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Breaking Out the Winchesters

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The apparently unstoppable nuttiness of the present moment has more faces and features than a Summit supercomputer could keep up with. Here, possibly, is the most incredible of those features: the call to "defund" the cops. Whatever "defund" may mean.


That nobody can explain the meaning of "defunding," or the need for it, shows the rushed and improvised quality of policy -- er -- "thinking" in a world currently run by those whose pusillanimous elders, back in the late '60s, routinely labeled them "the brightest generation in history." If they ever were that bright, I believe it's time we changed the bulb. Defunding law enforcement is the dimmest notion on public display.

You know this, in part, from listening to its advocates -- for instance, Mariame Kaba, identified as "an anti-criminalization organizer," writing -- where else? -- in The New York Times about her vision of "a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation." This society would spend billions of nonpolice-directed dollars on "housing, food and education" -- those ancient cure-alls for human maleficence.

Joe Biden's idea -- though Biden has yet to sign on with the defunders -- is to "root out systemic racism across our laws and institutions" -- the instant, no doubt, that we have figured out and agreed on the meanings of "systemic" and "racism." Insofar as one notices, "systemic racism" is a figure of speech used to make indignant heads nod in unison.

In the heat of the moment, no plan seems necessary for simultaneously getting rid of cops and keeping the public safe. It's just going to happen: assuming you believe in grand overhauls of a human disposition regarded over the centuries as less than consistently "sweet" or "nice."


While we're waiting for it to happen, we might hold up to the light an irony or two in terms of workability. The defund cause comes from the left, the same political quarter from which proceeds the movement to restrict or abolish the right to carry guns. Thus, along with the invention of a new, no-cops world goes the disarming of those most doubtful of the whole notion. These people you're going to talk into leaving their doors unlocked at night while their national leaders work to abolish "systemic racism." Uh-huh.

An example of how well this thing is likely to play out emerges from Philadelphia, where a club-toting, gun-carrying crowd emerged the other night to encircle and protect a statue of Columbus from the fate that has befallen other such statues -- destruction and beheading. The mayor called the volunteer protectors' presence "unacceptable." Which maybe it would be if ordinary Philadelphians could count on the cops to guard Columbus. The Columbus protectors reasoned otherwise. There was no depending on local law and order in a context where cops see their prestige and safety fast eroding.

I would draw attention to the numberless historical precedents for ordinary people looking to their own protection when there's no credible backing, if any at all, from the authorities. We get back quickly to John Wayne in the 1970 movie "Chisum," when the bad guys in town are understood as holding all the high cards. Says Big John in response to the mess he can see no one else addressing: "Trace, you round up everybody that can ride a horse or pull a trigger. Let's break out some Winchesters. You bet."


I think the left calls this phenomenon vigilante justice. The left is right to worry about it. Not every passer-out of Winchesters has the Duke's probity or sense of the public good. Some are plain rotten. Nonetheless, the cop-defunders -- should they get their way -- would find they had left themselves no room for surprise when good citizens did what they saw as the right and necessary thing to protect their families, their businesses and their country.

We shouldn't be having this brainless discussion, and we might not be but for the intellectual density of a media and political establishment rightly viewed as hostile to the viewpoints of ordinary people. How comes it that we waste valuable time and breath? I have quoted John Wayne. I end with Euripides: "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."

William Murchison is writing a book on moral reconstruction in the 21st century. His latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson."

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