By Victor Davis Hanson
American society is facing three existential crises not unlike those that overcame the late Roman, and a millennium later, terminal Byzantine, empires.
We are suffering an epidemic of premodern barbarism. The signs unfortunately appear everywhere. Over half a million homeless people crowd our big-city downtowns.
Most know the result of such Medieval street living is unhealthy, violent, and lethal for all concerned. Yet no one knows—or even seems to worry about—how to stop it.
So public defecation, urination, fornication, and injection continue unabated. Progressive urban pedestrians pass by holding their noses, averting their gazes, and accelerating the pace of their walking. The greenest generation in history allows its sidewalks to become pre-civilizational sewers. In a very brief time, we all but have destroyed the downtowns of our major cities—which will increasingly become vacant in a manner like the 6th-century A.D. Roman forum.
All accept that defunding the police, no-cash bail, Soros-funded district attorneys, and radical changes in jurisprudence have destroyed deterrence. The only dividend is the unleashing of a criminal class to smash-and-grab, carjack, steal, burglarize, execute, and assault—with de facto immunity. Instead we are sometimes lectured that looting is not a crime, but lengthy incarceration is criminally immoral.
We have redefined felonies as misdemeanors warranting no punishment. Misdemeanors are now infractions that are not criminal. Infractions we treat as lifestyle choices. Normality, not criminality, is deemed criminal. We all know this will not work, but still wonder why it continues.
Many among the middle classes of our cities who can flee or move, do so—like 5th-century equestrians who left Rome for rural fortified farms before the onslaught of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. For most of our lives we were lectured that the old southern states—Florida, Tennessee, Texas—were backward and uninviting. Now even liberals often flee to them, leaving behind supposedly cosmopolitan Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, and New York. The more people leave the blue states, the more those states praise themselves as utopian.
The less well-off, without the means to leave, hope that their environs have hit bottom so things can only improve. The elite who caused this premodern catastrophe assumes they will always have the money and wherewithal to ensure that themselves and their own can navigate around or even profit from the barbarism they unleashed. For them the critic, not the target of criticism, is the greater threat.
The hard urban work of the 1990s and early 2000s—cleaner, safer subways, secure nightlife downtown, clean sidewalks, low vacancy rates, little vagrancy, and litter-free streets—so often has been undone, deliberately so. We are descending to the late 1960s and 1970s wild streets—if we are lucky the mayhem does not devolve even further.
A mere 10 years ago, if an American learned that a man was arrested for clubbing, robbing, or shooting innocents, and yet would be released from custody that day of his crime, he would have thought it an obscenity. Now he fears that often the criminal will not even be arrested.
A once secure border no longer exists. Joe Biden and Alejandro Mayorkas simply demolished it and allowed 6-7 million foreign nationals to cross illegally into the United States without audits—to the delight of their apparent constituent, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
What would shame a Biden or Mayorkas? What would change their minds? Billions of dollars spent on social services for the lawbreaking at the expense of the American poor?
Would 100,000 annual lethal overdoses—12 times more than those who died over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined—from drugs that flow across the open border sway them? Or would it take 200,000, or 300,000 deaths before Joe Biden relented and ceased his chuckling?
What does a people do when its highest officials simply renounce their oaths of office and refuse to enforce laws they don’t like? Everyone knows the border will eventually have to become secure, but none have any idea whether it will take another 20, 30, or 50 million illegal entrants and 1 million more fentanyl deaths to close it.
Polls show race relations have hit historic lows. Much of the ecumenicalism of the post-Civil Rights movement seems squandered—almost deliberately so.
The Left now rarely mentions Martin Luther King, Jr. or even the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. Perhaps it knows it has violated the spirit and legacy of both.
Today, our identity politics leaders believe that the color of our skin, not the content of our character, certainly matters more. The practitioners of the new tribalism in some sense fear outlawing segregation and discrimination by race. They know to do so would end racially restricted houses and safe spaces, racially exclusive graduations, and race-based admissions, hiring, and promotion on campus.
Read Professor Ibram X. Kendi and his message is implicit. For him, the problem with a Jim Crow-like system was not segregation or racial chauvinism per se, but merely who was doing the victimizing and who were the victims: so the original racism was bad; but racism in reverse is good.
We abhor violence, racism, and misogyny—in the abstract. Yet the entire hip-hop industry would find no audience—or so we are told by its appeasers—if rappers refrained from “ho” misogyny, brags of violence against law enforcement, and self-described proprietary use of the N-word.
Most know that young black males under 30 commit violent crimes at well over 10 times their 3-4 percent demographic of the population—so often victimizing the nonwhite. All know that reality must remain unmentionable even as its causes need to be debated and discussed if lives are to be saved. Yet the greater crime seems not the crime itself, but even mentioning crime.
Postmodernism in our age is deadlier even than premodernism. Sexually explicit drag shows that allow the attendance of children 20 years ago would have been outlawed—by liberals worried over the trauma of the young watching performance-art simulated sex.
Now the children come last and the performers first—as ratified by the same liberals. But to fathom the new transitioning, simply learn from ancient transitioning and gender dysphoria, an unhappy classical theme from Catullus’ Attis poem (stimulatus ibi furenti rabie, vagus/ devolsit ili acuto sibi pondera silice/ itaque ut relicta sensit sibi membra sine viro) to Giton in Petronius’ Satyricon.
Current “science” is now synonymous with ideology, religion, or superstition. Lockdowns, mRNA vaccinations, masking, transgenderism, “climate change,” and green power brook no dissent. They are declared scientifically correct in the manner that the sun used to revolve around the earth, and any dissenting Galileo or Copernicus is cancel-cultured, doxxed, and deplatformed.
It is now verboten to cite the causes of the current upswing. We must remain silent about the classical exegeses that cults, pornography, and constructed sexual identities, when not biological, were the manifestations of a bored culture’s affluence (luxus), leisure (otium), and decadence (licentia/dissolutio).
Shanty towns in Brazil and India have residents who take care to keep their streets clean.
In our homeless slums there is no such care.
Liberal Hollywood cleeebrties in big mansions want us to all take upa a primative way to live while they still refuse to live a aprivative life
Obama for 8 years had the nation heading down this path. Hillary was supposed to follow and continue the erosion. But, in comes upstart Trump, a leader like none before. He may not have been the most adroit politician or attuned to those around him that were working to undercut his goals, but unlike almost all before him, he put the nation and the citizens first before the entire world. He turned this nation around faster than it had ever been turned around in history and the left could not abide that.
So, they worked to destroy Trump and his agenda. Through fraud, corruption and theft, idiot Biden was put in the White House. Trump’s record of the fastest turn-around was quickly shattered by idiot Biden, but not in a positive way by any measure. Energy independence: gone. Economy: wrecked. Inflation: exploded. Border: erased. Crime: epidemic. Homelessness: out of control. Foreign respect: forget about it. Democrats had to, as if they had a hard schedule for the utter destruction of the United States, make up for lost time and greatly accelerate the downfall, and boy, has it been throttled up.