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Vandal, as a Proper and a Common Noun



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Speaking of VDH, you should read his powerful piece from the homepage yesterday, “A Vandalized Valley,” where he reflects on the unraveling of order in our largest state:

I am starting to feel as if I am living in a Vandal state, perhaps on the frontier near Carthage around a.d. 530, or in a beleaguered Rome in 455. Here are some updates from the rural area surrounding my farm, taken from about a 30-mile radius. In this take, I am not so much interested in chronicling the flotsam and jetsam as in fathoming whether there is some ideology that drives it. …

A couple now in their early 90s lives about three miles away from me on their small farm. I have known them for 50 years; he went to high school with my mother, and she was my Cub Scout leader. They now live alone and have recently been robbed nine, yes, nine, times. He told me he is thinking of putting a sign out at the entrance to his driveway: “Go away! Nothing left! You’ve already taken everything we have.” Would their robbers appreciate someone else doing that to their own grandparents? Do the vandals have locks on their own doors against other vandals?

There is indeed something of the Dark Ages about all this. In the vast rural expanse between the Sierras and the Coast Ranges, and from Sacramento to Bakersfield, our rural homes are like stray sheep outside the herd, without whatever protection is offered by the density of a town. When we leave for a trip or just go into town, the predators swarm. …

There is, of course, a vague code of silence about who is doing the stealing, although occasionally the most flagrant offenders are caught either by sheriffs or on tape; or, in my typical case, run off only to return successfully at night. In the vast majority of cases, rural central California is being vandalized by gangs of young Mexican nationals or Mexican-Americans — in the latter case, a criminal subset of an otherwise largely successful and increasingly integrated and assimilated near majority of the state’s population. Everyone knows it; everyone keeps quiet about it — even though increasingly the victims are the established local Mexican-American middle class that now runs the city councils of most rural towns and must deal with the costs. …

The influx of over 11 million illegal aliens has had a sort of ripple effect that is rarely calibrated. Sixty percent of Hispanic males in California are not graduating from high school. Unemployment in rural California runs about 20 percent. There is less fear now of arrest and incarceration, given the bankruptcy of the state, which, of course, is rarely officially connected even in small part to illegal immigration. Perhaps because illegal immigration poses so many mind-boggling challenges (e.g., probably over $20 billion lost to the state in remittances, the undermining of federal law, the prejudice shown against legal immigration applicants, ethnic favoritism as the engine of amnesty, subterfuge on the part of Mexico, vast costs in entitlements and subsidies), talking about it is futile. So most don’t, in fear of accusations of “racism.”

I’ve just started the sequel of sorts to A Canticle for Leibowitz, set in a post-apocalypse Southwest just beginning to emerge from the new Dark Age. But Walter Miller had it all wrong. We’re not going to blow ourselves up; we’re just going to lie back and let vandalism overtake us.



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