With a dozen incidents in a year and a half, all around the country, the frustrations appear to transcend local conditions. And though local officials keep blaming round-the-clock cable news coverage for encouraging the violence, the speed and intensity of the protests in city after city make clear how much deeper than police misconduct these frustrations are — joblessness, hopelessness, racial double standards

“It’s a state of emergency of tremendous proportions,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “The response you’re having is not about the incidents. The response is about lack of faith in the political system to adequately respond to what we’re dealing with here.”…

“We’re in the throes of a national crisis,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “People are looking at our system of criminal justice and our system of law enforcement and they recognize that something is wrong.”

What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

This is the paradox at the heart of rioting in Baltimore. Protestors have been in the streets of Charm City for a week to demonstrate against violence by police officers. But when matters started to spin out of control Monday afternoon, the group dispatched to solve the problem was the police

It’s the police who are investigating the Gray’s death—even though he was in a police van, visible to only officers of the law, when he sustained the spinal injuries that killed him. The police may also have mishandled protests on Monday, allowing them to escalate and turn into looting and rioting. Nor did other traditional sources of power and influence acquit themselves especially well: The mayor seemed unprepared and beleaguered, the media often missed or obscured what was happening, and traditional community leaders seemed to have little sway. In a situation like this, when there’s no authority with credibility and influence, who can the population turn to?…

But the national press also undermined its authority in subtler ways. First, there was the unquestioned assumption that more force is better. Hence CNN’s Wolf Blitzer grilled the Baltimore Police Department’s spokesman on live television, questioning whether there were more officers on the way and demanding to know whether BPD needed backup from the National Guard or Washington, D.C., police, as though he himself might order them in. The appeal to force is particular tone-deaf in the context of clashes set off by what everyone seems to agree was an excessive use of force by police against Freddie Gray. It also points to an additional problem with the media’s authority in a riot situation: A camera is very effective at capturing acute scenes of destruction, from fires to thrown bricks to looting. But it’s not good at capturing the invisible forces that are more important in explaining what’s happening—chronic, hidden things like a long history of police brutality or poverty entrenched by government policy choices…

In fact, the federal government hardly has much credibility here either. Segregation and poverty in West Baltimore are rooted squarely in federal policy. Redlining of Baltimore neighborhoods, conducted under the auspices of the Federal Housing Authority, helped to ensure that black residents were segregated into black neighborhoods and built less equity. In 1995, a federal judge found that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had violated the Fair Housing Act, placing public housing only in poor black neighborhoods and thus concentrating and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. The government also failed to prevent Wells Fargo from a new form of redlining leading up to the housing bubble, in which black residents of the city were targeted for discriminatory lending.

It’s harder to put yourselves in the sneakers of the young men who were out on the streets last night — so let’s do that. Let’s imagine, for a moment, that instead of sitting comfortably, you’re standing outside, on a relatively cool night, the acrid stench of smoke in the air. If everyone around me was exhorting me to protest, if they were reminding me of what I saw on television, of a young man my age, whose neck had just been cracked, whose leg dragged against the ground, because his brain could not coordinate with his quadriceps, because the connection had been severed, by a police maneuver gone horribly wrong — what would I do?

The perpetrators of that bit of violence stand before me, in a sea of metallic blue, ready to shoot if I move in their direction. I know that individually, a lot of these police officers are all right, and I know that some of them even live here, in the city of Baltimore, and not outside the Beltway in a better neighborhood. So the police to me are the army of the state, their violence I see on a regular basis, violence I think is arbitrarily applied to people who look like me. There’s supposed to be a social compact, where the police and the courts get to mete out justice and we follow their instructions. It’s supposed to keep us safe. But when the justice is applied unequally, I don’t care how it looks to people outside of my neighborhood; I just know how it feels to me. I don’t think I’d be moved to violence, but I know I’d be really, really, really angry, and I sure as hell wouldn’t trust authorities, officials, the media, or anyone else who tries to tell me how to feel or what to think…

Order, I think, is legitimate. But non-violence preaching by the state — the governor, major, the police — is a con when state-sanctioned force is not applied with rigorous fairness, without bias, proportionately, and transparently. The still-unexplained death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the state should give everyone who believes that justice is real, binding, and generative, another reason to look at the world through the eyes of people for whom justice is merely a word.

American cities are by and large Democratic-party monopolies, monopolies generally dominated by the so-called progressive wing of the party. The results have been catastrophic, and not only in poor black cities such as Baltimore and Detroit. Money can paper over some of the defects of progressivism in rich, white cities such as Portland and San Francisco, but those are pretty awful places to be non-white and non-rich, too: Blacks make up barely 9 percent of the population in San Francisco, but they represent 40 percent of those arrested for murder, and they are arrested for drug offenses at ten times their share of the population. Criminals make their own choices, sure, but you want to take a look at the racial disparity in educational outcomes and tell me that those low-income nine-year-olds in Wisconsin just need to buck up and bootstrap it?…

Yes, Baltimore seems to have some police problems. But let us be clear about whose fecklessness and dishonesty we are talking about here: No Republican, and certainly no conservative, has left so much as a thumbprint on the public institutions of Baltimore in a generation. Baltimore’s police department is, like Detroit’s economy and Atlanta’s schools, the product of the progressive wing of the Democratic party enabled in no small part by black identity politics. This is entirely a left-wing project, and a Democratic-party project

The evidence suggests very strongly that the left-wing, Democratic claques that run a great many American cities — particularly the poor and black cities — are not capable of running a school system or a police department. They are incompetent, they are corrupt, and they are breathtakingly arrogant. Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore — this is what Democrats do…

Keep voting for the same thing, keep getting the same thing.

The regulatory state necessarily creates more interactions between armed law enforcement and citizens. It fosters resentment. It creates the possibility for confusion, mistakes, and petty acts of violence and vengeance. Yet the Left never seems to learn. Even now deep-Blue Hawaii wants to raise the legal smoking age to 21. How long before there’s a tragic incident tied to confrontation between a police officer and a 19-year-old smoker?

For decades, the Left has ruled America’s great cities, presiding over often-unaccountable police departments, denying access to affordable housing, and dramatically increasing the state’s intrusion into citizens’ lives. In fact, the Left’s diverse urban centers are at the heart of the so-called coalition of the ascendant that will allegedly guarantee liberal domination for years to come.

Yet now one part of that coalition is throwing rocks and burning cars, and another part of that coalition is locking shields and wielding pepper spray. And a third segment — the urban intellectual elite — can’t decide whether to justify or condemn the riots. It’s blue versus blue in America’s cities. Their one-party rule has failed.

Perhaps if the media had not shrunk from reporting on the flash mob phenomenon and the related “knockout game”—in which teenagers tried to knock out unsuspecting bystanders with a single sucker punch—we might have made a modicum of progress in addressing or at least acknowledging the real cause of black violence: the breakdown of the family. A widely circulated video from yesterday’s mayhem shows a furious mother whacking her hoodie-encased son to prevent him from joining the mob. This tiger mom may well have the capacity to rein in her would-be vandal son. But the odds are against her. Try as they might, single mothers are generally overmatched in raising males. Boys need their fathers. But over 72 percent of black children are born to single-mother households today, three times the black illegitimacy rate when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his prescient analysis of black family breakdown in 1965.

Baltimore councilman Brandon Scott came closest to the truth last night in a city news conference when he angrily called on adults to “get out there and stand up for your neighborhood . . . . Adults have to step up and be adults and control our future.” True enough. But primary responsibility lies with children’s own two parents. Pace Dyson, “we” have spent trillions of dollars since the 1960s trying to help black youth. A social worker and a government check are no substitute for a father and mother, however.

The same day that the student mob looted the 7-Eleven in 2012, eight people were shot in Baltimore in just 24 hours, a toll typical of Baltimore’s astronomical crime rate. Magnitudes more black men are killed by other black men in Baltimore and other American cities than by the police. But those killings are ignored, because they don’t fit into the favored narrative of a white, racist America lethally oppressing blacks. Police misconduct is deplorable and must be eradicated wherever it exists. But until the black crime rate comes down, police presence is going to be higher in black neighborhoods, increasing the chances that when police tactics go awry, they will have a black victim.

What holds us together, or could hold us together? One might have said once upon a time that Christianity did — that’s what Tocqueville saw — and later, one might have said civic religion (generic Christianity + “Americanism”). These were ideals we held in common, and they served as shared ideals toward which we strove, despite our imperfections and failings.

Now, though? What is the common thread? What is the tie that binds us to our home? What is the law that rules our hearts? It is mere anarchy; the Baltimore rioters are only farther along the line of logic than the rest of the country is. They’re destroying their city because of lawlessness in their hearts, but the rest of us are destroying the basis for self-governance and order in our polis too. It’s all going, going … because in America, freedom is always the winning mantra.

Paul, who criticized police militarization after Ferguson and petty criminalization following the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.,  did not evoke any of that in reacting to Baltimore. “It’s something we talk about not in the immediate aftermath, but over time,” Paul said. “The breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society. This isn’t just a racial thing. It goes across racial boundaries. But we do have problems in our country, and you see that we’re close to the tipping point–closer to the tipping point than many thing.”