“He can be compelled who does not know how to die.”

“That’s IT. I’ve HAD it with bourgeois-liberal guilt!” In disgust, my friend slammed Lillian Rubin’s new book back across the table at me. We had been reading a hospital scene (one of many) from Quiet Rage, Rubin’s account of the Bernhard Goetz case: a wounded boy lying on a hospital bed in a darkened room, a boy barely able to move, murmuring “Mama, Mama!” over and over. It’s a scene right out of an old-fashioned tear-jerker like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. What Lillian Rubin neglects to mention, however, is that the pathetic child-victim in this scene—actually a youth, 19 years old—was, at the time depicted, under indictment for armed robbery. The armament: a shotgun.

Shortly before Christmas 1984, Bernhard Hugo Goetz shot and seriously wounded four young men, passengers on a New York City subway train. Before he disappeared into the winter evening, Goetz told the conductor that the four had been trying to rob him and that he’d fired only in self-defense. By the time Goetz turned himself over to the police a week later, “The Subway Vigilante” had become a New York celebrity. There had been a huge outpouring of public sympathy and support for him, evident in all the radio talk shows. There were suggestions that the shooter be named New York City Police Commissioner, that he be elected mayor, even governor. A retired schoolteacher said, “Mr. Goetz showed us that if you stand up and fight the criminal element, it might stop them from attacking so many people.” A noted criminal lawyer put it this way: “He has expressed a blow for freedom—freedom from assault, freedom from rape, freedom from fear.”

That was one myth.

But if most ordinary New Yorkers instinctively assumed that The Subway Vigilante was a hero, there was always a smaller group—establishment liberals and radical intellectuals—who had a different instinctive gut-reaction to the story. Goetz was white; the men he shot were black. Goetz was middle class, the men he shot were products of ghetto misery. Sympathy for Goetz’s victims—sympathy for the underdog—was therefore automatic.

Moreover, under New York’s very strict gun-control laws, Goetz had no right to own a weapon at all. And Goetz himself soon admitted that there was no specific life-threatening gesture that had caused him to haul out his revolver—just “the general situation” he had found himself facing in the subway car.

So what gave him the right to start blasting away with a lethal weapon he had no right to own in the first place? Was he really a psycho—a deeply disturbed personality elevated to celebrity status by a shallow New York press? Or had he shot his victims simply because he was afraid of blacks? These soon became the received opinions in certain elevated intellectual circles. With absolute certainty, a leftwing sociology professor at NYU told an interviewer: “This isn’t a case of self-defense. Society feels that blacks and Hispanics are threatening. Goetz was a member of the white middle class. He had a built-in hostility.” Or as the famous radical lawyer William Kunstler put it in a satirical poem: “Bernhard Hugo Goetz, stimulated by imagined threats, let bullets raise him from obscurity . . . “

That was the second myth.

Lillian Rubin is a major promoter of this second mythic tradition. She’s no left-wing sociology prof, nor a radical lawyer: no, she’s a chic San Francisco psychotherapist. In Quiet Rage, she sets out to probe the deep psychological reasons why Bernhard Goetz might have started shooting a gun in that subway car in December 1984. She finds the answer in childhood traumas. Goetz’s father was a harsh Germanic type who never gave Bernhard (or “Bernie,” as Rubin insists on calling him) the love he needed. Goetz’s mother was little help, sympathetic to the child but deferring to the father in all things. The result was an insecure, withdrawn, and fundamentally antisocial and hostile child and adult: hungry for love, perhaps, but willful and stubbornly determined not to let anyone step on him. This is part of Goetz’s “Quiet Rage” at the world—a rage that exploded in that subway car.

But there’s more. When Bernhard was 12 years old, two male teenagers accused his father of sexually molesting them. In exchange for sexual favors, one of the teenagers claimed, Goetz senior offered him five dollars. The scandal rocked the small upstate New York town where the Goetz family lived and where the father was already hated as an unscrupulous real estate developer. Bernhard sat all the way through the trial but was then sent off to boarding school in Switzerland, to be away from the embarrassing publicity. Rubin suggests that the scandal, and what Bernhard perceived as his subsequent “expulsion” from the family, had a deep traumatic impact on the 12-year-old. No doubt it did. But, Rubin says, the business about “the five dollars” is actually the key to what happened in the subway in December 1984: for what led Goetz to reach for his gun was, precisely, a request from one of the black teenagers (Troy Canty) for five dollars.

These were, Rubin suggests, magic words. They brought the long-term rage inside Bernhard Goetz to the boiling point. Goetz senior had recently died. His death allowed Bernhard to avenge both his (consciously) idealized father and the terrible trauma he himself had suffered 25 years before, on just the type of punk kids who had caused all the original trouble. But it’s best just to quote Rubin here:

Bernhard William Goetz died in September 1984. Three short months later, his son and namesake, mourning a loss that, in fact, had happened a quarter century earlier, walked into a subway train carrying a loaded gun and, at the first provocation, let loose with a barrage of bullets—bullets aimed at targets that existed as much in his past as in the present. . . . These shots were meant to avenge his father and to deliver retribution for his own suffering as well. The conjunction of events is undeniable.

“Undeniable”! As George Orwell once said, only an intellectual would believe this. Rubin has never personally met Goetz, never personally interviewed him. She simply has no way of knowing if “the five dollars” held a prominent place (consciously or unconsciously) in his memory of the traumatic trial of 1961. This is just off-the-cuff psychologizing from 3,000 miles away. In any case, besides the famous “five dollar” offer by Goetz senior to his boyfriend, there was also a “ten dollar” offer, which was perhaps even more important, involving acts even more shocking to 1961 upstate New York. Rubin passes quickly over this last fact. But it means that “the five dollars” was not a unique and standout part of the trial testimony. Rather, it was simply part (and not the most important part) of Goetz’s father’s ongoing bribes to boys he found attractive. Yet the less prominent “the five dollars” was at the 1961 trial, the less likely it is that Troy Canty spoke any “magic words.”

With enough careful attention to concrete details, and a sensitive and balanced application of theory, it is possible sometimes to do responsible psychohistory. But Lillian Rubin’s “Five Dollar Solution” is not an example of this. On the contrary, it’s the sort of thing that has given psychohistory a bad name: It’s a rash speculation, based on a single (and not uncommon) coincidence, presented with the total certainty of the second-rater. Worse, in this case the speculation is in the service of a definite and biased ideological agenda. For the virtue of “The Five Dollar Theory” for Rubin is, of course, that it absolves the four black youths of any active role in what happened to them on the subway: They were merely symbolic victims, who unfortunately tripped the “trap” in Bernhard Goetz that (supposedly) had been set way back in 1961. In other words, according to “The Five Dollar Theory,” Goetz attacked four basically innocent and inoffensive teenagers because one of them happened to say something that set off Goetz’s own deep-seated, long-prepared psychosis. As Rubin presents it, Goetz was then raised to the status of a hero by a venal and unthinking New York press, and by a white public that was racist at heart. Hence, the subtitle of her book: A Time of Madness. The reference is both to the alleged insanity of Bernhard Goetz and to American society in general.

Given this view of things, it’s not so surprising that under a facade of objective “psychological analysis,” in reality Rubin never gives Bernhard Goetz a fair shake. Everything Goetz has ever done—and I mean everything—is given a negative twist. For instance, after he graduated from NYU in 1971, Goetz worked as a nuclear engineer for Westinghouse Corporation. There he complained constantly at the way corners were being cut in the manufacturing of nuclear reactors; he was eventually fired, essentially for being a “whistle-blower.” In the case of at least one of his protests, Navy men who sail on ships powered by Westinghouse reactors still owe Goetz a major debt of gratitude. But Rubin manages to see Goetz’s work at Westinghouse not as an example of careful and praiseworthy concern for nuclear safety, but rather as an example of Goetz’s “compulsive perfectionist standards” and also (get the point?) his “intolerance.” When Goetz later worked on his father’s construction projects, he similarly tried—and failed—to get better workmanship installed. Is it really justified to use this behavior, too, as evidence for incipient violent psychosis? Again, Rubin never pauses to ask herself why Goetz’s ex-wife can speak of him more with sadness than with bitterness. (“He’s a nice person, good and kind and gentle”—though his idea of a romantic gift was a cute automatic saltshaker.) Nor does Rubin ask herself what psychologically positive qualities might have gone into making Goetz eventually a success as a small electronics entrepreneur. That occupation required not only careful investment in electronics gear; it also required at least some minimum sensitivity in the handling of other human beings (for instance, customers). At the time of the Christmas incident, Goetz was on his way to dinner with friends. Reading Rubin, you’d be surprised to find out Goetz had any friends.

Now, it’s a general failing of psychohistory that it concentrates on pathology, mental illness—not on psychological strengths. I suppose that’s natural, given the origins of psychohistory in medical practice, which has a similar (and proper) concern. Nevertheless, just because of this emphasis on pathology, psychohistorical methods and jargon—when in the hands of a devotee truly out to trash someone—can easily degenerate into plain old-fashioned character assassination. That, I suspect, is exactly what happened in Lillian Rubin’s book.

And in one crucial way Rubin really is spectacularly unfair to Goetz, failing to present to us the complete man and his history. For amazingly, she virtually ignores the fact that three years before the Christmas subway incident, Goetz had been mugged and brutally beaten—moreover, mugged and brutally beaten in the subway, and by three black youths. If one were looking for a psychological trauma in Goetz’s past that might have had a devastating impact on Goetz’s actions when confronted with four black youths in the subway in 1984, surely this is it. Why conjure up the baroque “Five Dollar Theory,” based as it is on a small coincidence with an event 25 years old, when an absolutely eerie parallel exists between the events of 1981 and 1984—when the obvious is staring you right in the face?

Yet Rubin dismisses Goetz’s prior mugging in a short and remarkably bland paragraph, and she never returns to a discussion of it. She is especially uninterested in the permanent injuries Goetz sustained in 1981: They receive half a sentence (and she gets them wrong!). Rubin’s lack of interest in Goetz’s physical and emotional suffering in 1981 is all the more striking in view of her in-depth descriptions of the damage done by Goetz’s bullets in 1984, and especially her pages and pages on the ordeal of Darrell Cabey. No detail is spared there; every effort is made to wring sympathy from the reader. This was the point where I began to realize just how far Rubin had loaded the dice against Goetz (and in favor of her own pet theory?). The situation is all the more bizarre because Rubin knows that the 1981 mugging made a large impact on Goetz: She notes in an irritated tone that he was always complaining about it! On a generous interpretation, Rubin is just being unbelievably obtuse here. But frankly, not to give a prominent place to Goetz’s previous mugging and the specific circumstances of that mugging verges on deception of the reader who wishes truly to understand the events in the subway in 1984.

It’s deceptive because Rubin chooses to emphasize a deep-seated rage in Goetz (allegedly deriving from his long-ago childhood) at the expense of another possible emotion: fear.

No doubt there was a lot of anger in Goetz, beneath his classic wimp-ofscience exterior. There was anger at the pain and violation he’d suffered in 1981, at the fact that only one of his assailants had ever been caught, at the fact that that case had dragged on for over a year, and that the mugger (by means of plea bargaining) ended up serving only four months in jail on a misdemeanor—while he was left with a permanent knee problem. Goetz was especially angry, it seems, that even after the mugging, the city denied him a gun permit on grounds of “insufficient cause”—although his occupation often required him to carry around expensive electronics gear, making him a likely target for thugs (as had happened, precisely, in 1981).

Yet anyone who has ever been brutalized by muggers will tell you that the main and longest-lasting psychological impact is terror: permanent terror that it might happen again. As one victim told me (she was the person who threw down Rubin’s book in disgust): “People who have been mugged have a sort of ‘black hole’—inside them—a terrible fear of it happening again, and an absolute fear of anyone who looks like the person who mugged them before.”

“An absolute fear of anyone who looked like the person who mugged them before . . . ” Surely here we approach the heart of the matter and the most plausible reconstruction of what happened when Bernhard Goetz stepped on board that IRT #2 train on December 22, 1984. It must have seemed to him that he had suddenly stepped back into the past, back into his own worst nightmare, a horrifying replay of the trauma he’d suffered three years earlier. Once again, as in 1981, he found himself alone and confronted by a band of threatening black youths. It was the misfortune of those youths (Barry Allen, Darrell Cabey, Troy Canty, and James Ramseur) that they accosted someone who had obviously vowed “The next time, I’ll be ready”—someone who was not only terrified, but also armed with a gun.

The central question, of course, is whether Goetz was in fact not merely prepared but over-prepared: whether in his paranoia he misinterpreted the actions of the four youths and began blasting away at a group of essentially innocent people who had done nothing to him and intended to do nothing to him.

Lillian Rubin, for one, has no doubts that the intentions of the four youths were essentially innocent and peaceable, and that their actions were—at the very worst—only mildly provocative (but enough to set off, of course, Goetz’s “Five Dollar” rage from a quarter-century before). Thus Rubin presents the subway car as one in which a sense of peaceful normalcy prevailed before Goetz arrived; she “knows” and constantly repeats that Troy Canty merely “requested” five dollars; she “knows” and constantly repeats that Goetz shot two of these “kids” in the back as they were running away and one of them (Darrell Cabey) while he was seated and trying to hide.

She should have waited for the trial before publishing this book. Detailed testimony at the trial has shown that most of the above assertions are open to question, that one of them (about Troy Canty’s behavior) is probably false, and that one of them (the crucial first one) is certainly false. It is unclear where Darrell Cabey was located when he was shot and whether he was sitting or standing. The prosecution’s medical experts were firm that one of the youths (Barry Allen) had indeed been shot in the back; this was denied, with equal firmness, by the medical experts of the defense. And even the prosecution’s experts were uncertain whether a second youth (James Ramseur) was shot in the back as well (this too, of course, was denied by the medical experts for the defense). As for Canty, it’s true that in the courtroom he testified that he very politely asked Goetz for five dollars. But it came out that this contradicted his own statement to the grand jury, where he testified that what he said was the more threatening “Give me five dollars.” (This was after two preliminaries: “How you doin’?” and “What time is it?”) Moreover, in rather a surprise, James Ramseur testified that Canty was “up in Goetz’s face,” i.e., was confronting Goetz in a pretty hostile manner, when Goetz pulled the gun {NYT, May 20, 1987). Most importantly, two witnesses from the subway car testified that they themselves were apprehensive and fearful about the behavior of the youths as the train headed downtown. “I was concerned; I was afraid,” said Mary Grant (NYT, May 7, 1987).

Indeed, if Rubin had only thought about it more clearly, she would have realized that something untoward was going on in the car—for she notes several times in passing (and with no commentary) that when Goetz got on, the four youths were at one end of the car and all the other passengers were down at the other end. Now why might that be?

It’s a question Rubin never asks herself. But Goetz’s misfortune was obviously that he got on at the “wrong” end of the car; thereafter, things happened very quickly (within about three minutes). The testimony of Goetz’s fellow passengers concerning their own fear of the four youths is crucial here, because it strongly suggests that Goetz’s perception of the situation he had stepped into was not the result of some unique paranoid delusion on his part. On the contrary: if other people were frightened, too, this strongly suggests that Goetz’s understanding of the scene in the car, and of the intentions of the four youths, was rooted in a harsh New York reality. (Part of that reality is that an unbelievable 13,800 felonies are committed in the decrepit and ill-policed New York subway system every year—a number, by the way, which Rubin considers of little importance.)

Besides the fear that Allen, Cabey, Canty, and Ramseur inspired in Goetz’s fellow passengers, there’s plenty of other evidence to suggest that Goetz was perfectly correct to be afraid of these four people. They were hardly children: They were all either 18 or 19. Each one of them had been arrested or convicted at least twice. In fact, each one of them was facing a trial or a hearing on criminal charges at the time of the December 22 shooting.

Let’s take these people one at a time. Barry Allen had been arrested four times in the past three years—once for attempted assault. At Goetz’s trial he took the Fifth Amendment regarding the events of December 22. He is currently serving a prison term of one to four years for robbery. Darrell Cabey, the man Goetz wounded most grievously, was under indictment for an October armed robbery with a shotgun. Troy Canty, the evident leader of the four, was a dope addict and apprentice burglar who had been arrested four times since 1982. Even Lillian Rubin found him a “frightening” personage; she also suspects that he was blasted out of his mind on cocaine when he accosted Goetz. (Nevertheless, Rubin—what a surprise!—chooses to believe the “polite” version of that scene, as Canty told it to her, rather than Goetz’s version; apparently she is unaware that Canty had told a significantly different story to the grand jury.)

James Ramseur seems at first glance the least threatening of the four. He’d been arrested several times, but only for petty larceny and criminal trespass. However, six months after the Goetz incident, Ramseur and an accomplice robbed a pregnant woman at gunpoint, brutally beat her, and then raped and sodomized her. He is currently serving an eight to 25-year term in prison. At Goetz’s trial he was disruptive, snarled at the defense attorney, refused to answer questions on cross-examination, and cursed the judge; he ended up being surrounded by armed guards, and his testimony was finally ordered thrown out. The judge later found him in contempt of court on several counts and told him that he’d demonstrated such viciousness that he’s played right into the hands of Goetz’s defense. The judge was correct: After the trial, one of the jurors said that Ramseur had terrified them.

It is typical of Lillian Rubin’s use of strategic silences that she fails to subject these four obvious sociopaths to the kind of devastating “psychological analysis” she inflicted on Bernhard Goetz. One can only wonder what sort of grotesque pathology Rubin would have come up with if she’d applied the same standards of behavior to them as she imposed on him. But of course that’s precisely what she does not do.

But, people say, at the time of the incident Goetz couldn’t have known any of the facts you’ve presented above: He had no idea who these people were. True enough. But our task is to attempt to determine whether Goetz’s on-the-spot assessment of his situation—that he was surrounded by vicious thugs who were about to beat him up and rob him—is likely to have been accurate. And we do know who these people were. Given the facts above, it seems to me that the burden of proof must rest heavily on those who would deny that Goetz got things perfectly right.

And there’s even more evidence here. Darrell Cabey told columnist Jimmy Breslin that the youths had indeed intended to rob Goetz: “They were going to rob him. He looked like easy bait.” A cop who arrived on the scene said that Troy Canty told him the same thing: “We were going to rob him, but he shot us first.” A second cop said that Canty, the next day, described to him a scene where the four youths intentionally surrounded Goetz and threatened him because “he looked soft.” All these seem explicit admissions, from the youths themselves, that Goetz was in a very dangerous situation in that subway car.

Each of these pieces of evidence has been doubted. It’s been suggested that Cabey is now too brain-damaged to know what he’s saying, that the first cop is simply lying (to help Goetz), and that the second cop’s testimony doesn’t indicate exactly that Goetz was going to be robbed. I would reply: Three sources are all telling approximately the same story; is it likely that they are all wrong?

Therefore, this “second myth” about the Goetz case—that Bernhard Goetz was a paranoid psychotic who responded to “imaginary threats” or that, conversely, he was representative of white middle-class oppression of blacks and hostility towards them—this “second myth” ought to be abandoned. It has appealed all along only to those of a certain ideological bent, anyway. Goetz was a frightened man, responding to dangerous thugs. Hence the scenes we saw before the courthouse in New York: marching white Marxists screaming that Goetz equaled the Ku Klux Klan, while spokesmen for ordinary citizens, both minority and white, were supporting Goetz totally. Some examples of the latter are worth quoting: (1) Curtis Sliwa, the leader of the Guardian Angels, backed Goetz from the beginning because “we knew who those guys were; they were notorious”; (2) Roy Innis, the head of the Congress of Racial Equality: Goetz was “the avenger of all of us; some black man ought to have done it long before; I wish it had been me.” The retired schoolteacher quoted in the second paragraph of this article is also black. And it’s worth noting that support for Goetz was very strong in all-black “Claremont Village”—the crime-ridden neighborhood from which the men he shot came (ABC News, June 20, 1987). The defense of civilized society against the likes of James Ramseur is not a racial issue.

On June 16, 1987, a New York jury (which included blacks and Hispanics) found Bernhard Goetz not guilty of charges of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment. The only charge that stuck against Goetz was illegal possession of a handgun. The jury didn’t accept any version of “the second myth” either—perhaps because three of the jurors had themselves been victims of subway crime.

But just because the “second myth” about the Goetz case is false does not mean that the “first myth”—that Goetz was a simple and authentic hero—is true. On the contrary: While the “first myth” is more related to reality than the “second,” it, too, is basically false.

The fact is that Goetz was carrying a gun illegally and that when he pulled it out he did exactly what law enforcement officers fear happens when ordinary citizens begin to brandish firearms: He lost control of himself. That happens often enough to cops—who go through rigorous training. Goetz, as far as we know, trained himself.

It’s possible that, on a cool and rational assessment of the situation, Goetz could have scared off those four thugs simply by pulling out the pistol. Instead, he immediately began shooting—and kept on shooting, until the gun was empty. On his own admission, the reason for this is clear enough: “I was acting out of goddamned fear. They were about to wipe the floor with me. If you corner a rat and you are about to butcher it, OK? The way I responded was viciously and savagely, just like a rat.” Afterwards, Goetz himself was unsure whether, in the heat of the moment, he hadn’t used excessive force. His own doubt about this was the single most damaging piece of evidence against him at his trial: “I know in my heart I was a murderer. . . . I just snapped.” One wonders especially whether the famous “fifth shot,” the one that evidently crippled Darrell Cabey for life, was really necessary. (This is true whether or not you accept that Goetz said to Cabey, “You seem to be doing all right; here’s another”—words denied, by the way, by at least one prominent eyewitness, Victor Flores.)

It was in remorse over what he’d done—and remorse over what, in that minute in the subway, he’d become—that Goetz later said he felt like a murderer. His actions, and his subsequent feelings of horror at them, are the best answer to those on the right who responded to the incident by suggesting that every citizen should take a gun down into the New York subway. Even so mild-mannered and civilized a person as Bernhard Goetz was unable to control himself once he had that pistol in his hand. (Neither the left nor the right, it seems, is much interested in understanding the disorderly, specific facts of the story.)

So Goetz is right when he says he’s no hero. Part of the defense at his trial was that in the stress of the moment, and once the gun was in his hand, his nervous system went “on automatic pilot” until he had more or less destroyed all four of his tormentors. This scenario makes some sense. But the last thing American cities need right now is people walking around with handguns, blasting away “on automatic pilot.”

Still, one must confront honestly the basic dilemma the Goetz case raises. New York gun laws make it extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to procure legal handguns with which to defend themselves personally, in a city with a very large and notoriously violent criminal population. At the same time, there are too few police to provide the ordinary citizen with community protection (the protection to which that citizen is theoretically entitled, that forms the theoretical basis of the harsh gun-control laws). So, as one U.S. senator said, “I’m afraid to get in that subway system even when I’m with my bodyguard.” Well, not many ordinary people can afford bodyguards, i.e., private police (the rich and the powerful, of course, always manage to get by). What are the rest of us who live in big cities supposed to do about protecting ourselves—not in the long run, but right now? This is the dilemma Bernhard Goetz faced; this is why he is neither a vile figure nor a heroic one, but rather a tragic one.

A final thought. It’s no accident that a psychotherapist who fully partakes of the dominant political culture of the Bay Area should write a book in which Bernhard Goetz receives no sympathy, while the four thugs who accosted him are made into martyrs. Nor is it an accident that a radical lawyer like William Kunstler is involved in a plan to sue Goetz for millions of dollars over his alleged violation of the “civil rights” of the thugs. Nor, finally, is it at all surprising to find left-wing sociology professors describing Bernhard Goetz as merely another example of white middle-class oppression of underprivileged minorities.

That is, Lillian Rubin’s book is best understood as part of a particular cultural context of the left. It is a culture of instinctive “sympathy for the devil,” a feeling that criminals in this society are as much victims as victimizers, as much sinned against as sinners—if not more so. It’s this sort of thinking that led Norman Mailer to champion the murderer Jack Henry Abbott as a great, persecuted American writer and hero—whereupon Abbott was let out of jail and promptly killed again. It’s this sort of thinking that (in another famous case) led left-wing Catholics at Yale to pour sympathy on Richard Herren after he hammered his girlfriend Bonnie Garland to death when she jilted him: Herren, after all, was Hispanic, and thus automatically one of the oppressed of the earth; Bonnie Garland was Anglo, and rich (in short: a bitch). And it’s this sort of thinking that led a lawyer for a “prisoners’ rights group” in California to complain angrily about how popular demonstrations against Lawrence Singleton, following his early release from prison, had “completely disrupted Mr. Singleton’s life”; the lawyer failed to mention Singleton’s crime—which was the raping of a 15-year-old girl and the cutting off of her arms. What, then, is more natural than for Lillian Rubin to end her book with a bitter analysis not of her four thugs but of American society, its inequities and racism?

The left, of course, is perfectly entitled to engage in its bitter and subtle “analyses” of crime in America. But most Americans don’t think about crime in this way: They’re too busy worrying about how to defend themselves from criminals. So the reality is that the left’s “analyses” of crime come at a high political cost. By essentially excusing criminal behavior, or attempting to “understand” it, or by using it as a vehicle for condemning society rather than the criminal, the left essentially places itself outside American society—and adopts a hostile stance towards it. And from such a position of hostility, the left ought to have a very hard time gaining credibility with the American people for any of its ideas (including its ideas about crime). To which one can only respond: Thank God.


[Quiet Rage: Bernie Goetz in a Time of Madness, by Lillian Rubin; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux]