Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Good Intentions versus Bad Actors

My eyes were fixated on the Crew Dragon spacecraft this weekend. This launch was the epitome of the prowess of scientists and industry. A successful space program is the sign of a healthy nation. The war in Iraq had derailed George W. Bush's early presidential ambitions for spaceflight, but not before NASA funded summer camps for youths like myself. So nothing said it better that we were a nation at peace again.

This weekend certainly had the flavor of turbulent 1968-1969. Had I posted this sooner, I would've spoken too soon. Many of the recent protests over Floyd George's death have been orderly, especially during the sunlight hours. Others have been disorderly, characterized by arrests and the use of tear gas, but nothing beyond the pale. However, during the cover of night, there has been arson and looting of boutique shops and liquor stores. Peaceful protest is a keystone of democracy. Rioting has an ugly history of suppressing the rights and security of marginalized groups, the destruction of Tulsa's Black Wall Street at the hands of white supremacists being one of many examples.

This last point is salient, because this week has seen many privileged individuals joining in the destruction of other peoples' property. These rioters truly believe they are advancing the goals of social justice, as they destroy minority-operated businesses. If history is any lesson, neighborhoods damaged in three hours by the bricks and gasoline of "social justice warriors" will stagnate for three decades. It is the underprivileged residents who will live among the burned-out buildings and lack of amenities. This was the case of Washington, DC in the aftermath of the 1968 riots.

Elected officials and community leaders, in both parties, are abdicating the responsibility to mediate in civil unrest, which requires both understanding the concern at hand, while demanding the rule of law and order. This was shown by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's successful handling of Baltimore's Freddie Gray riots in 2015. Minnesota, the generally harmonious Scandinavia of America, was ill-prepared to deal with urban riots, and the genie left the bottle.

Among intellectuals, moral relativism has taken precedence over absolute rights. "Arson does not cancel out a murder", or "this is justified", they say. When this thinking enters political philosophy, inaction prevails. Learned politicians vacillate over 'systemic injustice' and 'inclusiveness', instead of  building practical affirmative action plans that would get immediate results.  This weekend, looting was not confined to inner-city areas, but spread to affluent, educated suburbs like Bethesda, MD.

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