Most Americans were sickened by the senseless killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. For a day or two, we were unified, asking, “How could this happen?” and “What can be done so it doesn’t happen again?”
But protests soon turned into riots and looting, inflicting untold damage to property and stores usually owned by and providing a living for urban residents. New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones instructed that “destroying property . . . is not violence” and said she would be “honored” to think that her “1619 Project” — which lies about U.S. history — inspired the riots.
Then came the assaults on public property. In Denver, shots were fired into windows at the State Capitol which was vandalized with graffiti. Miscreants sprayed obscenities on the marble marker at the Ralph Carr Judicial Building, ignorant that Gov. Carr had refused to send Japanese Coloradans to internment camps during World War II. They vandalized memorials to Colorado’s Civil War soldiers and to Armenian victims of genocide. Gov. Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock did nothing to protect these public landmarks.
Demonstrating rage was all the rage. Thinking was an afterthought, if that.
Protesters chanted “DE-FUND THE POLICE!” a proposition so absurd that overwhelming majorities of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Democrats, liberals, young people, low-income and more — told pollsters they opposed the idea. Apologists tried to explain that “defund the police” didn’t really mean “defund the police,” but protesters’ objective was unmistakable.
Next came the mobocracy’s temper tantrum to topple statues. This mindlessness included Portland mobs tearing down a statue of George Washington, draped in a burning American flag. San Francisco rioters indiscriminately tore down statues of Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union to victory in the Civil War (that’s the one about slavery), and Francis Scott Key, who penned the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner. Elsewhere, they attacked monuments to abolitionists, the 19th Century activists who opposed slavery.
These spasmodic outbursts selfishly focused attention on the easily-triggered, perpetually-offended progressive protesters and away from meaningful measures to address the pointless deaths of Floyd, Ahmad Arbery or Breonna Taylor.
What did the malefactors achieve by demolishing statues? Have their actions suddenly cleansed us of prejudice or animosity? There’s no virtue in destroying someone else’s property. Even if lawfully removing certain statues could engender racial reconciliation, civil society was deprived of that process because lawless jackasses took matters into their own hands.
Further, the legitimacy of civil government is in question because there’s no doubt that Democrat mayors or governors would not sit on their hands if right-wing extremists looted, burned and destroyed their communities. George Orwell’s words of 75 years ago describe America today: “All (people) are equal; but some (people) are more equal than others.” Rioters and vandals are above the law; taxpaying property owners aren’t worth protecting.
More than ever, we need the clarity and courage of Martin Luther King, Jr., who used our Founders’ own vision of freedom to confront America’s conscience. King witnessed far worse and more frequent mistreatment of black Americans than have today’s protesters. Yet, he steadfastly adhered to nonviolence and condemned “bitterness and hatred” by others who sought equality for black Americans.
At a time when Americans might have come together, riot instigators poured gas on the fire that ignites distrust among us. Equally disgusting are politicians who, rather than asking, “What is the right thing to do for the American people?” are instead calculating, “Does this help or harm my party in November?”
In 1838, Abraham Lincoln, witnessing an outbreak of lawlessness and mob rule, warned, “If destruction be our lot, it must spring up from amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Our enemies abroad are watching with interest as we move toward fulfilling Lincoln’s prophecy.
Mark Hillman served as Senate majority leader and state treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.