True life: I live in an anarchist jurisdiction
I first began to suspect I lived in an anarchist jurisdiction when friends and family who had never before expressed much interest in my place of residence began to ask me carefully, "so … how are things in New York?"
I assumed they weren't interested in answers about how I've started buying shortbread from a secret pop-up shop in my neighborhood, or that our city recently celebrated a 38-day streak of keeping COVID-19 positivity rates below 1 percent. If you hadn't heard, New York on Monday was designated as an anarchist hotbed by the Department of Justice, which I can only assume is a reference to all the people currently doing yoga in the streets. Either that, or Attorney General Bill Barr took notice of the Mets' bullpen, which certainly appears to subscribe to Mikhail Bakunin's belief that a "passion for destruction is also a creative passion."
New York is not the only lawless city to have gone rogue in this great nation, though, according to the Trump administration. I recently returned from visiting my family in Seattle, which along with Portland makes up Barr's Axis of Anarchy, and where I confess I reveled in well-known agitator activities like renting a rowboat on Lake Union and paying $45 for valet parking near Pike Place Market. In spite of the handful of boarded-up storefronts downtown ("coming soon!" promised one), my step-sister's wedding photographer still managed to take her first look photos without getting any brick-throwing hooligans in the background. I can also only assume that it was an anomalous enforcement of the law when I witnessed firsthand a number of cars in a no-parking zone — this surely being the latest devious act of dissent by the left — getting towed.
New York, too, has been a bit of a let down, at least as far as strongholds of disorder and destruction go. "We can't even buy a drink without getting a government-mandated sandwich here, I mean," tweeted writer Rebecca Fishbein. Added writer Matthew Callan, "My favorite part of living in anarchist NYC was getting a $95 speed camera ticket for driving 3 mph too fast near an abandoned mall. Either that or scheduling a bulk trash pickup with the [Department of Sanitation] so I don't get another ticket. Bakunin eat your heart out!" Business Insider columnist Anthony L. Fisher cited the city's "endless bureaucratic entanglements keeping kids out of schools," the "seemingly arbitrary crackdowns on to-go liquor sales," and "confounding guidance on restaurants' abilities to do business when the weather turns cold," adding that "anarchy would be an improvement." Indeed, comedy writer and producer Josh Gondelman wisecracked, "New York City hasn't been an anarchist jurisdiction since CBGB closed, man."
Donald Trump launched his presidency with the vow to put an end to "American carnage … right here … right now." But in 2020, he's still using that same law and order playbook, claiming in June that "our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, antifa, and others," while simultaneously failing to acknowledge that the hellscape of "Biden's America" came to fruition, well, under him. Despite all the president's bluster — and his party using some less than honest scaremongering tactics — 56 percent of adults told YouGov recently that they believed "violent protests" would get worse if Trump is reelected in November, FiveThirtyEight reports. Meanwhile, the people actually living in these supposedly anarchist enclaves are left wondering where exactly all this excitement is taking place. The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, reporting out of Oregon, even appealed for help in finding "Trump's 'anarchists' in Portland," only to conclude grimly, "if you want to call one side 'rioters' or 'anarchists' working to create tumult in Portland, it's the uninvited feds who qualify."
In New York, too, the rampant "permitted violence" cited by Barr's memo doesn't seem to be getting carried out by the citizenry, but by their supposed peacekeepers. Last week, for example, NYPD officers brutally cracked down on a small group of peaceful protesters who were calling for the abolition of ICE. "From the beginning, the [fewer than 100] demonstrators on Thursday were flanked and followed by well over 100 police officers," Gothamist recounted, adding that "[a]fter the first arrests on Broadway, the remaining marchers, rattled, ran south ... At the corner of Greenwich and Cortland Streets, police caught up with them, throwing nine more protesters to the ground and putting them in zip cuffs. At least one man was bleeding from the head after police ground his face into the pavement; 20 minutes after it had started, the protest had met a violent end."
In another strange twist, the punishment of being labeled an anarchist jurisdiction in President Trump's United States is losing federal funds, a constitutionally dubious policy that New York state leaders have already promised to fight. But bizarrely, the move would appear to do some of the anarchists' work for them; protesters have called for the defunding of local police departments, and $349 million of the NYPD's budget is federally funded. In other words, the penalty for calling to defund the police appears to be … defunding the police? As Slate's Sam Adams pointed out, the Justice Department's memo could also be read as nothing more than a way to troll Trump's opposition — which, if in any way true, is an alarming use of "the nation's highest legal authority."
In any case, while the powers that be fight over restoring law and order, millions of bystanders like myself continue to live helplessly in this nation's bastions of anarchy. Hopefully someone gets to the bottom of it; in the meantime, I have some shortbread to pick up down the street.