You can feel it out there on the street now. Twenty years of sound public policy going up in smoke.
Along the Metrolink tracks, where I once saw two or three parolees and drug addicts during a single walk, I now see twenty.
At the North Hollywood Metro station, I step out of the car and a grown man on a child’s bike starts circling me as I cross the parking lot, making a whoop-whoop sound, circling tighter and tighter, till he’s almost clipping my knees, muttering incomprehensibly. A radio hangs from his neck on a string, blasting pointless static. The Sheriff’s deputies who monitor the plaza entrance don’t lift a finger as he moves on to the next unsuspecting commuter.
On the train I meet two men with prison-issue telephone scars. Two, in five minutes.
At home I turn on the TV and the mayor of Baltimore is granting “those who wished to destroy, the space to do that as well,” to a backdrop of burning liquor stores and pharmacies. The district attorney follows up by indicting six police officers for murder for failing to secure a prisoner with a seat belt. In the ensuing month Baltimore records it highest murder rate in 40 years. Seemingly sober people appear on cable panel shows scratching their chins, wondering if cause and effect could be related.
The distance between those who effect policy and shape our discussion of it (The Clerisy, to use a term of art), and the rest of us has become unsustainably wide. There is a particular species of American who waxes sanctimonious about Social Justice but would never tolerate Section 8 tenants on his block for five minutes. They love chewing on phrases like mass incarceration, comfortable in the knowledge the parolees are headed for Van Nuys. Such people are ascendant now.
The chaos is coming west.
I’m old enough to have seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.