Whether the tools of Antifa and BLM are spray paint, rocks, power saws, or gas cans, do the practitioners of destruction in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and New York think they are morally superior to the people who made the things they destroy? We live in times that whipsaw between physically diseased, morally diseased, and simply evil. So it’s time to examine the morbidity that is killing many of America’s once-great cities.
Before going any farther, I fully support these three words: Black Lives Matter. Of course they do, and always have. But I do not support rioters who hijack those three simple words for an arcane list of other ideas. 415 years ago, in The Merchant of Venice, referring to a different victimized minority, Shakespeare expressed why all lives matter in a much better way: “Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”
God. Damn. It. We are all human. And this rampaging hate is making us all victims. We need to not just accept, but love, the best contributions of different races. How else can we sustain a culture that has made pizza (Italian) democracy (Greek) printing (Chinese) jazz (Afro-American) automobiles (German) mathematics (Arabian) and computing (British) the progenitors of our current blessings? We need to revere the hours of inspiration and sweat that went into the art, architecture, streets, philosophies, music, and technologies that surround us and make our lives what they are.
Let’s look closely at one high-profile example: The Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland. This 16-story, 318-foot tall building took five years, $129 million, and countless hours of work to turn from a sketch on a napkin into reality. It is nearly impossible to calculate how many lives the design, construction, and maintenance of this one building has given pride, dignity, and purpose. But in this one structure, you’ll find evidence of all the arts and sciences that create this thing we call civilization.
Here’s a personal experience with the intrinsic value of creation: A few months ago, my wife and I decided to replace the dated floor in our home with large ceramic tiles that are better suited for our desert environment. We chose 24”x24” tiles, set on a diagonal, with grout lines only 1/8” inch wide, which makes precision cuts to accommodate all the irregularities of the house even more difficult. Then we wanted a round decorative medallion that was cut from nearly 100 pieces of polished marble set into the entrance. To make it fit, I watched our contractor and his master tile setter spend three four-hour sessions measuring, cutting, remeasuring, grinding, and repeating the slow process over and over 1/64” at a time till they had a perfect fit. That’s just a few square feet in one house. Now multiply that dedication and love of your craft by the scale of a 563,000 square foot public building.
In the public lobby of the courthouse, there is a quotation by Wendell Phillips, “The first duty of society is justice.” There are also many quotes about justice etched into the stone that faces the street, but they are impossible to read, because they have been obscured by garish spray-painted messages such as “KILL EVERY SINGLE COP”, “OINK YOUR LAST, PIGS”, “BLM”, and other less legible, but equally ugly, scrawls.
The total time to commit each of those offenses was 30 seconds or less, but those few seconds of destruction have undone the millions of hours it took to create a work of solid dignity and purpose.
Is this destruction warranted to redress the wrong of George Floyd’s murder? Mr. Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, 1729 miles from downtown Portland. Derek Chauvin is in prison, awaiting trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three officers with him during the murder have also been charged for their roles, So the issue of wrongful death of this black man by police officers is being pursued.
Here’s a curious fact about arrests for rioting in Portland, which is now in its 58th consecutive day: From an article in OregonLive on June 2, “Among the 32 cases listed in court records with addresses and other information, 25 men and seven women were arrested. Authorities listed 21 of those people as white, seven black, three Hispanic and one Asian.”
Only seven black people? I thought the cause was #BLM. Are other forces at work here? Compare these recent arrests to the acts of idealistic young white people in the Sixties who marched through the South to protest actual wrongs. They toppled no statues, wounded no police officers, and defaced no buildings, but together with black civil rights marchers, they made a moral statement that has resonated through the years.
So what is the actual reason behind this wave of chaos? Here are a few theories about Protest.2020: The death of George Floyd gave hundreds of social rejects the opportunity to act out Revenge of the Nerds with deadly results. Here’s another: The majority of the rioters are testosterone-poisoned white 20-somethings who are rebelling against their financially comfortable parents. And another: They’re just a well-financed group of thugs supported by George Soros and his ilk.
I could go on trying to figure out the motives of these bastards. But trying to get inside the heads of people so fundamentally diseased feels like soaking an old wool scarf in cough syrup and wrapping it around my brain. So why bother?
I’d much rather see a well-trained, well-equipped group of federal officers protect the Mark O. Hatfield courthouse in Portland, the boarded-up storefronts in Seattle, and private property like Mark and Patricia McCloskey’s home in St. Louis. And I suspect that most Americans, myself included, hope their streetsweeping makes future rioters decide to take up other hobbies.