Twenty-seven years ago, a wise man named Samuel Francis, whom the “conservative elite” – Kurt Schlichter would call them “Conservatism, Inc.” – despised and routinely denigrated, wrote an essay that should have been read by everyone in America. It wasn’t: in part because it appeared in Chronicles, a publication “Conservatism, Inc.” has long despised for the unparalleled quality of its writers and editors; and in part because of Mr. Francis’s acuity on matters that touch upon race and ethnicity. Nevertheless, that essay remains a beacon of hope and sanity to which Americans of this Year of Our Lord 2021 should attend.
Here’s a vitally important snippet, which has great relevance to the tumults in so many of our cities today:
At least as far as crime and personal safety are concerned, some are awakening to the ancient lesson of republican government, that in order to govern yourself politically you must first be able to govern yourself personally and morally. And, that lesson means assuming responsibility for your own protection. For months in 1987 in Detroit, citizens complained to the police about teenage prostitutes from a crack house in the neighborhood who solicited old men and adolescents on the street, about drug dealers firing guns in the air for fun, and about a shoot-out between drug gangs while neighborhood children played in the street. Not once did the police respond to any of the repeated calls. Then one day after the shoot-out, two local men named Angelo Parisi and Perry Kent walked up the street, set fire to the crack house, and burned it to the ground, and within minutes police arrived to charge them with two counts of arson and assault with a deadly weapon. With community support, both men were acquitted by a jury of all charges, and there are stories similar to theirs in other American cities.
Soon after the Los Angeles riots, the New York Times recounted the story of a 20-year-old janitor, David Penso, who enjoyed the less-than-bracing experience of watching a local discount store being looted and burned by rioters as Los Angeles police cars drove past and did absolutely nothing. Mr. Penso—unlike George Bush, Jack Kemp, Bill Clinton, and George Will—learned something. “The cops were there,” he told the Times, “but they didn’t do anything. The only way people can be protected in Los Angeles is if they protect themselves with guns.” Some months before the Los Angeles riots, the Washington Post carried a story about women and guns, reporting that there are now about 12 million of them across the country, and one of them, a woman named Paxton Quigley in Beverly Hills, a former activist for gun control and now owner of a gun store that offers firearms training to women, told the Post, “We cannot depend on anyone to protect us. We must do it ourselves. And, the only way is to acquire the firepower it takes to dissuade violent criminals.”
How is this not utterly and completely obvious? It defeats me. Yet half the country would shy back from its implications. “You mean we should protect ourselves? How is that our responsibility? Isn’t that why we have police?”
Mr. Francis picked up on the fascistic tendencies of those who’ve called for “police saturation” (e.g., George Will) long before most of the rest of us. That got him denounced as the second coming of Hitler…a sobriquet infinitely more appropriate to the “police saturation” advocates.
Running across Mr. Francis’s essay for the first time in some years sparked my memory. It caused me to dredge up an old piece that first appeared at the late, lamented Palace of Reason:
“States, like men, have their growth, their manhood, their decrepitude, and their decay.” — Walter S. Landor.
Why do nations, which, being composed entirely of ideas, are potentially immortal, age, stumble, and collapse? There are many causal threads to follow. Today I will explore “them”.
Who’s responsible for the poor condition of the roads, the axle-breaking potholes, the piles of detritus that offend the eye and nose? Not you nor I, but “them.” But getting “them” to deal with any of it is like pulling teeth, whereas none of us have the time or wherewithal; we’re all too busy earning enough to pay our taxes. That’s just the way things are.
Who’s responsible for that elderly widow down the block, the one who can’t really get around any more and should get a visit about three times a day to make sure she’s all right? Not you nor I, but “them.” And “they” haven’t been doing such a good job of it, or she wouldn’t have broken both hips in six months’ time. But “they” took the job, and it’s not ours to question their performance now that we’ve surrendered it to “them.” That’s just the way things are.
Who’s responsible for dealing with the gang that claims to “own” this block, that’s committed one mugging after another for years but never seems to be taken in hand? Not you nor I, but “them.” “They” claim to own all the police powers, though they exercise them quite selectively, and only when it suits their mood. “They” forbade us our own means of defense, too; for us to own and carry guns is far too dangerous to the public peace. What public peace, you say? Well, yes. But we can’t seem to get our guns or our authority as citizens back, so we have to hide behind the double-locked doors of our homes and leave the streets to animals that walk upright. That’s just the way things are.
Why is it the way things are? Because at various times and on various grounds, “they” persuaded us to transfer our responsibilities to them. It’s not clear why we did it. After all, “they” hadn’t been doing that well with the jobs we’d previously assigned “them.” But we did it, perhaps out of wishful thinking, perhaps out of laziness. And there seems to have been a ratchet involved, for, much as we’d like to, we can’t seem to transfer the responsibilities back into our own hands.
Can the ratchet be undone? I don’t know. I think it would require far too many men willing to court danger and possible death to wrest back the police powers, however unwisely they were delegated. We’ll get our guns back only by armed insurrection. As for the sweeping transfer of civil responsibility and public property back into the hands of common citizens, that’s almost as unlikely. They require tax revolts and organized resistance to the seizure of property through condemnation, which, though guaranteed successful if enough people participate, are as rare as snowballs in July. The wrath of the State is terrible toward those who deny its power to tax and confiscate, and everyone fears to step forward in defiance only to find himself alone.
We should have known better. We probably did.
Have a nice day.