For openers, have a reminder of something basic:
Now to the meat of the matter.
I’m an old man. Old men have fears that younger men don’t share. One such fear is of being violently attacked. Therefore, whenever I prepare to leave my home for any reason – the occasions are getting to be fewer and fewer – I arm myself. I have resolved that if anyone should attack me for any reason, I will take his life.
I didn’t think that way even fifteen years ago. But then, matters weren’t nearly this bad fifteen years ago. Remember 2001? Remember the surge of national unity and resolve that followed the 9/11 atrocities? We were a nation then. We aren’t one today.
Today we’re a battleground, and not just with regard to our politics.
The American scene is trending speedily toward violence as a persistent, even dominant feature. Violence is everywhere. It’s been in our schools for decades. It pollutes our urban streets. It’s becoming ever more important in our suburbs. And it’s becoming a key factor in our politics.
The great wonder of the thing is that the homicide rate hasn’t exploded. Considering the frequency and distribution of violent events, I’d have expected many more deaths. After all, we’re a heavily armed country. A lot of people “carry” regularly. You’d think those weapons would be used at a frequency proportional to that of other violent encounters. So far that hasn’t happened, except in places like Chicago. But I don’t dare to forecast the continuation of that condition. It could change all too swiftly and easily.
Violence is increasing because it gets the violent ones what they want. Remember what I said in large font at the outset: A tactic that succeeds will be repeated, intensified, and emulated. Violence is apparently working for those who employ it. That is, its practitioners’ gains outweigh its costs and risks.
Violence didn’t always succeed. Sixty years ago, it was common for an assault that took place before onlookers to be answered by counter-violence and the placement of the attacker in a jail cell: not always, but often enough, and with consequences severe enough, to hold occasions of violence to a socially endurable level. For various reasons that is no longer the case, while the prospective gains from violence remain what they were.
Violence works whenever it’s not met by a swift defense and appropriate retribution. It worked for Lenin’s Bolsheviks and Hitler’s Brown Shirts. The lesson is not lost on those who mastermind American politics.
Though violence of various kinds has increased dramatically in frequency and intensity, its practitioners are a small minority of the American people. Therefore, they can be faced down, deterred when possible and punished when deterrence fails. But this is not happening, at least not frequently enough to preserve a suitable degree of public peace. Why not?
There are several reasons. The most important ones:
- A reluctance to risk pain and injury;
- Fear that the authorities will “take the wrong side;”
- The demonization of masculine initiative and courage;
- A quasi-philosophical disinclination to “descend to that level.”
All of these influences matter, apparently more today than ever before in our nation’s history. And not one of them is somehow refutable. Pain hurts; injuries incur medical bills. The cops get a violent encounter wrong rather frequently; sometimes the defender is penalized along with the attacker as a matter of official policy. Notions about “toxic masculinity” and “testosterone poisoning” are being trumpeted at us from every direction. And of course, there’s this foolish prevalent notion in circulation that “a gentleman doesn’t do that,” whereas it’s not that long ago that one who refrained from intervening to save a victim from his attacker would be classed as “no gentleman at all.”
So attackers are reaping the rewards they seek far more frequently than before...perhaps more often than not. And most ominously, it appears that violence, especially vandalism, has become a principal factor in our politics.
The bullies are taking our country from us.
Hearken to John Hinderaker of PowerLine:
It is widely understood that the Left wants to impose censorship on the rest of us, and where it can, it will. The experience of conservative speakers on university campuses is the most obvious proof. But the truth, I think, is worse: it isn’t just censorship. The Left wants to bully disagreement out of existence.
Indeed it is “widely understood.” But the understanding has not triggered the proper reaction, with the consequence that the Left’s politically oriented violence is inspiring much other violence for other, less abstract reasons: gain; the sense of personal superiority; racial or ethnic hatreds; and so forth.
Hinderaker’s piece, which surveys the tide of political violence and intimidation sweeping over Europe and the milquetoast reactions to it to this point, closes on an upbeat note:
Here in the U.S., we are witnessing a populist revolt against bullying liberalism, but what we are seeing here is mild, I suspect, compared with what is in store in Europe. And, of course, when all dissent on what millions see as the most vital issues of the day is barred as “far right,” it is inevitable that unsavory elements will be part of the populist uprising. Having sown the wind, Europe’s Left will, in all likelihood, reap the whirlwind. If the consequences are not to its liking, it has no one to blame but itself.
Note the foreboding yet darkly optimistic feel of the above: in effect, it says “they’ll get what’s coming to them.” Will the near future justify it? Or will those personally inclined toward violence come to “outgun” those who prefer peace and order and are willing to accept personal risk to get and keep it?
As with all else, we shall see. But I’m finding it difficult to be optimistic. How much optimism do you feel?