War for the Soul of America

Patrick Buchanan

Conservative commentator and presidential candidate (in 1992 and 1996) Patrick Buchanan doesn't mince words when assigning blame for the Los Angeles riots:  the New Age gospel of the 1960s.  Buchanan was running for president in 1992 when he gave this speech (and a similar version at the GOP Convention in which he proclaimed America was fighting a "culture war" between liberals and conservatives), but this isn't just a campaign speech.  Buchanan and many other conservatives were issuing a stinging indictment against what they believed to be the loose morals and secularism of the counterculture generation that were destroying America.

Last Monday in Los Angeles, I went to Koreatown to visit the devastated zone.  as I came upon a shop, gutted and burned, a man came up beside me.  "This was my business," he said, and he told me what happened:

On Thursday afternoon, 24 hours after the riot began, no police were around.  And the mob came.  The man was on the roof watching when the firebombs came through his front window.  "I couldn't do anything," he said.  So he ran.  "My whole life was here in this laundry," he told me.  "I started it 12 years ago; I built it up to 19 workers; now, it's all gone.  I came to America in 1968, I am an American citizen.  But I have no insurance, and only $2,000 left in the bank.  What am I going to do?"

Then, that evening, I watched on television, as some of those who had been in the thick of the rioting laughed in exultation and triumph at how the Koreans had gotten what they deserved.

Theirs was the authentic laughter of the barbarian from time immemorial, after some church or synagogue is burned or looted, after they have brutalized and beaten.  From Brown Shirts to Red Guards, the mocking laughter is always the same.  Friends, make no mistake, what we saw in Los Angeles was evil exultant and triumphant and we no longer saw it as through a glass darkly, but face to face.

In Los Angeles, government failed in its first duty, to protect the property and lives of its citizens.  And those who lacked the courage to move against that mob, or to condemn its evil deeds unequivocally, are guilty of moral appeasement....

As America's imperial troops guard frontiers all over the world, our own frontiers are open, and the barbarian is inside the gates.  And you do not deal with the Vandals and Visigoths who are pillaging your cities by expanding the Head Start and food stamp programs....

It is folly to think you can engender character in men and women by taking away from their duty and responsibility as parents and citizens to feed, clothe, house, educated, and nurture their own children and obey society's laws like everyone else.

But where did the mob come from?

Well, it came out of public schools from God and the Ten Commandments and the Bible were long ago expelled.  It came out of corner drug stores where pornography is everywhere on the magazine rack.  It came out of movie theaters and away from TV sets where macho violence is romanticized.  It came out of rock concerts where rap music celebrates raw lust and cop-killing.  It came out of churches that long ago gave themselves up to social action, and it came out of families that never existed.

If they didn't know any better, perhaps they were never taught any better.  When the Rodney King verdict came down, and the rage boiled, these young men had no answer within themselves to the questions:  Why not?  Why not riot, loot and burn?  Why not settle scores with the Koreans?  Why not lynch somebody - and get even for Rodney King?

For decades, secularists have preached a New Age gospel, with its governing axiom:  There are no absolute values in the universe; there are no fixed and objective standards of right and wrong.  There is no God....Every man lives by his own moral code.  Do your own thing.

And the mob took them at their word, and did its own thing.

For 20 years, we have watched, one by one, as the conscience-forming and character-forming institutions - family, home, school and church - collapsed.  When the mob came out into the street, it discovered that society's external defenses as well - the police - were gone.  So, for 38 hours, the city was theirs.  While we conservatives and traditionalists were fighting and winning the Cold War against Communism, we were losing the cultural war for the soul of America.  And we can see our defeat in the smoking ruins of Los Angeles, in the laughter of the mob, in the moral absolution already being granted the lynchers and the looters.

In the wake of Los Angeles, everyone has a "solution" to the "problem."  And these solutions come from earnest and well-intentioned men and women.  But, invariably, they advance economic or political ideas to solve what are at root moral questions.  Social programs and enterprise zones may be excellent ideas - but they are not relevant tot eh crisis at hand.  They are not going to stop a mob on a rampage; they are not going to convert evil men into good men.  They do not reach the human heart....

Can anyone believe this Lost Generation, steeped in drugs, crime, immorality and hate, is going to be converted to decency by an offer of jobs at the minimum wage?...

America is the greatest country on earth; our history is one of glory and greatness, of tragedy and hope.  We must not let them take it away....

[W]e must take back our cities, and take back our culture and take back our country.

God bless America.

Commencement Address, Liberty University, Lynch-burg, Virginia, May 9, 1992.