Last Monday in Los Angeles, I went to Koreatown to visit the devastated zone. As I came upon a shop, gutted and burned, a man came up beside me. This was my business, he said, and he told me what happened:
On Thursday afternoon, 24 hours after the riot began, no police were around. And the mob came. The man was on the roof watching when the firebombs came through his front window. "I couldn't do anything," he said. So he ran.
My whole life was here in this laundry, he told me. I started it 12 years ago; I built it up to 19 workers; now, it's all gone. I came to America in 1968, I am an American citizen. But I have no insurance, and only $2,000 left in the bank. What am I going to do?
Then, that evening, I watched on television, as some of those who had been in the thick of the rioting laughed in exultation and triumph at how the Koreans had gotten what they deserved.
Theirs was the authentic laughter of the barbarian from time immemorial, after some church or synagogue is burned or looted, after they have brutalized and beaten. From Brown Shirts to Red Guards, the mocking laughter is always the same. Friends, make no mistake, what we saw in Los Angeles was evil exultant and triumphant and we no longer saw it as through a glass darkly, but face to face.
In Los Angeles, government failed in its first duty, to protect the property and lives of its citizens. And those who lacked the courage to move against that mob, or to condemn its evil deeds unequivocally, are guilty of moral appeasement.
A year ago, I stood on Constitution Avenue as Gen. (H. Norman) Schwarzkopf led the armies of Desert Storm in the victory parade. It was a moving sight. As I told a friend, this is what it must have been like reviewing the Roman legions as they marched in triumph after yet another victory in Gaul or Spain. The analogy holds. As America's imperial troops guard frontiers all over the world, our own frontiers are open, and the barbarian is inside the gates. And you do not deal with the Vandals and Visigoths who are pillaging your cities by expanding the Head Start and food stamp programs.
Marlin Fitzwater has been mocked for saying Great Society programs caused the riots. But in the ashes of Los Angeles we do see the burnout of the Great Society idea.
It is folly to think you can engender character in men and women by taking away from them their duty and responsibility as parents and citizens to feed, clothe, house, educate, and nurture their own children and obey society's laws like everyone else.
But where did the mob come from?
Well, it came out of public schools from which God and the Ten Commandments and the Bible were long ago expelled. It came out of corner drug stores where pornography is everywhere on the magazine rack. It came out of movie theaters and away from TV sets where macho violence is romanticized. It came out of rock concerts where rap music celebrates raw lust and cop-killing. It came out of churches that long ago gave themselves up to social action, and it came out of families that never existed.
If they didn't know any better, perhaps they were never taught any better. When the Rodney King verdict came down, and the rage boiled, these young men had no answer within themselves to the questions: Why not? Why not riot, loot and burn? Why not settle scores with the Koreans? Why not lynch somebody--and get even for Rodney King?
For decades, secularists have preached a New Age gospel, with its governing axiom: There are no absolute values in the universe; there are no fixed and objective standards of right and wrong. There is no God. . . . Every man lives by his own moral code. Do your own thing. And the mob took them at their word, and did its own thing.
For 30 years, we have watched, one by one, as the conscience-forming and character-forming institutions--family, home, school and church--collapsed. When the mob came out into the street, it discovered that society's external defenses as well--the police--were gone. So, for 38 hours, the city was theirs.
While we conservatives and traditionalists were fighting and winning the Cold War against Communism, we were losing the cultural war for the soul of America. And we can see our defeat in the smoking ruins of Los Angeles, in the laughter of the mob, in the moral absolution already being granted the lynchers and the looters.
In the wake of Los Angeles, everyone has a "solution" to the "problem." And these solutions come from earnest and well-intentioned men and women. But, invariably, they advance economic or political ideas to solve what are at root moral questions. Social programs and enterprise zones may be excellent ideas--but they are not relevant to the crisis at hand. They are not going to stop a mob on a rampage; they are not going to convert evil men into good men. They do not reach the human heart.
As in the '60s, so, today, we are told that the root cause of the riots is poverty and joblessness. But there was far greater poverty and unemployment in the 1930s than today; and there was racial segregation in every sphere of American life. Yet we did not lynch one another in the streets or burn our cities down in the Great Depression.
In my meeting with police in their inner-city compound, I asked a captain how large his department was. "We have 7,800 officers in the LAPD," he said. "And how many gang members are out there?" I asked. "100,000 on file," he said. "But how many are active now? " I pressed. "100,000," he said again.
That is the equivalent of 6 1/2 U.S. Army divisions. Then the captain showed me the pamphlet being passed around the streets, calling on the Crips and Bloods and other gangs to join together, wait for the troops to depart, and start killing cops.
Can anyone believe this Lost Generation, steeped in drugs, crime, immorality and hate, is going to be converted to decency by an offer of jobs at the minimum wage?
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports," Washington said in his Farewell Address. "In vain would that man seek the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness."
Yet, relentlessly, for 30 years, the adversary culture, with its implacable hostility to Judeo-Christian teaching, has subverted those pillars. From the public classroom to the TV screen, from the movie theater to the museum.
Look at the works that ignited the controversy over the National Endowment for the Arts. Almost all were desecrations of Christian images. Andres Serrano submerged a crucifix in a vat of his own urine. Robert Mapplethorpe twisted a statue of the Mother of God into a bloody tie rack. In a book called "Queer City," a poet depicted Jesus Christ in an act of perversion with a 6-year-old boy. A "serious" work of art, said (former NEA chairman) John Frohnmayer. If art is the mirror of the soul, what is the state of the souls of such men?
In high school history texts, Benedict Arnold's treason at West Point, a betrayal that broke the heart of his commander in chief, is being dropped. So, too, is the story of Nathan Hale, the boy-patriot, who spied on the British army and went to the gallows with the defiant cry, "I regret I have but one life to give for my country." If a country forgets where it came from, how will its people know who they are?
The battle over our schools is part of a war to separate parents from children, one generation from another, and all Americans from their heritage.
America is the greatest country on earth; our history is one of glory and greatness, of tragedy and hope. We must not let them take it away.
But, to appease the unappeasable, everything must be changed. Even the name of the Washington Redskins must be altered. . . .
The war for the soul of America will only be won with basic truths, and basic truths, Western civilization has discovered, are simple and straightforward. They are spelled out explicitly in the Old and New Testaments, and implicitly in our great literature and art. The challenge and duty facing this generation, who have the gift of an education rooted in Judeo-Christian truths and values, is to show your countrymen the way to recapture America's culture and our country--from the new barbarism.
But out of that riot in Los Angeles come also stories of hope.
When I visited the police and Army compound, an officer of the 18th Cavalry who had come to save the city handed me a medallion. On it were inscribed the words "Velox and Mortifer." After six years of studying Latin under the Jesuits, I had to ask him what they meant. "Swift and Deadly, Mr. Buchanan," he said laughing. "It's right there on the coin." And so it was.
Then the officer introduced me to two of his troopers who could not have been 20 years old, and told them to recount their story. They had come into Los Angeles late in the second day; and they came up a dark street where the mob had looted and burned every building but one, a convalescent home for the aged. The mob was heading into the home to ransack the apartments of the terrified old men and women inside. When the troopers arrived, M-16s at the ready, the mob threatened and cursed, but retreated. It had met the one thing that could stop it: Force, rooted in justice, backed by courage.
"Greater love than this hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend." So the Good Book tells us. Here were 19-year-old boys ready to lay down their lives to stop a mob from molesting innocent people they did not even know. And as they took back the streets of Los Angeles, block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture and take back our country.
God bless America.
THE CANDIDATES' KEY THEMES: Campaign Clipboard
Los Angeles riots showed evil triumphant
Government failed to protect its citizens
Expanding Head Start and food stamp programs will not help
Entry-level jobs will not convert rioters to decency
Pornography, movies, rock music, activist churches and nonexistent families are to blame
Western civilization depends on the Bible
We must take back our cities, culture and country