MORE THAN GRANITE AND GLASS, by Kevin Diehl
For most of this past summer, our country was roiled by a mass hysteria that manifested itself in huge protests, fierce riots, unchecked looting, wanton destruction, open violence and murder.
The supposed catalyst for all of this was the death of an unarmed Black man being taken into custody by four Minneapolis police officers. Given the nature of the video that emerged from the incident, anger and a strong reaction were understandable. But it took no time for the narrative to change from “excessive violence must stop” – a sentiment no rational minds opposed – to something altogether different.
“Protest” organizers emerged and told us that Black men in America are being hunted down and killed by the police. They told us that the criminal justice system – from the police to the courts – was not only unfair, it was broken and sinisterly corrupt.
Attention grabbing? Yes. Objective truth? Hardly.
But truth seldom stands in the way of a political agenda. And very quickly the “protests” were hijacked by Black Lives Matter and Antifa – far left groups with revolution on their mind. George Floyd’s death soon became a backdrop for their larger movement, which had nothing to do with the original grievance.
Some people have compared this civil unrest in 2020 to the riots that we saw in 1968. Perhaps there are similarities. Both occurred in a presidential election year; both revolved around racial issues; and both spiraled out of control. But I see a big difference here: unlike in 1968, this time around the mayors and civil authorities in our large cities, and the leaders of our major corporations seem to be on the side of, not just protestors, but also the lawless rioters.
We’ve seen city councils vote to cut police budgets; we’ve seen police being told to stand down and allow the riots to proceed; we’ve seen entire portions of some cities taken over for weeks by rioters without law enforcement restoring order; we’ve seen companies change their packaging for fear of being labeled racist; and we’ve seen statues defaced and toppled, sometimes in broad daylight, while authorities looked on.
In our own state capital, the statue of Christopher Columbus that stood outside of city hall for decades was removed – at taxpayers’ expense – not by a mob with ropes and blowtorches, but by a weak mayor trying to appease the mob.
Corporate leaders have dutifully fallen in line, paying obeisance to BLM with the correct words and the right dollar amount. Meanwhile, many people who refuse to bend the knee to BLM find themselves out of a job, or “mobbed” on social media, or shamed into recanting their remarks. Or worse.
This effort by so many of our leaders to appease BLM and the “woke” mob is, to say the least, troubling. By their own admission, the founders of Black Lives Matters are trained Marxists with an extraordinarily radical agenda. Do the business leaders contributing millions of dollars to BLM understand that the group wants – among other things – to de-fund the police and abolish private property and capitalism? Do the people with Black Lives Matter yard signs realize that the organization wants to bring an end to the nuclear family, and replace it by some sort of collectivist child-rearing scheme?
Our civic and corporate leaders, who are trying to buy protection from the mob with their virtue signaling and donations, should heed the warning of Winston Churchill. “An appeaser,” Churchill said, “is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
And yet, the appeasement continues. For months the media has tried to tell us that the protests were mostly peaceful. No doubt some of them were, but that was hardly the whole truth. Setting fires, defacing buildings, breaking windows, looting – these are not the acts of peaceful protestors.
We were told that the people were merely exercising their constitutional right to protest. Indeed, the First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law…abridging the…right of the people peaceably to assemble…” No doubt about it, protesting is a constitutional right. But notice the key word – “peaceably.” Wrecking cities is not covered by the First Amendment.
We were told not to concern ourselves about this destruction of our cityscapes. We were told that they are just buildings – merely granite and glass – and that they could be fixed or rebuilt. But this misses the point entirely.
First of all, it’s a crime to damage someone else’s property, and it shouldn’t be tolerated; it should be prosecuted. What’s more, it’s tragic to see small business owners watch their life’s work go up in a paroxysm of flames and broken windows. But there’s another element about this destruction that is so disturbing.
I’ve already used one Winston Churchill quote; at the risk of exceeding the limit, I’m going to use another. Churchill once observed that, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
Even if you’ve never thought about it that way, we’ve all been shaped, we’ve been influenced, by the buildings that surround us.
Ohio’s Statehouse is a majestic, Greek Revival structure that took more than two decades to construct; it was completed just as the Civil War began. In the 1990s, it was painstakingly restored to its original splendor, at great cost. It’s a beautiful building in the heart of downtown Columbus that should be a source of pride to all Ohioans. When the mobs smashed windows and spray-painted the Statehouse, then moved on to the similarly restored Ohio Supreme Court building and did the same, it was an assault on us all.
Throughout Ohio, in almost every county seat, the biggest, most impressive building is the county courthouse, often occupying prominent ground in the middle of a town square. These buildings were erected in such grand fashion because our forebears wanted them to reflect the permanence of the rule of law. Within their walls are kept the records of the county – marriages, births, deaths, deeds – the documents that weave together the fabric of our society. The very structures were meant to symbolize that our civilization was built on steady, durable bedrock.
We build magnificent cathedrals – not because it’s necessary to have a huge building to worship God (that can be done anywhere) – but because we want to express in our architecture the permanence and importance of religion, and our gratitude to the Almighty.
Our buildings – especially our public ones – are not just granite and glass. They represent something much more about our place in the world, in this culture. And the same goes for the statues that we erect in places of prominence to honor the great people who came before us. If our current “leaders” stand by while those buildings and statues are defaced, destroyed and toppled, what does it say about our American culture?
Although our country has been through some dark days in the past, for the most part we have been richly blessed with a long run of good fortune. But the true test of a nation’s character is not how it responds to adversity, but rather how it handles prosperity. By that standard, we may be failing miserably.
By: Kevin Diehl