By Victor Davis Hanson
A sign of a civilization in headlong decline is its embrace of absurdities. Unfortunately for the United States, we are witnessing an epidemic of nihilist nonsense. Here are a few examples:
How could a dysfunctional state like California even contemplate $800 billion in reparations?
The state currently faces a $31 billion annual deficit—and it’s climbing. The state’s $100 billion high-speed rail project is inert, a veritable Stonehenge of concrete monoliths without a foot of track laid down.
California’s income tax rates are already the highest in the nation. Its sales taxes, electricity rates, and gas taxes and prices are among the steepest in the country. And for what?
Crime, homelessness, and medieval decay characterize the once great downtowns of San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is now not safe to walk alone in any major California city after dark.
Shoplifting and smash-and-grab theft are no longer treated as real crimes. The result is the mass flight of brand stores from our downtowns and inner cities, with all the accustomed cries of “racism,” even as racist public prosecutors pick and choose whether to indict the arrested on the basis of race.
California infrastructure, once the best in the county, is now among the worst. Decaying and crowded freeways, inadequate water storage, and pot-holed streets are the new norm. Once robust gas, oil, mining, and timber industries are nearly inert.
The state’s public schools are dysfunctional. Once premier public universities are spiraling headlong into decline—junking scholastic tests for admissions, using illegal racial quotas to warp admissions, and institutionalizing racialized dorms and graduation ceremonies.
Even if California enjoyed a huge surplus, even if 300,000 residents were not fleeing the state each year, even if California had a history of being a Confederate slave state, even if whites were the majority of the population, even if the black population was greater than its present 5-6 percent, it would be insane for the state to even contemplate racial reparations.
Twenty-seven percent of the state’s residents were born outside of the United States, and have no American ancestors. The state is the most racially diverse in America, and one in which every group could, in theory, lodge complaints against the dead of the past. Mexican-Americans, Armenians, Asians, and the descendants of the impoverished “Okie” diaspora could all cite legacies of bias—but from whom exactly? The long dead?
For those of increasingly mixed heritage—about a quarter of the state—did their own ancestors oppress their own ancestors? Are all blacks sure that eight generations ago their individual ancestors were slaves outside of California, and therefore they have monetary grievances against those in the state whose ancestors eight generations ago might have owned slaves outside of California? And can such writs be documented?
Do we really wish to go down this path of destroying individuality and insisting that superficial appearance damns us to a collective rooted in the past?
If so, are we to tally up the half-century role of racial quotas to calibrate all the impoverished whites of the last 50 years who were discriminated against in admissions and hiring? Have there not been existing reparations from the decades-long implementations of racial preferences and exemptions—or perhaps in some $20 trillion dollars in reparatory transferences during a half-century of Great Society entitlements?
If we are collectives and not individuals anymore, are all of us to be judged by adding up our group’s historical and current pluses and minuses?
If so, do we add or subtract reparatory charges based on group data? If one race is vastly overrepresented in hate crimes or interracial crime statistics, and other groups vastly underrepresented as perpetrators, is it the role of the state now to intervene and provide reparatory and collective “equity” from one collective for the relatives of the victims of another collective?
Are we really convinced that past institutional racial bias is all-determinative of present opportunity? If so, why do Asians nationally as a collective on average earn $20,000 a year more than non-Hispanic whites—despite past exclusionary immigration laws, forced government relocations, and zoning prohibitions? Was there some unknown university study that postulated that the Japanese-internment or early 20th century Yellow Peril exclusionary immigration statutes were irrelevant to Asian-American upward mobility?
Inequality Under the Laws
Ideology now has made a mockery of the cherished traditions of blind justice and equality under the laws. Whether you are arrested, indicted, and convicted increasingly hinges on your politics.
During the 120 days of 2020 riots, looting, arson, and assault that saw $2 billion in damage, 35-40 killed, hundreds of injured police officers, and 14,000 arrests, were there mass detentions, thousands of convictions, and lengthy sentences handed out to Antifa and BLM members for the violence? After all, the insurrectionary rioters staged iconic attacks on the idea of government, whether defined as torching a police precinct or federal courthouse.
Why then were so many protestors of January 6 demonstrations at the Capitol that saw no violent deaths at the hands of another—except a Trump supporter lethally shot for the misdemeanor of entering a broken window of the Capitol—given lengthy prison sentences?
George Floyd—a 6’4”, 223 pound black career violent felon, arrested while suspected of passing counterfeit money, serially high on dangerous drugs, resisting arrest—was choked into unconsciousness while resisting arrest by a reckless white police officer.
Floyd was canonized as an American hero, often portrayed with halo and angelic wings.
The officer was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving combined state and federal prison sentence of over 40 years.
A white Ashli Babbitt, 5’2”, 113 pounds, a 14-year military veteran, and, like Floyd, unarmed, was lethally shot for the crime of entering a broken window in the Capitol by a black policeman.
Postmortem, her life was smeared and slandered, her shooter canonized. Was Babbitt some sinner, Floyd a saint? The choker officer Chauvin a Satan, the lethal shooter cop Byrd godly? The petite Babbitt a mortal danger stopped only by a bullet, the huge and uncooperative Floyd supposedly easy to arrest with no need of force?
Why were the downtowns of Washington, D.C. and Seattle simply hijacked and expropriated by violent groups with impunity, while federal troops were forbidden to assist overtaxed local law enforcement? Was that not in stark contrast to the barbed wire, 20,000 soldiers and barricades that marked Washington for weeks after the Capitol demonstrations?
Why was there not to be a 2020 riot congressional commission to investigate the deaths and destruction caused by groups who crossed state lines to plan and orchestrate the violence, often weaving their conspiracies with the aid of social media?
Did we not fight a Civil War to reestablish that states and locales could not ignore federal laws?
Why did 550 local and state jurisdictions, in old Confederate South Carolina style, declare with impunity that federal immigration law did not apply in their territories? Does the Left now believe in such neo-Confederate principles? Would it applaud counties that rendered federal endangered species, or handgun-control statutes null and void in their jurisdictions?
Or do we now declare some nullifications good and others bad, depending on our own politics?