Here's a simple question: A police station in a major American city was occupied, looted and burned on Thursday night. Most of us assumed we’d never live to see something like that happen here. But it did happen.
So the question is, has anyone been arrested for doing it? Will anyone ever be arrested?
No one in authority seems especially interested in apprehending the people who did it. All of it happened on camera, but the perpetrators just walked away. And it’s, maybe likely, that most of them will never be punished for it.
It’s a very different experience from the ones most Americans have living here.
As Minneapolis burns and crowds grow in the streets of Atlanta and many other cities, the rest of us are continuing on as we always do -- dutifully following the rules. There are many of those.
Every year, there seem to be countless new rules to follow. They multiply like insects.
We do our best to keep up. We get our permits, apply for our licenses, put on our reading glasses to check the latest regulations on the internet.
We wear our little masks.
We keep our dogs on leashes.
We drive sober.
We don’t eat on the subway. We never litter.
We make orderly lines and patiently wait our turn.
In airports and government buildings, we remove our shoes and submit to body searches from strangers. We lose our dignity every time we do this, but they tell us we must, so we accept it without complaint.
In public, we hide what we really think.
We bury our natural instincts. We keep our deepest beliefs to ourselves.
We know the boundaries. We understand we will be punished for telling the truth.
This is the America the rest of us live in.
For the privilege of citizenship in a country like this, we work as hard as we can.
We never stop sharing what we earn with others.
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We send money we’d rather give to our own children to politicians in faraway cities. With that money, they make new rules. We follow those rules to the letter. That’s what we were told to do as children. That’s the deal we’ve struck.
At least we thought it was.
Now we know that other people have somehow negotiated a far better deal than the one we have.
They get to ignore the rules. There don’t believe in order or fairness. They reject society itself.
Reason and process and precedent mean nothing to them. They use violence to get what they want immediately.
People like this don’t bother to work. They don’t volunteer or pay taxes to help other people. They live for themselves. They do exactly what they feel like doing. They say exactly what they feel like saying.
They spray paint their opinions on buildings.
On television, hour by hour, we watch these people — criminal mobs — destroy what the rest of us have built.
They have no right to do that. They don’t contribute to the common good. They never have.
Yet suddenly, they seem to have all the power.
This is hardly the first time this has happened in America. Spasms of destructive violence are a recurring feature of our history — of every country’s history.
The ideologues will tell you that the problem is race relations, or capitalism, or police brutality, or global warming. But only on the surface.
The real cause is deeper than that and it’s far darker.
What you’re watching is the ancient battle between those who have a stake in society, and would like to preserve it, and those who don’t, and seek to destroy it.
Underneath it all, this violence doesn’t have much to do with the behavior of the Minneapolis police department. For evidence, watch this tape. It’s from the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. It was shot almost 30 years ago. It could have been shot this afternoon:
Elderly African-American man confronts rioters on tape:
It’s not right! It’s not right what y’all are doing!
I came from the ghetto, too! Same as all of you kids!
Why are you destroying my business?!
Why are you destroying my truck?!
Why are you destroying my computer?!
I tried to make it!
Can you understand that!
The first thing you notice about that video is, it’s not a racial dispute. The elderly man could be the grandfather of the young rioters swarming around him. But that’s misleading. They are nothing at all alike.
The old man is fighting to defend civilization, he’s armed only with a hammer.
The young men are working to tear it down. And those are the battle lines. They always are.
Which side in that war have our leaders taken? Watch carefully. It’s obvious.
The rioters in Minneapolis and in other places act as if they’re allowed to loot and burn.
In fact, they are allowed. No one stops them.
The authorities don’t arrest them. Instead, they pander to them, flatter them, desperately try to win their love.
Why are masked lunatics setting fire to Wendy’s? Because the rest of us are sinful.
That’s what our leaders tell us. The crimes of the mob are the punishment we deserve. That’s their argument. Many seem to buy it.
On a White House executive staff call just this morning, key domestic policy advisors Brooke Rollins and Ja’Ron Smith argued that it would seem racist to say anything about the rioting in Minneapolis. Better just to let it happen. So that’s what they are doing.
We should have seen this coming.
When you express an opinion our leaders don’t like, they call it violence. When criminals commit acts of actual violence, they call it speech. In other words, the game is rigged.
So why are the rest of us still playing it? We have more power than we think we do. Our system only functions because dutiful normal people — people with self-control and decency, and a sense of responsibility toward others — created our system.
They sustain it. They pay the bills. None of the thugs looting Target, or the well-paid nihilists on television who are egging them on, have added a thing. Nothing.
Yet all of the destroyers expect this arrangement will last forever. For them, it’s been a very good deal. But what exactly are you getting in return for your contributions to this system?
The authorities clearly don’t care about you. The police won’t show up to save your life. Literally.
During election years, sweaty politicians claim to be on your side. It’s a lie. They’re not. They’ll waste your time with hollow posturing. They’ll feed you pointless symbolic victories and expect you to celebrate, like you’ve actually won something. But when the mob comes, they’re gone. You’re on your own.
That’s true. Those are the facts. We can’t change them. All we can control is our own behavior.
Should you keep playing along with all of that? Ponder that the next time they demand you get a permit to put a deck on your own house. Think about it even harder the next time you write a tax check.