Frank Miele has a compelling essay up over at Real Clear Politics this week dealing with the rather stunning disparity between the recent urban unrest and violence in America’s major cities as covered by conservative reporters like Andy Ngo and others who have been on the ground, and other periods of unrest in the past. It’s titled, “Not in our town? How about not in our country?” In it, Miele begins with a less well-known story from a quarter of a century ago that took place in Billings, Montana.

At that time, actual white supremacists (think of the Klan and related groups, not insufficiently woke White people today) were terrorizing the Jewish, Black and Native American residents of Billings until a group of (mostly) White neighbors stood up for them and beat back the hatred. Both local officials and private citizens from all walks of life joined together to proclaim, “Not In Our Town,” and they prevailed. Using that as a measuring stick, the author compares the situation in Billings to what we’re seeing today and it’s not a favorable comparison at all.

That was then. This is now. The city is Kenosha … or Portland … or Seattle. The neighbors under attack are police officers or business people or any white people. The attackers are Black Lives Matter activists or antifa. The average people standing up to hate are — for the most part — missing in action.

What the hell happened to America in the last 25 years? …

How the hell can Americans sit back and watch as gangs of dangerous extremists maraud through our cities — burning buildings, throwing rocks, bottles and explosives at police, and attacking the elderly? Why make excuses for the bullies or justify their violence? Looting is wrong. Vandalism is wrong. Lawlessness is wrong. Yet too many people will not say so. Has the country completely lost its moral center in the last 25 years?

If one is being honest, the answer must be yes.

Miele goes on to quote Civil rights activist Bob Woodson, who offers the following observation about the mobs we see each night on the streets of our cities.

We’re reaching really a level of depravity — when rioters in Portland are locking people in buildings and trying to burn it down and also people are cheering when a Trump supporter is shot to death — I’ve never seen that level of depravity before in this country.”

There is a sad but striking irony in what we’re observing today and reading Frank’s essay really brought that home for me. The irony is that the ostensible goal of the original protests and the various organizations supporting them was, in essence, a valid call to action. Even if the numbers aren’t anywhere near the levels suggested by BLM, you do still run into some places where bad cops make it onto the force and commit violence against Black suspects in a way not seen when the person in question is White. (Assuming no major infraction is taking place.) And too many Black citizens are born into neighborhoods where economic opportunities and quality educational systems are rare compared to more affluent (and let’s just admit it… generally White) neighborhoods. There’s definitely room for improvement in multiple areas as I’ve long acknowledged here.

But instead of a conversation, we wound up getting a conflagration. The same people complaining about violence against Black motorists were quickly swept up in violence and intimidation against anyone not seen as bending a knee quickly enough to their cause. The people calling out a lack of jobs and economic opportunities in poorer neighborhoods began ransacking and burning down the businesses that offered precisely those things, with business owners frequently closing for good, taking those jobs and services with them. The loudest voices demanding respect for people of one race have rapidly demonstrated that they now have zero respect for anyone of any race who doesn’t move quickly enough to join them on the skirmish lines to battle the police.

Not in our town? Not in our city? Not in our country? I’m sorry to say, but at the rate things are going, this mayhem is going to be in every town and city across the country. And most of our mainstream media outlets are closing their eyes and ears to it if they’re not actively promoting it. But it’s increasingly looking as if there will be no peaceful resolution this time. We’re not in 20th-century Billings anymore, my friends.