I heard a curious story over pancakes at IHOP the other day. A few guys who carry meet on occasion for breakfast and talk about life—kids, the economy, politics. Jerry, a former U.S. Army officer, told about a recent incident that made us all angry and seems to illustrate the state of America, once the hope and envy of the world.

Jerry, it seems, took Sarah, his bride of many years, to a performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It was downtown, 1280 Peachtree Street, at night. The Symphony Hall parking garage was full, so he chose an open lot. The evening of tickets and parking—without a restaurant bill for dining and a glass of wine—cost nearly $200, but he said, “Every once in a while it’s worth it to splurge a little.”

When the performance—Mahler’s Symphony No. 9—ended, Jerry and his wife returned to the parking lot for their car. It had been trashed. Side mirrors and windshield wipers broken off. The cherry red massively keyed and someone had stomped on the hood and the trunk. Gum or some other substance was plugged into each of the keyhole locks. Adding insult to injury, someone urinated into the ventilator system where the bent and broken wipers were and the smell was noxious. Later, they discovered that all four tires were slashed.

But that wasn’t all. A bumper sticker on the back of Jerry’s car was shredded and provided the key to the vandalism. It read “Trump for President.”

Jerry went to the parking lot attendant in the tiny, well-lit booth. The young attendant said he hadn’t seen anything and that “nothing like this ever happened here before.”

Jerry asked about the lot’s security camera and attempted to step into the booth to see if his car was in the camera coverage area, but the lot attendant prevented him from entering and blocked Jerry’s view. Customers, he said, were not allowed inside and besides, the camera was mostly for show and it rarely worked. He even hinted that Jerry had driven the car to the lot already vandalized.

Jerry was angry by now and called 911. The dispatcher said it wasn’t an emergency and told him to call the regular police number. She hung up without telling him what that number was and when Jerry pulled out his smart phone, it eventually listed a bewildering array of numbers for Atlanta’s finest.

Jerry’s wife went to the street to flag down a patrol car, but became distraught and afraid so, together, they stood on the street and waved down a cop. The cops shook their heads, asked for Jerry’s driver’s license, registration, and insurance, took a few notes after looking at the car and drove away.

Jerry’s insurance company eventually sent a tow truck, said they would pay for a taxi to their home—30 miles away—and helped arrange a rental car.

After Jerry’s story, every man at the table was angry and we discussed what to do if we caught vandals in the act. What could you really do? Jerry might have rushed forward and drawn his weapon. If the vandals ran away, he could not have shot at them. If they confronted him, he might have had to shoot—and nobody really wants that. What if they (assuming more than one person) simply laughed at him and continued trashing his car? And there was his wife, wearing high heels—not running shoes—to consider. If Jerry and his wife were set-upon while inside their car, they certainly could have, should have, used it as a defensive weapon and he might have been entirely correct shooting through the windows at their assailants.

Think of this situation the next time you choose to exercise free speech and be glad that you have a backup in your holster. Be happy that you have chosen the responsible path of determined self-defense, because where America goes from here—with the idiots of the world threatening to take over—is anyone’s guess. Be happy while you can because I don’t think America descending bodes well for our children’s future.