CHOP, formerly known as CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, surrounds the vacant and boarded up East Precinct headquarters of the Seattle Police Department. It is six square blocks of banana republic planted in the middle of an American city.
On June 8, 2020 after several continuous days of turmoil, a mob began to throw bricks, bottles and homemade bombs at the men and women who were there to protect and serve. Many were hospitalized. Still more were injured. The mob’s threats to torch the precinct headquarters prompted police to abandon the area.
Thriving communities are the product of building, not tearing down. For families to live together in peace and harmony, hundreds of institutions and millions of moving parts need to be painstakingly and lovingly cultivated. It is possible for a community to survive the sudden collapse of an important institution. But that is an injury it must work to heal. It cannot be the constituting principle of the community.
By emptying the East Precinct, CHOP did not rid themselves of the police, they simply established a new, untrained and ununiformed police department. In so doing, they erected barricades that disrupted commerce with the outside world.
Of course, the armed men manning the barricades will be quick to assure us that all the vehicles of community and commerce are free to enter the zone. But will the utilities themselves and trucks supplying commerce be willing to risk equipment and personnel in an area controlled by an untested and unlawful police force?
The buildings and businesses that support a community are only made possible by trusting relationships forged over decades. No father or mother wants to raise children in a community where neighbors corrupt their children. No shop owner wants to do business where his shop may be picked clean at the whim of a mob. No police officer will be willing to risk life and limb to protect and serve neighbors and shop owners if he is targeted by revolutionaries and abandoned by city government.
That is why education, not law enforcement, remains the backbone of every community. Education is not simply the imparting of a body of knowledge. Properly speaking, it is the raising of good citizens. Technological know-how and the ability to spout the latest politically correct mantra are worthless in themselves.
Unless children are raised up to be virtuous, community is not possible. When these foundations are eroded, a community may survive for a while, but there will come a tipping point. Communities that fail to inculcate prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and love will inevitably collapse into chaos.
The occupiers of Seattle are staring into this abyss today. They seem, instinctively, to know the value of education. The two most visible activities of the occupiers are digging up the park for “guerilla gardens,” and setting up “teach-in tables.” These teaching stations offer crash courses in transformative justice and other progressive values.
Whether hasty indoctrination into social justice theory can replace the virtue that built Seattle is doubtful. But at least someone is recognizing the truth that community starts by inculcating the virtues.
That raises questions about our own communities. Are we still teaching the virtues that built Wyoming? Or, is progressive indoctrination stripping our children of the education needed to thrive? Institutions, buildings and businesses built by past generations may survive by pure inertia. But if we do not constantly renew freedom’s foundations, they will not survive for long.
Good intentions cannot redeem bad ideas. Central planning cannot make up for the suppression of common sense. The sudden appearance of a banana republic in Seattle ought to put every American citizen on alert. President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Wyoming’s people know this instinctively and work hard to raise their own children with the virtues that support freedom. What they must learn from events in Seattle is that the transmission of freedom to the next generation is a cooperative endeavor. It cannot be done alone in a bunker.
It involves not only the home, but the school; not only the school, but the library; not only the library, but Main Street. Lawyers, doctors, ranchers, rough necks, miners, mothers, teachers and preachers all have a unique and vital contribution to make in the education of a free society.
Hard work and self-sufficiency are the necessary foundation of freedom. But unless free citizens work together to build communities, they will be overwhelmed by the mob when a “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” comes to Cheyenne. Now is the time to come together. Now is the time to build.