Most people can only relate to events or experiences that happen during their lifetime and only understand those things in the context in which they experienced them. An example of this is people sharing recollections of what they were doing when they heard President Kennedy was assassinated. Events that happened before we were born seem like "history" to us. This difference in perspective is most apparent when a group of people of similar ages are together, but where some historical event occurred between the births of the older and younger members of the group. Asking a classroom of college students to share where they were at when the September 11 terror attacks occurred, for instance, will elicit vivid recollections from older students and blank stares from younger students not yet born at that time. To one group it was a life event. To the other group it was a historical event studied in class, along with the Civil War and the Great Depression.
Americans living today have never experienced a pre-civilization society. Civilization, in simplest terms, is an organized society of people with a government, culture and common social norms. The last time Americans lived in such conditions was in the days of the Wild West, or homesteading families on the prairies, mountains and deserts of American territories before those areas were organized and admitted to statehood. People at those times and places had little security besides what they could provide for themselves. Their lives, homes and possessions were at the mercy of the strongest and most aggressive. Traveling was dangerous. Organizing into a civilization and setting up a government with the authority to impose order through compliance with laws allowed citizens to live with greater peace, collective protection of private property and increased commerce and prosperity that comes from greater predictability and less chaos.
Agents representing the government, which represents the society as a whole, are appointed and given authority to enforce the laws agreed upon by the people. Police, troopers, marshals, constables … whatever the name, they are the representatives of the people, with authority from the government to enforce laws that maintain order. When people have disputes with each other or the government, there is a system and process to settle differences without resorting to physical clashes between citizens that result in the pre-civilizational "might makes right" result. Police rely on their government authority to keep order, to protect people and property. What happens when that authority is suddenly removed? When the government revokes officers' authority to enforce laws and maintain order?
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The result is a reversion to pre-civilizational rule by chaotic violence.
Perhaps better characterized as "post-civilizational," American cities are descending into disorder and violence in a way not experienced in this country in living memory. Unlike the inner-city riots of the 1960s or the Los Angeles riots over the Rodney King matter, governments are removing the authority of police to enforce laws and restore order. As a result, vulnerable citizens are left to defend themselves and their property. Traveling has become dangerous again as mobs block streets and highways, terrorize innocent motorists, commit acts of violence and damage or destroy vehicles. Like in the Wild West, merchants or homeowners able to physically defend their homes and businesses, or band together with other citizens or shopkeepers, are forced to demonstrate a willingness to use force. Unlike the temporary periods of civil unrest over the past several decades, the current withdrawal of police authority to re-impose order is a turning point in American history. We are experiencing the breakdown of civilization.
In cities across America mobs openly loot stores, destroy public property and assault citizens as police are increasingly restricted from intervening. Many of the acts of destruction and looting are captured on video by the perpetrators themselves. Retired St. Louis Police Capt. David Dorn was killed by looters and lay bleeding on the sidewalk as his death was broadcast on Facebook Live.
As protesters physically seized a section of downtown Seattle and claim to have created their own autonomous nation, authorities there have not only refused to protect and defend the residents and business owners there, but this week placed additional restrictions on Seattle police officers. In dealing with mobs, officers there are now prohibited from using any means of crowd control that "has the potential to cause pain or discomfort." Seattle authorities appear to be following the example in Baltimore where city officials adopted the position during their 2015 riots of giving rioters space to destroy.
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As authorities in cities across America allow violent protests to endanger innocent citizens and their property, people are left to defend themselves.
Protesting is an essential right of American citizens and protected in the First Amendment. That right, though, carries the responsibility of protesters to maintain a peaceable assembly. When protests turn into violent riots, they cross from protected speech into lawlessness. Innocent citizens should not be afraid to drive to a doctor appointment for fear they will be pulled out of their car by a mob blocking a highway. People should not fear being attacked in their homes or while walking down the street for exercising their own First Amendment right by commenting on news on their cable news show or just wearing a hat supporting the president.
As governments withdraw the authority of officers to enforce laws designed to maintain order and protect the public, or defund or disband police, citizens are left with no alternative but to defend people and property themselves. Gun sales are skyrocketing across the nation as people fear for their safety and prepare to defend themselves. Americans are experiencing a return to Wild West chaos, and violent clashes among citizens will be the natural result of leaders' refusal to enforce laws that maintain order.