Hard Times, Then and Now

American cities from coast to coast have suffered rioting, vandalism, arson and violence in the aftermath of unarmed black man George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis Police Department, but we’re happy to say that for now race relations remain mostly amicable here in Wichita.
There were a couple of peaceful and conspicuously multicultural protest marches in downtown over the weekend, which culminated with the mostly black protest marchers and the mostly white sitting police officers sitting within social distancing rules of each other at a local park and sharing some barbecue, but that’s about it. Even our most liberal and reflexively antipolice Facebook friends gave some of the credit to Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsey, who has made a very public and apparently sincere outreach to the city’s diverse communities since taking office and was one of the first big city police chiefs to publicly decry Floyd’s death and even call it a murder, and he also marched in those demonstrations wearing his uniform and a face mask. Although we’re not the name-dropping types we will admit we’ve had beers and swapped jokes with Ramsey, and he seemed an OK guy, and we also we think he’s done a good job of keeping the relative peace around here lately.
We also think it has something to do with the civic spirit and mostly good people of all colors and creeds and classes and the ever-expanding number of genders you’ll find here in Wichita. There’s the usual percentage of awful people you’ll find among all colors and creeds and classes and ever-expanding gender groups, too, but for the most part we open doors for one another and don’t insist on our place in line and sometimes chat in a friendly way while we wait. For now the folks ’round these parts seem to prefer that to rioting and vandalism and arson and violence, and we concur.
America writ large, alas, isn’t faring so well. All the coast-to-coast rioting and vandalism and arson and violence, which we’ll henceforth refer to as “civil unrest,” is said to be the worst since the annus horribilis of 1968, which we well remember because we turned a very impressionable 9-years-old that year. As best as our precocious yet eight-and-nine-year-old minds could comprehend, the “negroes” or “colored people” or whatever the polite adults were calling them were righteously indignant about slavery and segregation and police brutality and a host of other things, but that burning down their own neighborhoods seemed an unlikely way to rectify that. We also felt the anxiety of even the most polite adults among us that the “civil unrest” would reach their neighborhoods, and we carried that anxiety with us as went through most of the ’70s with six years of racially diverse and riot-prone and generally shabby junior high and high schools.
By the end of it, though, we’d survived the worst of all the awful people of all colors and creeds and classes and whatever genders existed at the time, and found that most people are OK, and that most of them seemed to think we were OK. We figured things had calmed down since 1968, when it was seemingly a choice between law and order and racial justice, and that America could amiably move forward, but lately our hopes have been dashed. The politics of the moment are even more convoluted than in 1968.
One things that different from 1968 is that these riots are remarkably more racially integrated, judging by all the video, and that kid leading the riot storming of the Cable News Network last week was clearly a white skateboard punk. Some black speculators have speculated that white nationalist provocateurs have fueled the riots to start a race war, and for now that’s as plausible a conspiracy theory as you’ll find on the internet. Even Trump is blaming the far-left but mostly-white “Antifa” movement for much of it, and has officially declared it a “terrorist organization,” which means he can legally spy on any American citizen who might have visited its website. “Antifa” isn’t really an organization of any kind, though, just a ridiculously disorganized group of like-minded dumbass white goys who want to punch anyone wearing a “Make America Great Again” ball cap, who will likely get their asses kicked..We also suspect that some opportunistic awful people of certain other colors are also taking advantage of the situation.
Back in ’68 Nixon became president on o promise of restoring law and order, despite former segregationist Alabama governor and independent candidate George Wallace’s promise to restore it even more brutally, and President Donald Trump seems intent on replicating that, but that was a long time ago. This time around, a platform of both law and order and racial justice seems attainable, and might be the winning argument. So far, at least, we’ve worked it out here in Wichita.

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