MARCH 18, 1947
LOS ANGELES, Monday—The papers out here report the hanging by one youngster of a younger playmate somewhere near Albany, N.Y. It always seems to me a pity that things of this kind should become headline news the country over. Any informed person knows that a youngster committing a crime of this kind must be one of those unfortunates who have no emotional control.
Modern psychiatry recognizes this type of individual. Parents who find out in time are advised to keep close watch on such children and are usually told that it would be wise to put them under restraint somewhere. The difficulty is that very few states or communities recognize the need for any institutions where this type of youngster may be confined and cared for.
Such children are apparently normal under ordinary circumstances—sometimes very intelligent. They only go off balance when something hits them emotionally; then they have no control, and apparently no amount of training gives them control. In their calm moments they recognize the danger of what they do, but they are unable to prevent the recurrence of such actions. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons motivating a number of youthful crimes, and one of the least recognized reasons.
I am beginning to feel, however, that our newspapers have far more responsibility than they accept when they spread the stories of such crimes—in fact, of any crimes—in detail. I think crimes are almost always the result of diseased minds, and such minds gain new impetus from reading about crimes in the papers.
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Yesterday afternoon I was unfortunately prevented from listening to the radio and hearing Miss Margaret Truman sing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, but I think nearly everybody else all over the country must have listened, for everyone I've seen has spoken with enthusiasm about her voice. She has been very persistent in her studying and has wanted to make singing a career, so I hope that this auspicious beginning means that she will be successful. A beautiful voice can give the world great joy, and I think nothing can give greater personal satisfaction than the knowledge that one can contribute to the pleasure of large numbers of people.
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I am confronted daily in the papers out here with some news about a group which calls itself the Los Angeles Smog Committee, under the leadership of William Jeffers. I have no idea what the word "smog" means, but the objectives of this committee seem to be altogether good, so perhaps we should start the same type of organization in every city and town in our country!
They apparently attack any bad situations which creep into the surroundings of any aggregation of people. Today it is the city dumps which have come in for denunciation and vociferous demands that they be done away with immediately because they are "creating a vicious public nuisance." Nearby Long Beach has solved the problem by a method of burning the rubbish which creates no smoke or rat problem. It seems that this committee not only fights against a nuisance which endangers public health, but also suggests methods for improving the situation.
In every locality, I think, one could use a group of public-spirited citizens who would agitate on local questions of this kind—and the first point to be taken up should be housing everywhere!