Obama’s Legacy: Urban Pathologies on Display

President Obama is concerned with burnishing his legacy during this second term of his presidency. One major part of his legacy will be the way his “divider and conqueror” political tactics have highlighted the many pathologies plaguing black urban culture in this country, and have brought about a massive deterioration in “race relations.”

These pathologies did not originate with Obama. They have been half a century in the making, and may be traced to the mid-1960s when the legitimate civil rights movement was co-opted by the Left under the twin rubrics of the “War on Poverty” and the “Great Society.” If indeed we have been engaged in a “war on poverty,” it is long past time for us to acknowledge that poverty has been winning.

The most recent manifestations of this to shock the nation are the riots in Baltimore, and the multifarious excuses for them made by Baltimore Mayor (and secretary of the Democratic National Committee) Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Yet, despite her posturings and those of other Democratic apologists, the one thing clear beyond doubt in the case of the Baltimore disturbances is that “white racism” has little or nothing to do with the problem.

Begin with the fact that Rawlings-Blake is herself black, like her police chief and her city attorney. Also, over 50% of Baltimore’s police force is non-white. And yet, as The Economist reports in its issue of May 2:

Crime is rife. In 2013, 233 people were murdered in Baltimore, giving the city a higher murder rate than South Africa. Even as thousands of cops in riot gear enforced a curfew on April 28, police scanners reported carjackings, robberies, and one murder -- none of them connected to the protests. Gangs are common and visible.

The Economist goes on to argue that this sorry state of affairs “has its roots in a previous Era,” painting a picture of a surging black population in the 1950s and 1960s from further south, in search of industrial jobs which were then “sucked away” by “deindustrialization”:

“[I]n the 1980s, heroin and crack cocaine filled their place. As police adopted tough tactics to try to stop the drugs trade, violent crime instead flourished.”

Surely the industrial decline did not help the situation, but the evident ardent desire of people desperate to anaesthetize themselves and escape the circumstances of their lives through the abuse of alcohol and various drugs points to a much deeper problem than mere economic poverty; it points to a poverty of the spirit, an existential angst whose true cause must surely be sought elsewhere.

The Jewish tradition records that there are seven basic, fundamental laws which were commanded to, and are incumbent upon all mankind. However, I should like to precede a discussion of these laws with a passage which will be familiar to anyone who regularly recites the morning prayer service. The passage, excerpted from the Talmud (Megilla 28b), reads: “It was taught in the school of Elijah [the prophet]: Whoever studies halachoth every day is assured of being a participant in the world to come, for it is said: Halichoth ‘olam lo (‘the ways of the universe are His’; Habakkuk III,6); read not, halichoth, but halachoth”.

Halachoth are the laws of the Torah; the slightly anomalous spelling of halichoth in the original Hebrew text so that it resembles the word halachoth gives rise to this reading. Among the implications of the passage, which are profound, is the concept that what we are accustomed to consider “laws of nature,” halichoth ‘olam, are, in fact, halachoth established by the Creator, the same authority who granted the Torah, and also vice versa, that halachoth are actually laws of nature.

With that in mind, here are the seven:

1. Recognition of the one Creator and prohibition of idolatry

2. Prohibition of cursing G-d

3. Prohibition of undue cruelty to animals (expressed as eating a limb of a creature still living)

4. Prohibition of murder

5. Prohibition of sexual immorality

6. Prohibition of theft or robbery

7. Establishment of courts to deal with the above transgressions

Were the moon to be knocked out of its orbit and crash into the Earth, that would not be an act of Divine retribution, but a consequence of the laws of mechanics. Were a person to step out of a second-story window, defying the law of gravity, the result is similarly not an act of Divine retribution, nor is the burn suffered if one puts one’s hand into a flame. Likewise, ignoring or defying any of the fundamental laws of society leads to inevitable pathologies affecting that society, and the individuals who make it up.

It is those pathologies which we see on display in contemporary urban culture, and they have been brought about by policies initiated by the Democratic Party, which has persevered in them ever since, as Dan O'Donnell has recently painstakingly documented. As just one example and point in fact, Toya Graham, rightly lauded as something of a heroine for dragging her son out of the crowd and thereby preventing him from participating in the Baltimore riots, nonetheless is the mother of six children by various male “partners,” none of whom is responsible enough to be evident in her life or those of her children, and she is unemployed and living entirely on public assistance.

This is not to pick on Ms. Graham: She is the victim of the perverse incentives encouraged by policies initiated before she was born. But the chaos, dependence, and resultant endemic hopelessness on display in the urban culture in all the major American cities, nearly all of which, as O’Donnell points out, have been ruled by Democrats for decades (Milwaukee’s last Republican mayor left office in 1908!), provide a foretaste of what the Leftist agenda has in store for all the rest of us as well.

The aggressive distortion of the English language necessary to promote same-sex “marriage”; the total degradation of the value of human life implied by abortion on demand for any reason, at any stage in a pregnancy; the concomitant, sardonic “quality of life” concept, a legacy of National Socialism, updated by the Left; as well as the Left’s militant atheism -- all of these are specific violations of the same natural laws, and, if not reversed, will do the same to American civil society at large as it already has to the urban culture.

Ferguson and Baltimore may well be harbingers of what awaits us all.