Charles Dickens himself would be perplexed and depressed by what's going on in some American metropolises. It is not the squalor that he chronicled in England, but young men wantonly killing each another.
Meanwhile, many of our elites look around for someone to blame and point at the men and women who police these concrete killing fields.
There are scores of cities and towns where violence is getting worse. But the dire state of urban America can be summarized by what's going on in three large and famous cities.
New York City, in addition to being the nation's financial and media capital, was also the poster city for a miracle in crime reduction. There were more than 2,000 yearly killings not long ago, during the dreaded "Dinkins Years," named for famously feckless Mayor David Dinkins. Good ol' Dave was as liberal and as clueless as they come; he basically threw his hands up and went out to play a few sets of tennis.
Many in the pundit class considered Gotham just plain ungovernable, at least until Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg proved otherwise. Over their two decades, those 2,000 murders dwindled to about 300. A stunning achievement, and one that saved thousands of lives, almost all of them black lives.
So what did New Yorkers do? In 2013, their city pacified by Giuliani and Bloomberg, elected Bill de Blasio, a guy who's about as far left as they come, and who kisses the ring of Al Sharpton. It's probably a ring designed by one of those Jewish "diamond merchants" Sharpton slandered in one of his notorious violence-fomenting episodes.
One of Mayor de Blasio's first priorities was dismantling the 'stop-and-frisk' procedure that removed thousands of guns from the streets.
The results? Unfortunate and entirely predictable.
Murders are up about 20% this year. For the first time in two decades, shootings have increased for two straight years. You might say Mayor de Blasio had a dream, and poor New Yorkers are paying a steep price.
Fortunately for Chicagoans, the Second City has a boss who makes de Blasio look like Harry Callahan. Still, under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's watch, shootings and homicides are at a five-year high. The city is averaging more than a murder a day, and May was an especially cruel month.
99 years ago the poet Carl Sandburg wrote his epic salute to Chicago, which he called the "City of the Big Shoulders." He issued this dare to the world: "Show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning."
Sandburg's city is now run by operatives like Rahm Emanuel. After an especially brutal Memorial Day weekend, during which a dozen Chicagoans were murdered, Mayor Emanuel proclaimed that his city really needs stricter gun control. Ask a liberal a question about crime, any question, and that is the answer that comes right back. Go ahead, try it.
And then there is Baltimore, a city where public safety is declining even faster than its people are fleeing. More than 40 people were shot to death in May, the city's most violent month since the 70s, back when Baltimore had 200,000 more residents.
As an aside, there's an interesting tale behind Baltimore's nickname.
The moniker "Charm City" was conjured up by some ad executives in 1975 because the mayor was concerned about the city's image.
One has to wonder, what would those advertising geniuses come up with today? Perhaps "Armed City" would be accurate, but it might not attract tourists to the Inner Harbor.
Republicans quickly and gleefully point out that New York, Chicago, and Baltimore – like pretty much every other big city – are firmly in the grip of liberal Democrats. And that New York's miracle occurred under Republican mayors. But to be fair, there were simultaneous crime declines in Democratic cities.
It's not party affiliation – it's a mindset that says criminals must pay dearly for their crimes, that cops perform works of heroism every day, and that the men and women in blue are the only thing standing between civilization and barbarity.
That ideology, a victim of its own success, is now being shunted aside. Instead, we have politicians lamenting "mass incarceration," and rabble-rousers accusing cops of all kinds of heinous acts. This is a recipe for mayhem, and it's being cooked up right now in front of our eyes.
The Big Apple, Charm City, The City of the Big Shoulders. They are still filled with hard-working people who love this country, obey its laws and respect the cops.