Saturday the mob descended on my hometown of Cleveland. With the police operating under rules that rendered them largely impotent, the vandals had their way, and business after business was sacked. The charming downtown that had impressed so many visitors to the city during the Republican convention, NBA Finals, and World Series just four years before was devastated, perhaps permanently disfigured.
I was outraged when I heard the extent of the damage and horrified when I read some of the details. The owner of a cupcake bakery that I used to walk by daily told how she thought that the "protestors" would desist when they saw her, only to be forced into hiding when the thugs began throwing bricks and other debris at her. Then she listened while people who had created nothing trashed what she spent a decade building.
An Italian bakery renowned for its cannoli fared better, as the owners greeted the grifters with shotguns, and the crowd sensibly moved on to easier targets. A college friend of mine and fan of the Godfather films wittily observed, "See the gun, leave the cannoli."
That tale of self-reliance and defiance was the one making the rounds on my Facebook feed, and I was feeling somewhat less gloomy about the city which had been my home for over half a century, when I came across a different story emerging from the wreckage left by the self-professed seekers of justice.
A Facebook post was written by the wife of the owner of a downtown bar, also trashed by the rioters. At first, she wrote, she was upset. Then she concluded she had no right to be upset because she was white. And whatever the race of the perpetrators, the real criminals were white, just as whites were guilty of horror after horror inflicted on blacks. All whites, it seems, were responsible for the actions of some whites decades, even centuries, earlier.
The choice we face is stark. We can defend what we and our forebears created, or we can emulate the masochistic bleats of the bar owner's wife and conclude that we deserve to lose what we and our families created because we are white and whiteness is a curse. I don't know what choice America will make. I just know that the next time the s*it hits the fan, I want to be with the paisans. Sam Francis made an observation in his 1994 seminal essay on anarcho-tyranny that describes these times better than anything being written today: "only when Americans take back their own streets themselves will they have any streets that are safe."
[Montage by Levdr1lp/CC BY-SA/Wikimedia Commons]
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.