It used to be said that self-preservation is the first law of nature. But much of what has been happening in recent times in the United States, and in Western civilization in general, suggests that survival is taking a back seat to the shibboleths of political correctness….We have already turned loose dozens of captured terrorists, who have resumed their terrorism. Why? Because they have been given “rights” that exist neither in our laws nor under international law….What Matters More, National Survival or Political Correctness?, Thomas Sowell, National Review, 4/29/09
Sowell, as sharp a commentator as there is, is as appalled as we should be by the naiveté of political correctness. It’s not new, sadly. Those who lived through the quiet riot of the 1970s in urban America remember the cries from liberal Democrats about the poor, helpless anger that motivates crime. It was a topic of jokes among New York gangsters, a very funny leitmotif in the 1956 musical West Side Story, but paralyzed the police force as officials, elected, appointed, and self-appointed (the latter mostly jurists) defined correct police conduct toward criminal suspects as being somewhat similar to a courtier’s behavior before the King of France. What a price we paid in New York City.
You can see a little of that in American Gangster, and a great deal more in the oeuvre of Sidney Lumet, but for those who lived through it, and beyond, really all the way to the middle of Mayor Giuliani’s term of office, it was a daily nightmare. What Giuliani understood, as did those NY cops not corrupted by drug money or other bag work, was that it didn’t matter if Abner X felt bad about how his daddy abandoned him, but that Abner X’s tirades, including use of machine pistols, Glocks, and knives, had to be stopped. The lawyers, juries, and judges could sort out the motive after the crime wave had ended. What mattered, first and foremost, was ending the capacity of young men especially from committing violence upon their fellow citizens in pursuit of gain. Why?
Such leaders and police officers understood that no civil discourse is possible in an atmosphere of mayhem and murder. But, to politicians like John Lindsay or, later, David Dinkins, that perception was unavailable to their ideological interpretation of violent young men. They proceeded as if what everyone in the street knew firsthand was simply a disturbing, popular neurosis, the while the city disintegrated. This is how the Left always operates. It pays no attention to contingency, to observation, to common sense. It would rather die a noble dinosaur than survive as a human being.