Over the past few years our nation has seen an astonishing—and terrifying—increase in violent crime that is reaching into every corner of our society.
Between 2019 and 2020 the national murder rate rose 30%, the biggest one year jump since these records were first compiled over 100 years ago. School shootings are up, and school fights that result in serious injuries to students, staff, and teachers are taking center stage as schools struggle to reopen their doors. This past week Illinois Governor Pritzker announced grants to violence prevention programs that will focus on Chicago and other communities throughout the state that are impacted by spiraling incidents of gun and gang violence, problems that many other cities and states across our country, sadly enough, also must now face.
Even the once sleepy Illinois college town where I live is struggling with an epidemic of gun violence and the recent murder of an on-duty police officer, which is leading some to advocate for the installation of license plate cameras in order to identify and apprehend perpetrators who are often escaping without detection. Fear of crime is everywhere in America today.
The willingness of so many—so many of whom are startlingly young—to use their fists or deadly force for the least reason has a great many causes, and most of these are the consequence of decades of government interventions that have encouraged dependency, incentivized out-of-wedlock births, and rewarded the worst sort of personal irresponsibility. However, the past few years have featured a stupendous and unprecedented increase in avoidable stupidity that has taken our structural societal and cultural problems and made them much, much worse.
First of all, it is blindingly obvious that government and public health officials have been foolishly and dangerously oblivious to the long term mental health trauma that the extended Covid-related lockdowns and shutdowns, ongoing restrictions on our movements, school closures and enforced remote learning, and fear mongering mask mandates have inflicted on all Americans—much less their severe and lasting impact on those who are younger and therefore more psychologically vulnerable. All segments of our nation have seen steep rises in suicides, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and clinical depression. Our governmentally-mandated adventures in psychological warfare against Americans have harmed us far more than any actual shooting war likely could—but children, adolescents, and young adults have certainly borne the brunt of this damage.
The severing of ties to communities and classmates has pushed a generation to the very brink, and they now must somehow cope with fear, disconnection, and an inability to form healthy relationships with both their peers and adults. We are not even close to reckoning with the permanent emotional damage we have inflicted on our young, and the studied avoidance of accepting blame and assigning responsibility for our psychological cruelties is a stunning example of elite groupthink at its very worst. All of this Covid craziness must end—and end today—for the good of every American, but it is especially important for our children, who have been the true victims throughout the past 18 months.
All our efforts to calm our nation are, of course, impeded by movies, music, and social media sinkholes that celebrate rage, violence, and confrontation, problems that existed pre-Covid and have today become an epidemic of their very own. Moreover, the hare-brained and horrendously damaging academics and ideologues who insist on teaching that racial animosity in America is immutable now divide us needlessly—and promote bitter hatreds heedlessly. If we want a healthier society and less violence in both our words and deeds, we must focus on listening, learning, cooperating, and respecting—not on inflammatory discord that promotes yet more anger and anxiety.
If we don’t commit ourselves to solving problems together rather than creating false narratives of blame for longstanding problems that have nothing to do with race, we will continue to live in a country that is fragmented and fearful, so the haters must no longer be shoved to center stage by irresponsible media outlets, educators, and government officials who all revel in controversy and sneer at thoughtful moderation because they firmly believe their best paths to career success are cheerleading for a ridiculous racial civil war that is both destroying the trust of many Americans in one another and crushing the opportunity for respectful and necessary dialogue regarding race relations.
We saw the bitter fruit of this hate mongering last summer with the death of George Floyd and the wild and destructive nationwide riots that followed. The Defund The Police movement, which as its centerpiece idea promotes the pernicious notion that all forms of law enforcement are irredeemably racist, has catastrophically reduced the ability—and the willingness—of police officers to do their jobs. Police Departments across America are dealing with an unprecedented number of retirements and resignations by officers who feel the public no longer supports or appreciates the difficult and dangerous work that they do. Unsurprisingly, the streets of many great American cities are today the happy hunting grounds for sociopathic predators who are pleased they need not fear arrest by the dwindling and demoralized remnants of their police forces, and our social order and public safety further crumbles as a result of this pitiable dynamic.
Worse yet, many misguided legislators, prosecutors, and judges seem to have decided that the cure for rising crime is to stop punishing criminals. Laws have been passed that have eliminated the penalties for many supposedly minor crimes, Proposition 47 in California and nationwide efforts to decriminalize dangerous drugs being the most infamous examples. Progressive District Attorneys such as Kim Foxx in Chicago and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco now decline to file any charges at all in many cases in order to promote their own perverse and frightening visions of social justice—ones that seem wholly disconnected from any concern with the public’s welfare. Judges also seem increasingly disinclined to incarcerate offenders, often dumping dangerous individuals right back onto the streets of America, where they are free to continue to rampage and instill fear among their law-abiding and profoundly frustrated neighbors, who can only dream of the vanishing possibilities for peace in their own communities.
Our nation’s moral fabric has been in a steep decline for many decades, but the recent one-two punch of Covid craziness and Socialist Democrat dogma regarding race and law enforcement seems to have pushed us beyond the tipping point where our civil society can long survive. To continue to spiral down into dysfunction, division, and despair is a choice that certainly pleases those extremists who hate America and Americans, but it corrodes everyone else’s faith in both one another and our country’s future.
Criminals belong in jail, and to continue to ignore this most basic rule of a functional society is inexcusably idiotic. We also should remember that the law abiding must be free to live their lives without either the ridiculously overblown fears that have been insidiously fostered concerning a virus that is only rarely fatal to those infected or the despicable efforts of demagogues to create racial tensions where none need exist.
We live in a great and good nation, but we are just as susceptible to the stupidity and deceit of hucksters as any other country in world history because the attractions of money, influence, and power have always encouraged the unscrupulous few to take cruel advantage of the good hearts and best intentions of the credulous many.
We must always be vigilant about the leaders we follow, the company we keep, and the decisions we make. These simple pieces of time-tested wisdom are the shortest and surest path to better lives for ourselves and our nation, and following them should guide both our personal and voting decisions in the years ahead. If we can do this, our futures will be much brighter than might seem possible in these turbulent and troubled times where the passionate intensity of the worst among us drowns out the many voices of reason and compromise.
Throughout the long and sometimes dismal history of civilization, people have murdered one another for one of three reasons: They are angry, crazy—or both. The last few years have done an outstanding job of creating anger and making Americans crazy. To even consider continuing on the path we find ourselves on now should make each and every one of us crazy with anger, which is a telling sign that dramatic changes in both the leadership and direction of our nation will be the best hope that we have to end America’s avoidable crime wave and put this unfortunate chapter of our country’s history behind us—as quickly as we can.