The one thing of which there is no shortage in these United States is wishful thinking. It’s more pandemic than the WuFlu and orders of magnitude more destructive. Sadly, some of that wishful thinking is on the Right.
The rioting and organized theft in the larger cities has revealed an ugly truth. Many on the Right believes they see that truth clearly. It’s the Democrats and their defund-the-police policies! they cry. And part of the responsibility for the madness does belong at that door…but only a part, and a small one at that. The larger problem – the explosion of amorality, especially among the Left’s mascot-groups – is one we have yet to address fearlessly.
But let’s leave that to the side for a moment longer. The phenomenon that gripped me this morning is the belief that undoing the triggering event can undo what it triggered. For an example, here’s Rick Moran at PJ Media:
Is it an accident that big cities with radical Democratic mayors and radical prosecutors are suffering from the most spectacular — and worrying — streak of organized retail theft in history?
Democrats might want you to think that. They will claim that their radical policies with regard to criminal behavior have nothing to do with the lawbreaking that’s happening in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minneapolis.
Now, as I’ve already said, the anti-law-enforcement policies pursued by the Democrats do bear a small part of the responsibility. But that was more in the nature of a trigger than the whole cause. Yes, the correlation between zones of unchecked mass theft and Democrat political dominance is very strong. But while the thieves probably did go into action in part because of the Democrats’ anti-law-enforcement stance, there’s at least one more influence in the basket that plays a much larger role in the matter. Here’s Moran’s conclusion:
The problem for these cities is that the situation won’t get any better until voters throw the radicals out. But there are so many people who think as the radical prosecutors think: the looters are justified in taking whatever they can carry because they are oppressed and victims of racism.
“Throwing the radicals out” is necessary, a praiseworthy objective. But it won’t stuff the genie of organized mass theft back into its bottle. That is founded on a different phenomenon altogether.
If you can concentrate enough force and can move quickly enough, you can get away with anything.
This has always been the case. It has nothing to do with police funding levels. Think for a moment about how much security, how well armed, and how ready to use lethal methods that Nordstrom’s in L.A. would have needed to prevent the robbery the lined story describes. Now think about applying that level and lethality of security to every retail establishment. The past couple of years we’ve seen the lower-end stores get targeted by flash mobs of teenagers – and the teens nearly always get away with it.
America’s high-trust society was premised on the conviction that “people wouldn’t do such things.” That time has passed.
Why has it passed? Atheism and moral relativism. There are now a sufficient number of persons who:
- Believe that there are no moral absolutes;
- Believe that there is no God and no after-life judgment;
- Believe that they won’t be arrested, tried, and punished in this life;
…that they can:
- Find one another easily (especially in zones of high population density);
- Gather to plan a mass smash-and-grab of a selected store;
- Strike and escape before the police can react.
…if, indeed, the police are minded to do so. Such behavior cannot be deterred by a security guard or two. It would take a platoon of such guards, armed and pre-authorized to use lethal force, to present a credible obstacle. How many retail establishments of any kind would willingly deploy such a force? What would it do to their business?
What the cities are suffering today has always been possible. It wasn’t deterred by the threat of temporal punishment, but by the belief that even one who gets away with it today would have to answer for it in the next life. In other words, Americans of previous eras could do what today’s looters are doing, but they wouldn’t!
American cultural influencers have been preaching against theism and moral absolutes for several decades. They’ve reaped a fair crop of converts. Is it any surprise that some of those converts are now acting on what they’ve been told? Is it any surprise that they’re concentrated in cities under Democrat control, where the political and cultural elite have told them repeatedly that “it’s not your fault; it’s society” — ?
Revitalizing our urban police forces won’t put an end to this. Indeed, the problem might not be soluble, barring the extermination of all those who’ve seen that it’s doable and are undeterred by any moral or theological consideration. But even if that course were thinkable, how large a force, working for how many years under essentially no constraints, would it take to snuff it?
These are not pleasant thoughts, but they’re important ones. Perhaps the diminution of our urban police forces was the trigger, or part of it. Simply reversing those calamitous policies won’t reverse the tide of thefts, any more than “reversing” the trigger of a gun would call the bullet back into the chamber. We have a much bigger and longer-term job to do – and we won’t even begin it until we admit that our passivity before the advancing tide of atheism and moral relativism was horribly wrong, a moral default.
Edmund Burke, where are you when we need you?