By Scott St. Clair | The Save Jersey Blog
They are not the end of the world, the riots and demonstrations stemming from the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, so quit acting like they are. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, they are not even the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. Instead, they are the latest in a long history of them in the United States and, more specifically, in New Jersey and New York. And puny ones at that.
An advantage of age is perspective, so can I share a little bit of mine, please? Quit with the hysteria, already: Compared to the anti-Vietnam War protests and race riots of the 1960’s and 1970’s, what we have seen in Ferguson, New York, Newark and other cities the past few days, weeks and months is chump change.
Back in the day when I was “a goofy long-haired son-of-a-bitch,” as one angry, unenlightened button-down type drunkenly labeled me in a Bellingham, Washington State Denny’s late one night in 1969, we thought we were the hottest thing around. College students who had truth by the tail on a downhill grade, anti-war protesting was our thing to show intellectual purity, a desire for social justice and a great way to pick up girls, since sporting a John Lennon look with little round glasses, a flowered shirt, bell bottoms and a fringed leather vest was a hot to chicks with nicknames like “Jasmine,” “Sunbeam” and “Cherry Blossom” (no kidding – I knew them).
Besides my junior-year epiphany – thanks again, William F. Buckley, Jr. – the only thing that has changed from then until now is the Internet, social media and smart phones as a means to transmit the same stale, clichéd, left-wing rhetoric that we thought was radical then only to find out it had been spewed during the Paris riots of the 1800’s (See Les Miserables, but get the 1832 date straight).
What about climate change? Hell, that was nothing – we had The Population Bomb, mandatory reading for every college kid in America that predicted mass starvation and death in the 1980’s due to unchecked population growth. That bomb fizzled like the dud it was, so pardon me if I don’t wet my pants over climate change.
Ditto today’s protests, all of which do nothing more than prove the wisdom of the Biblical adage that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). History repeats itself. Nothing changes so much as it stays the same. History is a merry-go-round. Pick your cliché since they all work.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, anti-war demonstrations of upward of 250,000 people were the order of the day. In 1967, still relatively early in the anti-war movement, 125,000 people turned out in New York City to protest. Compare these with the “thousands” that turned out in the past few days to condemn the decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to indict a police officer for the death of Garner.
Checking a half-dozen or more news sites, none of them offered an estimate of the exact number of demonstrators, which is often a cover to make it look larger than it actually was – curious.
The second-largest race riot in U.S. history took place in Newark in 1967, where five days of mid-July looting and mayhem left 26 dead, hundreds injured and $10 million in property damage, which would be almost $71 million in 2014. The Ferguson riots, on the other hand, occasioned by the failure of a grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, saw zero riot-related deaths; some 57 injuries requiring a hospital visit, of which 37 were police officers; and roughly $5 million in property damage. The Ferguson numbers are through November 22 of this year.
Sporadic rioting and demonstrations took place in several cities across the country, but they were relatively tame, resulting in a few hundred arrests.
Once upon a time, protests were serious and riots more than staged events catering to narrative-driven media too eager to sculpt facts and the truth to fit pre-conceived notions.
Once upon a time, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the voice of moral authority for those who protested, and even for many who rioted, while today Al Sharpton is a buffoonish cartoon caricature –NBA hall-of-famer Charles Barkley called him part of “the same sad sack of black characters” – in it to stir up trouble.
Once upon a time, people thought we were making progress in race relations, but even with an African-American president – some say because of the actions and rhetoric of the African-American president – nobody believes that anymore.
Someday, however, it will be over – we will have moved on to the next issue, the next crisis, the next oh-my-God! moment that people still relatively new on the planet will stress out over as if it is the first time anything like it has happened. Those of us with whiskers, however, will appropriately yawn as if to say, “Been there – done that,” because we have.
In other words, this too shall pass.