Bob Ehrlich: Our Values Are Under Attack - Now What?


If you feel as though your most fundamental shared values are under attack — they are.

If you feel as though you were unprepared for the now daily (hourly) attacks — you were.

If you feel unsure about what to do about all of this — read on.

A brief review: On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer maliciously kneeled on the neck of a Mr. George Floyd for nearly 9 minutes, after which Floyd died. The incident generated heated protests as everyone — police included — condemned the senseless killing. Emotional demands for police reform dominated the media. And then — everything spiraled out of control.

In short order, increasingly violent demonstrations led to riots, looting, shootings and murders. The death toll now stands at 25 and counting.

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Then, something truly bizarre took shape in ultra-blue Seattle — a breakaway “republic” (“CHAZ”/“CHOP”). Notably, the event was blessed by an unserious mayor (Jenny Durkan) who likened the rebellion to “the summer of love” encampments circa San Francisco, 1967.

Alas, the grand experiment is now terminated — it seems Ms. Durkan lost her sense of nostalgia when the protestors showed up at her residence.

But all this was mere prologue. The real revolution is now coming into focus, and it only remotely relates to improved law enforcement in minority communities.

Today, an energized woke movement informs us that its speech is more protected than ours, that while masks may be required in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, they are unnecessary accouterments in the middle of a riot.

The predominately white, middle-class and highly educated young people you watch on the nightly cable news shows further insist that all things law enforcement — television shows, school officers, even entire police departments — are no longer acceptable.

But the proposed jettisoning of our social order does not stop there. Other bourgeois constructs must go, including border security, immigration enforcement, academic freedom, ballot security, market economics, upward mobility, organized religion and fatherhood.

With my television viewing now limited to reruns of “Bar Rescue” and “The Office,” I’ve had time to think about how such items came to be promoted by allegedly smart kids. But my diagnosis did not take long: Everybody knows they learned this stuff in college.

In fact, similar to our present challenges vis-a-vis Beijing (wherein our elites reached a point whereby they stopped looking after our national interests), too many of us — especially parents — chose to look the other way as our institutions of higher learning were turned into expensive indoctrination camps. The guards — err, teachers — are the elite intellectuals who have kept the counterculture candle burning over the last couple decades.

Still, not so long ago, we could joke about the silly stuff our self-righteous children were regurgitating at the family dinner table. “Wait ’til your snowflake friends find out there are no safe zones in the private sector,” we chortled. No one is laughing anymore.

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Indeed, a generation that so comfortably imposes authoritarian constraints on the First Amendment and discerns the positive side of socialism (“Sweden,” you know) is easily drawn to the cancel culture revolution. Remember, these kids have been taught to believe they have a “right” to proceed through college (and life) unchallenged in their opinions. All those progressive professors with their trigger warnings and speech codes and micro-aggressions ensured their young charges would only have to deal with people who agreed with them — and always in the here and now —
history be damned.

And so they now go about the business of destroying monuments of famous abolitionists or scream the vilest rantings at African-American police officers standing guard on the streets. Maybe they think these stunts will get them extra credit on the final exam.

The mob’s victims are already too numerous to count — but high up on the list is a national conversation about law enforcement in minority communities. The aftermath of Floyd’s death was supposed to lead to that discussion. People of goodwill — from all sides — might have achieved progress if allowed to proceed without all of the counterculture add-ons. I have yet to talk to a conservative who thinks that such a conversation would have been a waste of time.

But the same people are deeply offended by the mob’s verbal and physical aggression. No surprise here: Insulting your opposition with indiscriminate accusations is never a good way to make progress.

At the top of this column, I asked you to “read on.” My goal was to provide you some hope in a world gone mad — so here goes:

I suspect one very popular response from flyover America in reaction to this mess will be to double down on behalf of an individual who can both resist the mob and remain undeterred by their tactics. His name is Trump.

I wonder if the cancel culture warriors have thought that one through.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.