By 1908 the United States was growing fast and, along with that, growth crime flourished. Lacking adequate housing, millions of immigrants crowded into tenements and slums to become easy prey for thieves, con artists and other law breakers. Henry Ford’s Model T was introduced at this time and became the perfect getaway vehicle for robbers and criminals. There was no national enforcement agency to curb the violence and, as a result, cities and towns were overwhelmed by crime. Their police forces were poorly paid, poorly trained and frequently corrupt.
Good jobs were hard to come by and thousands of women found exhausting jobs in the clothing manufacturing industry. In one tragic example, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory was filled with grateful workers even though they sometimes worked 14-hour days. In 1911, a fire broke out on the eighth floor of the factory that killed 146 people: 123 were girls and women. The door to a fire escape was locked and there were no fire extinguishers. This was the result of the lack of laws to protect the workers.
Eventually there were strikes by the garment workers, but they were stubbornly resisted by the factory owners who thought that there should be no interference with the unfettered workings of the capitalist system.
During this turbulent time, crime, corruption, harsh working conditions and illegal monopolies were rampant. Anarchists and Communists tried to take over governments here and around the world by assassinating several world leaders, including President William McKinley.
Into this milieu was thrust Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. Taking command, he recognized the need for a national police force. Along with Attorney General Charles Bonaparte, they formed the beginnings of our modern-day Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has fought bootleggers, forgers, bank robbers, murderers, anarchists, communists and internal enemies of all types for more than a century. FBI members swear an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution of the United States.
This past year, FBI Director James Comey was fired because he would not break that oath. Andrew McCabe, the deputy director, was forced to resign because he also would not break his oath to the law and the Constitution. And now Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, has been forced to resign because he would not break his oath to uphold the law and the Constitution.
These men, one and all, are men of honor. They were fired or forced to resign because they refused to swear allegiance to a man, President Trump. The FBI has protected the American people for more than 100 years. They need our continued support more than ever.
Elizabeth Keranen is a retired high school language teacher.