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U.S. turning into battle of those with stake in society vs. those who want it torn asunder: James Miller

Posted 6/7/20

The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

Cities burned across American two weekends ago. The damage could be plotted from Boston to Los Angeles, like a dystopian Lite-Brite. Police cruisers were …

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U.S. turning into battle of those with stake in society vs. those who want it torn asunder: James Miller


The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

Cities burned across America two weekends ago. The damage could be plotted from Boston to Los Angeles, like a dystopian Lite-Brite. Police cruisers were upended, storefront windows were shattered, tear gas and molotov cocktails filled the streets. Urban combustion was everywhere. In a scene out of a third-world coup d'état, law-enforcement precincts were overrun, abandoned, and ransacked.

And where was Donald Trump? The very same president who pledged to unhesitatingly use the mettle of law to quell the sporadic riots?

Watching a shuttle launch from an elevated platform in Florida. For the first time, NASA astronauts jettisoned into space aboard a commercially built ship. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence looked on as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon made history, shooting to the heavens, leaving Cape Canaveral and our splitting terra firma behind.

It’s easy to see why our powered elites lauded the launch — space exploration represents an abandonment of Earth and all its trifling troubles. 

While Trump had his eyes clapped on Elon Musk’s latest metal alloy toy, the country he heads experienced a dégringolade into wanton destruction. Protests over the death of George Floyd — an unarmed black man — by the hands of the police transfigured into an opportunity for mass looting.

The double feature of lawless theft and blind violence turned into a shambolic week, with marauding in major cities. For the most part, reprobates were left to their own devices. Sneaker stores and upmarket retailers such as Gucci were the hardest hit, with merchandise snatched off shelves in a squall of bodies rushing in and out.

The damage was not limited to brick-and-mortar buildings. Much bodily harm was inflicted. Bystanders were murdered. A federal security guard was killed in Oakland. A retired police officer was fatally wounded at a St. Louis pawn shop. Multiple New York City police officers were shot. A man in Dallas was beaten half to death after attempting to bar looters from his concern with a katana. The Secret Service clashed with agitators who attempted to breach the North Lawn.

Like Othello, these subversives were never destructive for a reason; they were just destructive. The root cause of the demonstrations — police brutality, racial inequality in law enforcement — was abandoned when the first flatscreen was nipped.

How did our leadership class react to this spasm of mob rule? With dereliction and excuses. The mayor of Minneapolis and the city’s chief of police spread the fiction that out-of-state white supremacists were causing the damage. The media, after portraying the Minneapolis incidents sympathetically, repeated the falsehood. The outsider theory was belied by arrest records showing most involved in the riots were state natives.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison actually urged police to “restrain their response” to the rioters. It should be noted that Ellison was once an endorser of Antifa, the leftist revolutionary group linked to many of the protests.

Trump was uncharacteristically quiet the first few calamitous days. He initially refused to give any live address, nor did he federalize the National Guard or dispatch military brigades to restore peace. By the time he marshaled troops in Washington, churches had been burned and monuments defaced. It was a complete malversation of a president who began his term promising a corrective to the demoralizing “American carnage” infecting the land.

Joe Biden issued a statement calling for calm, which was about as effective as saying nothing at all. The former veep’s statement contemned the looting, yet his campaign staffers bragged about donating to bail funds for the arrested. The money was invariably used to free some of the perpetrators.

The law-and-order constituency that makes up middle-class America is functionally leaderless. Nobody in Washington represents their interests of safe streets and responsible conduct. A Morning Consult poll found 58 percent of Americans wanted the military to supplement police in quelling the riots. Yet, Trump dithered, and has yet to fully mobilize the National Guard. Democrats decry the chaos while winking and nodding at the self-styled héros de la résistance. Republicans fear being called “racist” for endorsing any measure that would put down the savagery by main force.

The only person in our political-media pantheon to take the riots seriously was Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. In a pointed monologue, Carlson divided America into two parts: those with a stake in society, and those who want it torn asunder. The former shudder at their children watching the local Target in flames. The latter have no regard for the Burkean societal contract between the living, the dead, and the to be born.

“Our system only functions because dutiful, normal people, people with self-control and decency and above all, a sense of responsibility toward others created our system,” Carlson explained in exacerbated earnest. The entire allocution hit so close to the truth of things, it’s astounding it was even allowed to air.

The initial grievances that catalyzed this jag of distemperment shouldn’t be dismissed. After decades of attempted reconciliation, the country’s race relations remain rocky, although they’ve come a long way since the 1960s. Police hold monopoly power, and that power can be abused, sometimes with a disproportionate impact on blacks. Understanding how black Americans experience success and failure, crime and punishment, in a land that promises equality under the law is necessary.

Martin Luther King Jr., put it most eloquently: “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. And so we are all in the same situation: the salvation of the Negro will mean the salvation of the white man.” The anger and feeling of injustice of black America should be grokked. Acknowledgement of resentment isn’t a “to understand all is to forgive all” scenario. Accountability is a must, but fellow-feeling is possible.

But any progress toward a racial entente won’t happen with nightly newscasts of flaming office buildings. Order has to come before a reckoning. The vandals should be identified and cuffed. Americans who wake up early, pay their bills, mow their lawns, get their vehicles inspected on time, volunteer at church, and perform the tedious but necessary tasks of civilization won’t settle for less. 

Who will be their tribune?

James E. Miller, a native of Middletown, lives in northern Virginia with his wife and daughter. He is the author of the novel “To Win And To Lose.”