Violence is the darkest side of humanity, which, of course, is nothing new. But what is new, relatively speaking, is that the United States is now steeped in violence. It’s true that we aren’t into car bombings and beheadings, but we do love our daily fix of blood.
You need only turn on the news, and you’ll be treated to old ladies getting mugged … men and women with mental disorders murdering their spouses and children … kids videotaping “knockout punches” … wives mysteriously disappearing … little girls being raped by perverts, who then get no jail time.
From Attila the Hun to Josef Stalin … from Genghis Khan to Adolf Hitler … from Ivan the Terrible to Saddam Hussein, man’s violence has ripped through the fabric of life. What made the United States unique for nearly two hundred years was that it generated the oxygen of morality, dignity, and civility needed to keep the soul of the human race breathing.
Americans actually had a sense of right and wrong. Not a theoretical right and wrong, but right and wrong based on certitudes. But who has the moral authority to decide on the certitudes we should live by?
A good question, to be sure, but that’s what was so interesting about America — and Western civilization as a whole. Our certitudes weren’t handed down on stone tablets (although the certitudes on the stone tablets formed the foundation for all other certitudes). The certitudes of Western culture were based on a “generally accepted code of conduct.”
In the United States, that was a pretty simple proposition. Since most Americans were Christians, Jews, or rational, non-angry atheists, there was a sort of unspoken consensus. Heck, no one even questioned the necessity to wear a coat and tie when dining at a fine restaurant. You just accepted that it was the right thing to do.
Maybe life wasn’t fair, but it wasn’t confusing, either. Everyone understood the rules. Then along came the Rousseau crowd of the Sixties generation, preaching the religion of relativism. Nothing, they insisted, is certain; everything is relative.
Worst of all, the government got involved in education — a monumental step in ridding us of those nasty old certitudes. Did you know that high school history texts now devote considerable space to such upstanding Americans as H. Rap Brown, Janis Joplin, and Timothy Leary? “Turn on, tune in, drop out” is now right up there with General Sherman’s “War is hell.”
In just a few decades, America, the moral leader of the world, succeeded in trashing its certitudes. In the book Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, the author compares what classroom teachers identified as the greatest threats to education in 1940 with what they identified as the greatest threats in the early 1990s:
The number-one concern in 1940 was talking out of turn. In the early 1990s, it was drug abuse.
The number-two concern in 1940 was chewing gum in class. In the early 1990s, it was alcohol abuse.
The number-three concern in 1940 was making noise. In the early 1990s, it was teen pregnancy.
The number-four concern in 1940 was running in the halls. In the early 1990s, it was suicide.
The number-five concern in 1940 was getting out of line. In the early 1990s, it was rape.
The number-six concern in 1940 was wearing improper clothing. In the early 1990s, it was robbery.
The number-seven concern in 1940 was not putting paper in the wastebasket. In the early 1990s, it was assault.
Today, of course, things are much worse, though I don’t have a current survey at hand.
As one certitude after another has been shouted out of existence by “progressive thinkers,” it has become an open invitation for morally lethargic people to push the envelope of decadence ever further over the edge.
And where it stops, nobody knows. But one thing is certain: Violence is a natural offspring of an anything-goes society. After all, anything means anything — and anything includes violence.
Now, all this may make a lot of anarchists cheer, but there’s one problem they haven’t considered. Once all certitudes have vanished and violence is totally out of control, a nation becomes a dictatorship waiting to happen. And I hear through the grapevine that anarchists always scream the loudest when confronted with the iron fist of totalitarianism … and it’s threatening to come to a nation near you. Make that very near.