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Now is Not the Worst of Times

“America is drowning in wickedness and immorality,” said Evangelist Billy Sunday in the 1900’s. It’s a message we still hear today, and not just from the preachers and proselytizers. Many people say that our tastes in sex and violence are more perverted and fierce. While it’s true we have our fair share of crime, I wonder if we really are on this downward spiral of immorality? It’s easy to condemn the present, while looking fondly upon the past, but life in my Great Grandparent’s day wasn’t idyllic.

Take Illinois for example. Rock Island (RI) hosted over 150 open brothels and was home to the infamous John Looney, who had public shootouts, controlled the police, and was beaten bloody by RI Mayor Schriver for publishing a libelous story about him in his newspaper. And then there was Madame Helen Van Dale who managed  300 prostitutes and blackmailed local RI officials that frequented her brothels.

Consider Chicago in 1906: there were roughly 600 on-duty cops for 1.2 million people.  The going-rate for an Alderman’s vote was $5k. The Tribune ran daily headlines of murders and diabolical rapes, and said the city was overrun by thugs that robbed every pedestrian they encountered, invaded private homes and had drunken orgies on their lawns. Whole city blocks were taken over by brothels, some catered exclusively to homosexuals, openly sold dope, and even rented knives and guns by the hour. Chicago had over 1000 open brothels, some of which were actually owned by Chicago Aldermen where they often held unofficial meetings with the Mayor.

Some Madames would recruit country girls between 13 and 17 with the promise of jobs in the city, only to lock them in a room overnight with half-a-dozen men who “broke them into the life.” Some young boys were also subjected to this fate, while others roamed the streets as knife-wielding robbers at just six years of age.

The Tribune stated that a woman walking the streets of Chicago was more likely to be raped or robbed, rather than not. For all the chaos and crime that we read about today, the vast majority of us can walk the streets without fear, our politicians aren’t holding court in brothels, and American children are not likely to be sold into slavery.

Some will say these crimes have gone underground and are now more prevalent, but the numbers don’t always support this. For instance, in 1910 the overall murder rate in America was 4 murders per 100k people. In 1945 it was 5/100k. 1981 it increased to 10/100k and today we are back down to 5/100k.

These peaks and valleys in the crime rate do not correlate with gun  control, prayer in school, nor presidents nor politics, but rather instances of mass urbanization, prohibition and economics.

Our tastes haven’t changed, our morals haven’t declined, they’ve simply found different outlets, and our laws have evolved to punish the offenders.

So the next time you hear that America is on a moral decline, consider our past, but also look at present-day foreign countries, where there are mass genocides, gender-based infanticide, and rampant child labor. We live in a relatively protected and peaceful society, and it continues to progress.

Categorized as: Journal

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