Back to the ’60s

I’m having a feeling of deja vu. Friday night there were window-smashing demonstrations in Oakland — where I worked for 30 years — over a sense of injustice about the sentgencing of the BART cop who shot Oscar Grant to death last year (http://bit.ly/9WkA2d). I also see there’s a New Black Panther Party (http://bit.ly/bOYNaS). But I remember well the Original Black Panther Party (http://bit.ly/9P9fZU). I remember the hot waves of rage from their bull-horns at demonstrations. The reason I bring this up is that I’m getting a tingling feeling on the back of my neck that suggests conditions are developing for a repeat of some half-century-old history. The ingredients for a volatile mix now are similar to four-and-a-half decades ago: a sense of injustice about the justice system; black unemployment nearly twice that of whites (http://bit.ly/aUcliC); imprisonment rates for black men several times as high as other ethnic groups http://bit.ly/abQTKc; and now, on top of it all, right-wing zealots determined to slash taxes and social programs no matter who it hurts. Frequently the spark that ignites violent action is the message marginalized people get that they’re not valued, not respected, not worthy.

For the past year I’ve been hearing about the “Second Amendment Solution.” That disturbs me because back in the ’60s there was another phrase that captured another desperate solution: “Burn, baby, burn!” I heard that for the first time when I came home from high school one day, turned on the TV, and learned that a just 100 miles south of where I lived a part of Los Angeles I’d never even hear of — Watts — was in flames. That was just the beginning.

I’ve been around long enough to believe firmly that people seldom learn much from history; they generally just repeat it. Call it the Groundhog Day Effect (http://bit.ly/dcNyMR). I recommend that people too young to be present and old people who have forgotten review the history of the so-called “urban riots” of the ’60s and ’70s (http://bit.ly/bmL7Al).

Someone said taxes are the price we pay for a civil society. Rand Paul and the “me, me, me” libertarians who weren’t even born during that earlier turbulent time and maybe some people my age who’ve forgotten may get a history lesson. Evidetly they don’t remember, but I do.


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