America’s shameful lack of Freedom

A few hours ago a friend of mine was robbed here in New York City. She was hit in the face by a bunch of juvenile thugs as she walked home from a friend’s house, and her bag was stolen. This, after a day of defending indigent criminal suspects in court. She is a graduate of Harvard University, a lawyer who chooses to help the poor of this city, and yes, I can barely contain my outrage at this violent crime, or any other.

Just last week there were 7 murders, 36 rapes, and 334 robberies in New York City. This is considered a cause for great celebration by the police, since the numbers are much lower than a decade ago, and New York is now the safest large city in the United States. (Check the stats here.) Tell that to my friend. For that matter, tell that to my wife, who has to take a cab home from work a few blocks away because it is not safe to walk home late at night (no, we don’t live in a particularly unsafe area). I, who am a 190 pound man, feel nervous riding the subway at night. What chance do lone women have? This is ludicrous. Why isn’t there a greater uproar about the fact that, despite all the continually-vaunted freedoms in this country, no decent citizen of this city (or any other) is free to even take a walk in a park after dark, without taking their lives in their hands? Why do we have to be constantly nervous about being physically attacked and grievously injured? Why aren’t there demonstrations every single day protesting the fact that we cannot sit at the edge of the Hudson River in Riverside Park at night and look at the stars? Why can’t I? Why can’t the government protect me? Crime is the single-greatest restriction on my right to move around and enjoy my life as I see fit. So why isn’t anyone upset about it?

People have gotten used to it. No one even notices anymore. Oh, you should have seen what things were like in the 80s, they say. If someone is mugged in a “bad” area at night, people routinely blame the victim: “What was she thinking walking around alone over there?” This is like the old “she was asking for it” attitude toward rape. She was walking alone, because IT IS PERFECTLY LEGAL FOR HER TO DO SO and IT IS HER RIGHT TO BE ABLE TO WALK WHEREVER SHE DAMN WELL PLEASES. THAT’S WHY! Shouldn’t the question be, why the hell was she mugged? Why are people routinely slapped on the wrist, even when they are caught, for violently attacking others? I believe there should be much more severe punishment for anyone convicted of physically assaulting people. It should just be seen as unacceptable, and rewarded with long prison sentences.

Who knows what psychological scars this assault will leave on my friend, not to mention the more than 5,000 other victims of armed robbery and assault last year, in this city alone. What kind of freedom is this?