August 31, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson

Last Saturday night a man was shot dead in a street battle between left- and right-wing groups in Portland. The former appear to have been the usual “peaceful demonstrators”—including members of Antifa–recognized by representatives of the media and by Democrats. The latter were supporters of President Trump who arrived in town in what has been described as a “caravan.” The victim is said to have been wearing a PATRIOT PRAYER hat. The lesson the Wall Street Journal draws from the event is that “This is what happens when political leaders fail to perform the most basic responsibility of government to protect innocent lives and property.” So far, so good. The Editorial Board should have left the matter there. Instead they went on to conclude that, while the Mayor Wheeler bears the greatest responsibility for the anarchic violence that has overwhelmed his community, the President should “tell” his supporters to “stay away from” Portland, Kenosha, and other cities that are being ransacked by radical rioters. “Vigilantism isn’t the cause of the current urban violence. Americans have watched for weeks as rioters have burned and looted businesses that people spent a lifetime building. Yet mayors like Ted Wheeler have let it happen. Inevitably, average citizens will move to defend themselves if elected officials won’t protect them. The proper place to do that is at the ballot box, however, not in the streets with guns.”

The Journal’s editorial invites two responses. First: Patriot Prayer and other groups supporting Trump do not constitute a presidential militia, or the President’s private army, or his personal guard. Hence he is in no position to order them to do anything. Even if he were, his interests and prospects are not the only thing the counter-demonstrators are defending. Their cause is by no means an exclusively personal one. Second: “The ballot box” is not widely available to voters for another two months, while a new administration (should one be elected on November 3) will not take office for another two and a half months after that. Thus citizens seeking its protection could not expect to receive it until four-and-a-half months from now. That might as well be infinity so far as “people who have spent a lifetime building” their businesses, acquiring property, and earning a livelihood are concerned. The crisis is as immediate  as it is critical. Municipal governments sit on their hands while effectively encouraging it, and the national Democratic Party either ignores or excuses it. There are moments when vigilantism (not a dirty word) is more than a right; it is an immediate duty on behalf of one’s self, one’s family, one’s community, one’s society, one’s country, and one’s self-respect. We are living in one of those moments.

Since the Journal disapproves of guns in the street, it might concede that poisoned darts fired through wooden tubes are a civilized defense against murdering anarchists.