Don’t Be a Sap

Two news clippings caught my attention this week. One was a video from the Epoch Times, the second was an article from NBC news. The two sources, as different as they may be, together give a sad picture of life in America today. Strangely, taken together, they may also provide an optimistic vision.

The Epoch Times video featured a store owner in California whose business was being destroyed by the State’s hands-off approach to shoplifting. Legislation that defined stealing less than $950 worth of merchandise as petty theft, along with judicial failure in prosecuting crime, left this merchant at the mercy of conscienceless individuals. He noticed that many well-heeled people, those who even might have been his customers in past years, were brazenly coming into his store and openly transferring merchandise from his shelves directly into their bags.

His conclusion was that they felt like saps paying for items when their government was telling them that taking it for free was no big deal. They might even understand how the price they were being charged was higher than it used to be as it needed to cover the cost of goods stolen by others. Buying a blouse instead of appropriating it showed how foolish you were.


This shopkeeper chose to fight back. He did so by posting surveillance videos of shoplifters and asking for help in identifying them. Once he had a name, he played enlarged videos in his store window, showing the shoplifters in action alongside the cost of what they had stolen. Some of these thieves were previously decent individuals, confused by an immoral cultural message. Many returned the goods or paid for them after being embarrassed in front of their neighbors.

The NBC article revealed a further step down the road of social disintegration. The story was short on details, but early reports of this Las Vegas crime claimed that a number of people heard screams coming from a shed. Upon investigation, they found a man sexually assaulting a woman. In the ensuing confrontation, the alleged attacker was fatally stabbed. Could this story unfold in multiple layers? Of course. Nonetheless, in today’s climate, it initially appears to be another in an increasing number of Wild West encounters. As the legal system crumbles, people feel abandoned by the institutions meant to protect them. Increasingly, citizens face the choice of allowing themselves to be robbed, assaulted, and worse, or alternatively acting vigorously in defense of one’s own life and property and that of others. Acting vigorously usually means deploying force against the outlaws in a way that used to be attended to by our institutions of criminal justice before they betrayed the ordinary law-abiding citizen.

This is not progress but regression. It is extremely disturbing evidence of societal collapse when institutions of justice are more solicitous of the indolent and criminal than they are toward the law-abiding and productive. Vigilante justice, though understandable, is not to be celebrated; it too quickly and easily turns into mob violence and often, supremacy of the biggest bullies. But, when the government becomes the biggest bully and perverts the order of law, as is happening so widely today, the resulting immorality will either provoke a robust reaction or result in the total subjugation of a people. Both choices suggest stormy days ahead, but at least the first allows for a return to sanity.


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