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Working Americans are becoming a minority in a country where fifty percent don’t pay taxes, but do profit from the taxes of others. Where wealth redistribution is the goal, but no matter how much wealth is redistributed, it’s never enough for the perpetually dissatisfied and the permanently angry who always have license to take to the streets in pursuit of some ephemeral justice that can only be gained with bullhorns and broken windows.
White people in America have come to occupy a similar place to the one held by minority groups such as Jews and Asians. There is a bizarre and vulgar obsession with their success, entire schools of thought dedicated to proving that their success is unjustified and has only come about as a result of a vast conspiracy, clannish privilege and underhanded tactics. There is an equally strong obsession with punishing them for their success.
21st Century America is as obsessed with white power as 19th century Europe was with Jewish power. The latter obsession played a sizable role in the destruction of Europe, the former obsession now seems set to do the same thing to America.
But the ugly truth that can be seen in the wake of a riot is that destroying those who succeed does not spread their success around. It only destroys the destroyers. A community in the wake of a riot is poorer, more miserable and more deprived. It has injected itself with another dose in the cycle of violence, looting the ever-diminishing remains of a local economy until nothing is left but empty storefronts and a few food stamp bodegas sheathed in bulletproof glass.
These communities have not been deprived, they are self-deprived. They are not oppressed, they are oppressing themselves. The disparity in power has long ago shifted their way. If they have all too often chosen to use that power in a destructive way, the fault is their own. It cannot be healed with more affirmative action, more apologies and more power shifts. The last three years have made that painfully clear.
If the rioters were once below the law, they have become above the law. Or perhaps they have become the law. Race rioter extraordinaire Al Sharpton is a frequent visitor to the White House and a fixture on liberal cable television. Twenty years since mobs ran down the streets of Crown Heights chanting “Kill the Jews,” the agitator behind the whole thing is praised by the Attorney General.
Ownership is the difference between the looter and the owner. Both the looter and the owner have power, but only the owner has chosen to take ownership of that power and responsibility for that power. The looter treats his power as a force beyond his control, a hair trigger that can go off if he’s provoked or if he has nothing to do. He exercises it carelessly and then complains when things don’t go his way.
Law is responsibility. To riot is to proclaim that the law does not apply to you. That you are beyond, below and above the law. It is a rejection of ownership for one’s own behavior and the larger society. It can be seen in the street level rioters and in an administration which loots and wastes money because it does not think of the money or the country as belonging to it.
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