We weren’t watching the fruits of a Great Society in Baltimore. Citizens behaved like terrorists. Public officials said the wrong things. A city burned, but cities can be rebuilt. Restoring respect is not that easy.
It is a lot harder to change people’s beliefs and instill respect for society when disrespect is encouraged and rewarded. Too many at the top still haven’t learned that throwing money at disaffection makes things worse, not better. The myth that society is unfair is eagerly promoted by the left and it becomes self-fulfilling for those at the bottom and on the fringe who pose a threat when handed the opportunity.
Great Society spending can’t buy respect
No matter what a society decides to give to its people or how much we are cowed into relieving the responsibilities of citizens in the name of righting the wrongs of the past, we can’t buy respect. Just the opposite is true. Money buys resentment (see: Can Liberalism Buy Enough Debt With Hate?).
How is it possible for individuals to respect a society that reinforces their conviction that their right to fully participate is being denied? Lyndon Johnson tried to buy equality with his Great Society. Years later we still refuse to acknowledge progress. Whether or not we are making advances, the left will always fear staunching the flow of money.
Not-for-profit idealism is dead
Barack Obama is no Lyndon Johnson, though looking at the programs still in the headlines including the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Head Start, one would think that the liberal policies espoused by this president and his Cabinet are just an extension of Johnson’s ideas.
We are still squabbling over the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a Great Society holdover that members of Congress are using to bang the civil rights drum. A California congresswoman proclaimed:
These measures will ensure that the civil rights of our all [sic] nation’s children—regardless of their zip code, family wealth, race, or background—are protected.1
Some of our children lost their education rights this week thanks to members of their own community. The school system in Baltimore was shut down. Businesses that bring wealth and jobs were destroyed. That is the kind of respect bought by the liberal wet dream of a Great Society.
Response to a Great Society on fire?
Given the opportunity for some partisan mud-slinging, the president’s remarks on Baltimore seemed remarkably even-keeled. Still, he couldn’t resist resurrecting past hurts:
I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.2
Yes, it has been going on for decades. We have spent a lot of money, but the basic issue hasn’t changed and seems to be getting worse. Too many in the black community don’t respect society, either their own community or the society they are blaming for placing no value on their lives. You can’t have a great society without respect and you can’t have any society if you are busy killing off its members (see: Politics and Responsibility Fail in the Black Community).
Most of us, including the president, support business growth in depressed urban neighborhoods:
Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.3
No business owner with a choice would locate to a neighborhood visited by urban looting and violence. Respect for the community comes first. Development comes later.
A respectful conversation about learning respect
Our new attorney general called for a “respectful conversation”4 between communities and police. Baltimore put a new spin on that conversation, because we also have to consider protecting communities from the acts of their members.
Bad things happen when police butt heads with “criminals and thugs.”5 Public figures are terrified to admit that there are sectors of the black community that have no respect for the law or the society that supports them. A government-sponsored Great Society that takes away responsibility doesn’t instill that respect. It degrades its importance.
There is a ray of hope. We saw respect from a mother who refused to tolerate her son’s involvement in looting and rioting. Society’s bribes can’t buy that kind of respect. Government can’t hand it out. It has to spread from members who understand that we will never have a great society without respect for greatness and that a liberal Great Society won’t get that job done.