In this election year of 2020, America is tearing itself apart. It’s more than the Trump vs Biden election. I’ve never seen this country as divided as it is today, and I went through the sixties!

The coronavirus, the resultant lockdowns and their economic repercussions, the repugnant murder of George Floyd, and the social upheavals it spurred have rocked America to its core. With COVID-19 infections continuing, ours is a country in chaos.

We need to protect free speech and the right to protest peacefully. With the notable exception of Minneapolis, most of the participants of these demonstrations have been after a peaceful reconciliation of race relations in this country. But too often these protests have quickly devolved into violence, vandalism, and mob rule that have been beyond the control of the peaceful demonstrators. With incessant attacks on our historic monuments, the push to defund the police, and the resulting spike in gun violence in our inner cities, America is on the verge of consuming itself.

Today’s heated political discourse seems dominated by “ists”. Whether it be “racist”, “sexist”, “ageist”, “extremist”, these pejorative words are indiscriminately hurled as epithets at anyone who doesn’t agree with everything their snarling speakers stand for. For example, anyone who dares say “all lives matter” is immediately branded a racist.

But there’s one word that best personifies the purveyors of today’s social unrest.

 It’s Called “Nihilism

Webster’s defines nihilism as “a belief that conditions in a social order are so bad as to make destruction desirable” or “a revolutionary doctrine of destructiveness for its own sake.” The term was derived as a 19th century Russian political philosophy advocating the violent destruction of social and political institutions to make way for a new society.

If that doesn’t epitomize what’s happening in America, what does?

The protests following the senseless murder of George Floyd have too often been taken over by antifa, anarchists, and nihilists determined to tear down America any way they can. Whether they be in Portland (now approaching 80 straight nights and counting of rioting, vandalism, looting, and arson), or New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, or right here in San Luis Obispo, peaceful protests have too often devolved into orgies of anarchy.

Led by the self-avowed Marxist leaders of the formal BLM organization who have now declared war on the police, these largely generational demonstrations are populated by impressionable young people full of energy and passion, yet devoid of the wisdom of history. But these would-be peaceful protesters are unable to stop the anarchists from hijacking their demonstrations with violence.  

The Nihilism of City Governance…

What’s worse is that the Mayors of these cities have been aiding and abetting this mayhem, siding with rioters over their own police departments and their suffering small businesses. Rather than protecting the health, safety, and welfare of their constituents, they’ve been recklessly promoting lawlessness while defunding the police.

And with what results? Scores of black-owned businesses torched in Minneapolis. Gun violence is up 117% in New York City. Police officers were attacked at night in Portland with 59 of them injured, 3 of whom were permanently blinded by lasers. Murder rates and mayhem are soaring in Chicago. The CHOP “Summer of Love” episode in Seattle resulted in three shooting deaths and another night of violence that injured 20 police officers. 

Then the Seattle City Council voted 7-1 to defund the police department without consulting the chief, resulting in her immediate resignation (can’t blame her!). While arrests of offenders are up in these cities, they’re quickly released and rarely prosecuted by their district attorneys. What message does that send to urban terrorists? It’s open season on our cities!

Finally, some of these Mayors who welcomed this chaos into their communities are having second thoughts. Lori Lightfoot in Chicago, Jenny Durkin in Seattle, and Ted Wheeler in Portland are calling for the arrest and prosecution of the violators, albeit months too late. Now it’s too late to put the genie they released back in the bottle.

Nihilism and the Presidential Race…

It’s hard to imagine how Joe Biden must feel about running as a Democrat for President when the Democratic Party has become the poster child of anarchy in so many of our formerly great cities. Too many of the mayors who manage these cities have sat back and watched the burning and looting of their communities. At best, these city leaders have tolerated the mayhem in their communities. At worst, they have directly participated in their destruction.

Biden’s running for President when Democrats mayors are looking like the harbingers of urban doom can’t be a good place to be. He may be thinking that this chaos is hurting Trump more than him. It’s hurting the BLM movement far more than it is hurting Trump.

In the face of this chaos, Biden and his VP candidate Kamala Harris would be wise to seize the bully pulpit in the 80 days remaining in this race to come out against urban violence and dare these city leaders of their own party to end it. Unless they disavow what their party’s mayors aren’t doing to defend their cities, Biden could find himself striking out for the third time. 

We are now living in an age of American nihilism, one that looks like it won’t be ending anytime soon. That prospect tells us that we should all be concerned about the very future of our democracy