Welcome to Thunderdome

I grew up in the idyllic 1990s, a time of prosperity and happiness filled with leisure with little to no fear of attack or being a victim of crime.  To experience crime, one had to "go to the other side of the tracks," so to speak.  Jake Vander Ark said it best in his book The Accidental Siren:

94 was a good year to be twelve. Star Wars still had two more years as Box Office King, cartoons were still hand-drawn, and the Disney "D" still looked like a backwards "G." Words like "Columbine," "Al Qaeda" and "Y2K" were not synonymous with "terror," and 9-1-1 was an emergency number instead of a date. At twelve years old, summer still mattered. Monarch caterpillars still crawled beneath every milkweed leaf. Dandelions (or "wishes" as Mara called them) were flowers instead of pests. And divorce was still considered a tragedy.

Growing up, I often played outside unattended.  Seeing a transient on a street corner was a rarity, and I can count on one hand the number of people high on drugs I saw walking the streets during my entire childhood and teen years. 

If you will indulge me with one more quote, I'm reminded of John Steinbeck, in his novel East of Eden:

In a small town where everyone knows everyone it is almost impossible to believe that one of your acquaintances could murder anyone. For that reason, if the signs are not pretty strong in a particular direction, it must be some dark stranger, some wanderer from the outside world where such things happen.

Sadly, that version of America is swiftly careening off a cliff.  Our cities are now overrun with "strangers from the outside world."  I live in Los Angeles, and our city is being overrun with the criminally insane.  Rapes, murder, and assaults are everyday occurrences.

I can count on one hand the number of people high on drugs walking the street I have seen today, and the violence is not just confined to my city.  The small town of Norco, where I spent a lot of time as a youth, has always been a quiet community, yet just today a gang of armed men tried to rob a liquor store.  Thankfully the owner used his shotgun to defend himself, and only a robber was injured, yet the fact remains that this never used to happen in places like Norco. 

Crime across America has been spiking, with violent crime reaching numbers unheard of.  According to FBI data, murders increased 30% in the last few years.  New York has a 40% increase in violent crime, and here in L.A., the violent crime index is 29.1.  (The U.S. average is 22.7.) 

Americans are scared, and sales of self-defense tools are surging.  The manufacturer Axon said stun gun sales increased by 300 percent last year.  YouTube is filled with videos of new self-defense less-than-lethal "air guns" that shoot pepper balls and steel and rubber bullets.  Umarex, one of the manufacturers, is out of stock for almost all its self-defense air guns, and Amazon can't restock them fast enough. 

It saddens me to see how bad things have gotten.  Just a few weeks ago, I was at the DMV and found myself being cased as I walked outside by a transient who was eyeing my wristwatch, mere feet away from the DMV security officers.  My mother has even had to stop shopping at certain stores due to the high numbers of criminals and drug addicts hanging around.  While cutting my hair, my stylist told me that she was almost assaulted outside Stater Brothers because she would not lend her phone to a transient man. 

Needless to say, I have joined the ranks of those seeking to protect themselves and have purchased a stun gun.  Sadly, here in L.A., our D.A. and city officials hate firearms and the right to bear them, making CCW permits almost impossible to get. 

Things don't look to be getting better, either, as Gavin Newsom is pushing ahead with plans to release more criminals from the prison system, and woke D.A.s across the nation refuse to prosecute offenders.  There are a few rays of hope as the citizens of L.A. try to recall our D.A., George Gascón, due to his policy of not prosecuting and then releasing violent offenders into the community.  However, the damage has already been done.

I miss the America of my young years, where citizens felt safe and could go about their lives relatively free of fear of bodily injury.  Yet those days are long gone, and I can only say, protect yourselves and your family. 

Welcome to Thunderdome. 

Byron Lafayette is a journalist and author.  He currently serves as editor in chief for VH News.  Follow him on Twitter at @ByronLafayette.

Image: Pexels.

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