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la 65 riot

LA 1965 riot

Will this be the summer of our discontent?

Tornado season has arrived early, with a vengeance. For-profit televangelists have been telling us for years that weather events are signs of God’s wrath. Hurricane Katrina was wrought by God, supposedly because killing families, children, elderly people in nursing homes, and people too poor to flee is God’s way of expressing displeasure at homosexuality.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed homes across beach communities where working stiffs had finally scraped together enough to escape crowded urban tenements. The hurricane was God’s punishment on these blue collar families for their sin of not supporting the Mormon Messiah in the last election cycle.

So what are we to make of the devastation in Oklahoma and Arkansas? Vast majorities of Oklahomans have been strident in their support of Tea Bag Republican politics. They have consistently elected candidates who reject any concept of social safety nets or long term planning. They say that Jesus was wrong about every one of his economic and social justice teachings. Are the tornadoes God’s punishment for Oklahomans’ absolute rejection of Biblical commands? Or for their contempt for social justice?

People who prefer scientific reality and evidentiary analysis to religious superstition when contemplating events may see climate change behind the spate of EF-5 tornados, and behind the predictions of an earlier than usual, and harsher than usual hurricane season. For those who like to blend science and religion, is it too much to imagine that God designed the world so that devastating storms would be the scientifically explainable result of human decisions to ignore our effects on the planet?

If such weather is scientifically explainable, doesn’t the fact that the brunt of the storms is so often borne by those least involved in decisions to create the conditions for the storms prove that the design isn’t such an intelligent design after all?

In fact, science can predict that climate change will affect weather, even if it cannot yet predict individual storms. With science, we can predict many things. We can predict that gas and oil pipelines, when given little or no maintenance will leak, causing horrific damage. Scientific observation of such leaks, from California to Arkansas, show that such horrific damage will be inflicted on people who had no role in building or not-maintaining the pipelines, and that those responsible will not be held to account.

Such scientific analysis also shows us that when people are sufficiently oppressed, they will rebel, often in violent ways. The “Arab Spring” may be half a world away, but it should remind us of the behavior of people when their frustration grows too great. The Arab Spring should also remind us that we live in a world far different from that of the Watts and Detroit Riots, and even from the explosion following the Rodney King beating prosecutions.

Urban riots in the 1960s broke out in communities that, for decades, had essentially no schools for the people who finally rioted. The inmates of those communities were raised to be docile, obedient workers, without hope, and without education that might give them false hope. Those riots also happened just as the Pentagon was building up the Vietnam War machine that disproportionately relied on non-white troops to conduct that colonial war.

The Vietnam War took young black and Latino men, who had been taught all their lives that they should be submissive and deferential, gave them guns and taught them that it was alright to kill people with whom one disagreed. We taught them to believe that killing is an acceptable way to resolve economic and other grievances. It should have surprised no one that “fragging” became an acceptable way to resolve grievances against unfairly oppressive or bigoted officers. While we denied these young men formal schooling, we gave them a different kind of education in the field. They then brought that education home to their neighborhoods.

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There was no “social media” at the time of the Rodney King riots. The revolutions in Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia, and the ongoing rebellion in Syria show us the organizing power of cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet. The inability of the pervasively intrusive Chinese government to control internet dissent is evidence that the vastly more open U.S. social media marketplace will not be controlled, even briefly, in the case of unrest.

What relevance has any of this for Americans? June is the month that the U.S. Supreme Court ends its annual term, announcing important decisions, and letting the nation spend the summer contemplating changes in the law. This year, during oral arguments, the five Tea Bag Republican ‘justices’ on the Court have announced their intention to end Affirmative Action, and to authorize Southern states to re-engage in overt, intentional suppression of black and Latino voting rights.

In the weeks of June 2013, we will see the United States Supreme Court formally, intentionally stripping rights from non-white citizens. On June 3, the Court ruled that there is no longer any limit to how intrusive a warrantless search of a person may be. In the coming weeks, the Court will be ruling that no public university can ever, under any circumstance, use Affirmative Action in admissions decisions. And the Court will be holding that the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was reaffirmed in 2006 even by Tea Bag Republicans in Congress, and signed by president George W. Bush, is unconstitutional, because it deprives states of their natural right to discriminate against black voters.

Throughout ‘red’ states, Tea Bag Republican Party politicians and policy spokespeople have been bloviating about the need to take up arms against the current, ‘non-white’ administration. A coalition of white supremacy groups has announced plans for a fully armed march on Washington D.C. for the July 4 weekend. Their openly professed intention is to provoke violent confrontations with the city’s predominantly non-white population.

As with most things Tea Party, the increasingly violent rhetoric looks backward rather than forward. The people who long for, and plan for violent interactions between the races live in the fantasy that their victims are as powerless and subservient as they were in the 50s and 60s. They expect to be able to use violence and intimidation to reimpose white supremacy on the masses of uppity ‘coloreds’ who have taken white jobs, moved into white neighborhoods, married white women and invaded areas of white privilege, from golf to the Presidency.

But such dreams are fantasies. Last week, a Tea Bag Congresswoman proclaimed that real women do not want pay equality – real women want men to earn more for the same work, because that’s how God designed the world. This level of unreality is mirrored in another Tea Bag Congressman’s claim that blacks were better off under slavery than living free. The fantasies of happy, song-singing darkies, slaving in the fields by day and serenading their benevolent owners at night, and of happy suburban housewives, preparing dinner every night without a single smudge in their makeup or stain on their designer dresses, while eagerly awaiting the slap with which their dominating husbands correct their misbehavior, may come up hard against the reality of a new age.

We have taught the poorest of the poor to be our “volunteer” warriors in foreign wastelands. We have given them guns and taught them about guerilla and urban warfare. We have put women on the front lines, while denying them credit for “combat assignments” and protection against sexual assaults. Why anyone imagines that such people will cower in subservient obedience when the Tea Baggers try to inflict their “South-will-rise-again” policies is beyond explanation.

As people learn that five Tea Bag Republican ‘justices’ on the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that there is no place for civil rights in our Courts, how hard is it to imagine that the intended victims of these rulings will express their frustrations in the streets? And who can seriously imagine that the generation of people we have taught in Iraq and Afghanistan and Latin America will ignore those lessons, and meekly submit to whatever depredations the new “southern strategy” will seek to impose?

Tom Hall

As the Tea Bag ‘justices’ on the U.S. Supreme Court openly try to end racial equality and civil rights in the U.S. will the reaction be a summer of discontent?

Tom Hall

Friday, 7 June 2013