Shelly Aldean: The breakdown of a civil society

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Following the recent riots in Chicago, the city’s aldermen (council members) representing the city’s 50 wards participated in a conference call with the mayor during which they pleaded for help to protect their communities from the carnage unleashed by rioters who were roving the neighborhoods, clashing with police and looting businesses.

“I feel like I am at ground zero,” Michelle Harris, of the Eighth Ward, lamented. “My major business district is shattered. Why would Walmart or CVS come back to our communities?”

Derrick Curtis, of the 18th Ward, complained that he had called 911 to report looting and got no response. The Director of the Office of Emergency Management conceded that the system was overwhelmed by the 65,000 some odd calls it received about looting in the city.

Patrick Thompson, of the 11th Ward, told the mayor he was concerned that looters would attack homes where people have guns and concealed carry weapons, while Ed Burke, of the 14th Ward, expressed similar sentiments, voicing his worry that residents would take matters into their own hands.

Welcome to anarchy in America where citizens in certain areas of our country may have no recourse but to, once again, bear arms. As an outgrowth of increased safety concerns and civil unrest, over 1.7 million guns were sold in May, an 80.2 percent increase over last year.

Amazingly, while communities are being pummeled by lawlessness and citizens are arming themselves at record rates, knee-jerk activists are calling for the defunding of law enforcement.

In a 2012 commentary by Paul Hoffman with the Institute of Accountability, a not-for-profit civil society organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, the author opines on the factors that lead to a rise in vigilantism which he terms “the last resort of the unprotected.” He observes that members of a community take matters into their own hands when they perceive that the state has neglected to honor its compact with the people by failing to properly discharge its duty to protect them. “The two most basic duties of governments in modern nation states are, firstly, to protect the country against foreign aggression and, secondly, to protect and secure inhabitants of the state and their property by the prevention, combating and investigation of crime and the maintenance of public order.”

We have witnessed how quickly society devolves when the rule of law is tossed aside and the keepers of the peace are absent — when the thin veneer of civilization that shields us from our baser instincts is ripped away revealing the ugly side of humanity.

The violence following the death of George Floyd has impacted all ethnicities and people from many walks of life. Among its many casualties in Chicago were some young black Americans in the prime of their lives — an 18-year-old student at Western Illinois University studying law enforcement and justice, a student at DRW College Prep in Lawndale, and a 36-year-old father of two who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. These are young men and women who could have made a difference in this world but were never afforded that chance.

During difficult times I often seek solace in the wisdom of past generations. In his first inaugural address on the eve of civil war, Abraham Lincoln spoke the following prayerful words which, hopefully, in these days of renewed civil strife can be embraced by all who seek a peaceful and lasting resolution to the troubles that currently grip our nation.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Shelly Aldean is a Carson City resident.


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