By Scott St. Clair | The Save Jersey Blog
Washington, D.C., April 30 – Five months ago after the disturbances in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Save Jerseyans, I wrote a piece to put those events into context. That piece is just as applicable in the post-Freddie Gray, Baltimore-riots situation, so before we get even more apocalyptic than we already are, let’s get a few things straight.
Freddie Gray’s death is suspicious, there’s a long history of animosity between Baltimore’s black community and the police and a lot of people are angry – I get it; I’m angry, too. Questionable incidents involving cops – North Charleston, S.C. cop Michael Slager’s shooting of Walter Scott and Linden, N.J. police officer Pedro Abad’s apparent wrong-way, drunken driving melee that killed two people, among others – have me scratching my head wondering what the heck is going on with the police these days.
When I’m done scratching, I’ll give you my thoughts. But for the moment, let’s take a step back, take a deep breath and look at things less from a narrative perspective and more from a fact one.
We’re getting balled up in our underwear over the stories that are being told rather than looking at the evidence. It’s another example of the adage from the old western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
We’re suckers for a story because crunching the numbers or researching the history can be a mind-numbing bore. Don’t give me the facts, Ma’am – give me 20 seconds of video and a pithy sound bite or two.
The “riots” we’re seeing in Baltimore and the Mini-Me ones in New York and Washington, D.C. are nothing compared to those that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s. The only difference is that today the Internet, social media and blood-lust-minded cable news blow them up way beyond their true perspective.
Looking at pictures of “the rioters” in New York, for example I got the distinct impression that these are less average citizens angry over a particular incident than they are either unreconstructed hippies unable to get past Richard Nixon, or 20-something full-time agitators, demonstrators and pseudo-anarchists whose parents are stock brokers and insurance executives living in affluent Westchester County who see their efforts as ushering in the long-sought-after revolt of the masses that will result in the socialist collective.
I agree: none of it makes any sense, which, if we accept that truth, gets us a long way toward making sense of it all.
I got caught up in the protests in Washington, D.C. Wednesday night. My wife and I are in town in large measure to visit with my son, Mark, and his wife, Olivia, after Mark’s return from his third deployment to Afghanistan — they live in Maryland. We’re staying in a small hotel in the DuPont Circle area, and we were a couple blocks from it in the car and about to enter a roundabout when a dozen District police cars blocked it off.
A middling, if that, crowd of protesters was coming our way trying to occupy the roundabout. They were held at bay by the police. One crazy guy paced back and forth on the street shouting, “You can Google it! You can Google it!” as the crowd chanted, “Black lives matter!” Well, of course they do, but then again so do ours.
I had to make an illegal u-turn right in front of a police car to get out of there, but the cop had other, more pressing matters with which to concern himself, so we were good to go.
Parking nearby, the streets were orderly, with pedestrians ambling about on a warm spring evening as if nothing was going on. In the hotel bar, the talk was, as bar talk always is, of sports, not riots.
This was nothing compared to the multiple, almost weekly protests against the Vietnam War that happened during my college years. On a scale of 1-10, what I saw was maybe a 0.5. From the TV coverage of Baltimore, I would give it no more than a 6.0 compared to the mid and late-60’s race riots in Watts, Newark and other big cities and the massive anti-war protests in New York City.
Of course, property destruction and unlawful mayhem of any kind or any size is unacceptable at any time. But since there’s nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9), we’ve been there, done that way worse than what we’re seeing. And we’ll go there, do that again somewhere down the road for some other reason. History, like fashion, is less linear than it is merry-go-round – if you miss it today, wait a little while because it’ll come back soon.
So, to those who think the sky has fallen, it hasn’t — this too shall pass. To those who think this ushers in the long-awaited revolution, it doesn’t — in 10 years you’ll be hedge fund executives or selling insurance just like your old man.