Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. His murder triggered riots in dozens of cities. Bobby Kennedy was also assassinated in 1968. There was a “police riot” at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The country was ripping apart over the Vietnam War.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like 1968. I was 21 then and a hippie radical. We don’t want to go back to those days. But unless something changes and we all stop screaming for vengeance, that’s exactly what will happen. Cities will burn. Vigilantes will take revenge. I lived in L.A. when the grotesquely biased Rodney King verdict was announced and saw buildings burning on streets I’d driven down many times. There is massive injustice in this country. The polarization is worse now than in the 1960’s. Back in the 60’s we were at least screaming at each other. Now the screamers don’t even listen to what anyone else says.
I don’t know what the answer is. However, rather clearly, we as a country need to be doing something radically different from what we are doing now. Or face the abyss.
It’s not simply the loss of life, not just the numbers, but the premeditated nature. This feels like a bomb being set off at one of the key stress points, architectural holds, that fastens our whole society together.
Sometime yesterday I saw a friend say on Facebook that it felt like the country was starting to come apart, in a way that felt reminiscent of 1968.
As the quote has it, there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. But the pace of transgression can grow quick enough to build on itself and overmatch the force of communal and inter-communal bonds and social integument. I don’t think we’re there. I don’t think we’ll get there. But we’re closer than we have any real business being.