all. Irrational fears of communism after the Russian Revolution, itself a result of World War I, brought about the civil rights abuses of the Red Scare of 1917-1920. Wilson, a progressive Democrat, signed the Sedition Act of 1918 into law, which made criticism of the war or the nation illegal. In response to all of this madness, the far-left American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920.

Later that year Americans overwhelmingly elected Republican Warren G. Harding as president. He promised a “return to normalcy.”

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Germans in the United States in the early part of the 20th century were stereotypically viewed as beer guzzlers and saloon owners. The Prohibition movement was already strong when the war began–but the progressive teetotalers preyed upon this new bigotry as they sealed their deal with the passage of the 18th Amendment two months after the end of hostilities. Speakeasies replaced bars–and jazz music, often performed by black musicians who were part of the Great Migration–was the music of choice in many of these illegal establishments. This was not a return to normalcy–it was a new normal.

Europe never completely recovered from World War I–America was the world’s most powerful nation after the armistice was signed.

And it still is.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chief Inspector: Now, I know what you’re going to say, but the fact is, you’ve been making us all look bad.
PC Nicholas Angel: I’m sorry, sir?
Chief Inspector: Of course we all appreciate your efforts, but you’ve been rather letting the side down. It’s all about being a team player, Nicholas. You can’t be the Sheriff of London. If we let you carry on running round town, you’ll continue to be exceptional and we can’t have that. You’ll put us all out of a job.

Hot Fuzz 2007

Yesterday I did my annual tax walk though, that is I did my taxes in pencil not finalizing anything and will now do my ritual of waiting about a week and then re-doing them in pen double checking everything with a fresh set of eyes to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Then once I have the federal taxes done It’s time for my state taxes.

Of course that’s not been a bad thing.  One of the few plus sides over the last few years has been the Massachusetts online filing system, as a person who was once a computer programmer I was astounded at how well written it was, how easy it was to use.  As I wrote back in 2013

If you qualify (and odds are you will) you can e-file through the site for free and the e-file system is elegant and easy.

You can save easily, jump back easily, double-check easily and before you submit see a PDF version as if you had filed by paper.

I have a lot of words to say when the state does something wrong, so I’m obliged to say something when they do something right.

When it comes to online filing, Mass DOR does it right, take a bow.

So naturally Massachusetts, having developed a system that was elegant, easy to use and helpful to tax filers has decided to do away with it.

Massachusetts has joined a growing number of states that have ditched their free online tax-filing system, pushing residents to use software developed by private companies, and in some cases to pay for it.

Thousands of Massachusetts taxpayers who have been submitting their state tax returns through Webfile for Income, a system in use since 2009, will this year be directed to a coalition of tax-preparation software companies instead.

Massachusetts joined the Virginia-based Free File Alliance last fall, and this marks the first full tax season that the state’s tax filers will be using the new system. State officials anticipate that Free File Alliance will save the state money and improve the security of tax returns.

Are you kidding me?

You had  a system so good that even I, a big fan of paper filing was actually pleased to use your online system and you decide to ditch it?  Furthermore it’s one thing to have the government, who already has access to my tax into have access to it, now I’m expected to use other companies and perhaps their servers and give them access to my info?

Not this Sicilian.

So this year my state tax form will, like my federal form, be filed on paper, yes it will slow down my refund, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping my tax info between me and the state and if it means an additional expense for the state to process the form, well that’s just life.

I wish I could say I was surprised at this development but after all why should the tax filing system be user friendly and efficient when the rest of state government isn’t?