The Summer of Our Discontent, Revisited

According to Wikipedia, historians use a period of between 22 and 33 years' duration to define a generation.  Let’s use the midpoint of 55 years for two generations.  That takes us back to 1965.  That year in particular is memorable to me since Dad decided that we needed to leave Baltimore and move to Southern California.  He rented a 6 foot by 8 foot U-Haul trailer; loaded my parents’ bedroom furniture and some clothing for all of us and one item of small size that was personal.  That was kind of tough for a family with six kids.  I lament the boxes of baseball and football cards I threw away, considering their value today.  I kept my stamp collection in a book that my grandmother from Lithuania gave me three years earlier.

We were excited about living 20 miles from the popular upcoming group, The Beach Boys, seeing nightly fireworks at Disneyland, and being able to bike to the beach if we had a bicycle.  We were surrounded by dairies whose odor was overtaken by the wonderful orange blossom blooms from the groves in Orange County.  Some of the best strawberries I have ever tasted were sold at a street stand in close walking distance to our house.  Another phenomenon hit me and sticks with me ever since.  Humid summers were of a thing of the past.  Sure, I missed sledding briefly in winter with sparse annual snowstorms that also brought school closure days.

Among all this euphoria came a stark reality.  A black parolee for robbery was pulled over in south central Los Angeles for reckless driving 55 years ago this August.  That incident, reported incessantly by the media, sparked six days of riots in the predominantly black Watts neighborhood resulting in 34 deaths, arson, looting and associated mayhem.  Estimated damage was $40 million.  I can still picture the television scenes in my mind of looters running out of stores with television sets and stereo cabinets.  These were heavy “furniture-like” items then that not just anyone could haul away.  These were people who were intent on destroying their neighborhood and robbing from others under the pretense that as recourse for their plight these actions were owed to them.  I was taught in parochial school by the nuns that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop.  The residents of Watts were a forgotten people with high unemployment with limited opportunities.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to be a catalyst of change for the ills foisted upon those generations of blacks that suffered under slavery until Abraham Lincoln championed abolition forever.

Change did not come fast enough to many blacks, especially in Southern California.  A generation after Watts, Rodney King and two of his friends had been drinking while watching basketball at a friend’s house.  Rodney King was driving his friends down a freeway at 12:30 a.m. on March 2, 1991 when California Highway patrolmen noted erratic driving behavior.  After the CHP lights came on for him to pull over, Rodney King sped down the freeway at speeds topping 117 mph to elude the CHP.  Then he pulled off into a residential area clocking speeds up to 80 mph.  He was eventually cornered by police units and a helicopter in pursuit and was stopped.  LA policemen were videotaped while they were brutalizing Rodney King.  Rodney King had tried to elude authorities since a DUI would violate his parole for an earlier robbery conviction.  The videotape was provided to a local television station, which prompted the needed investigation and resultant indictment of policemen involved in the beating of King.  They were brought to trial and all policemen were acquitted on April 29, 1992. 

The (black) mayor of Los Angeles, a former police officer turned attorney turned politician, declared the verdict “senseless” and said: “The jury’s verdict will never blind the world to what we saw on the videotape.”  Let the riots begin once again in south central Los Angeles.  After 63 deaths, nearly 2,400 people injured, 12,000 people arrested, and $1 billion worth of damage primarily in nearby Koreatown, the riots ended six days after they started.  Those protestors were not merely looking for bread to feed their families. 

A friend of mine’s brother, a Latino fire battalion chief, was shot by a rioter while he was responding to the many arsons.  He was injured permanently and was relegated to an inspector’s job until retirement.  I watched on television as an unsuspecting big rig driver, Reginald Denny, was stopped, pulled from the cab of his truck and brutally beaten mercilessly.  The young black man who threw a cinder block on his head got a 10-year jail sentence.

After the Department of Justice brought a federal case against the policemen convictions were obtained.  Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million and his attorney, $1.7 million by the City of Los Angeles.  As an anecdote, and my intent is not to condone the actions of the LA police officers, but PCP was the illegal drug of choice at the time.  When my sister graduated from the California Highway Police Academy before the Rodney King incident, she was assigned to the graveyard shift in south central LA.  I couldn't tell you how many people she pulled over who were subsequently arrested while under the influence of PCP.  One 300+ pound guy ripped my sister’s clothes as she was trying to subdue him for arrest.  They used batons to subdue the guy and broke several bones.  The guy apologized to my sister when they were in court.  He admitted that he had not been “himself” while under the influence of PCP.  The “superhuman effect” of the drug is widely known.

So here we are today, two generations post-Watts riots.  What has changed?  Absolutely nothing!  The media continues to search for divisive racial issues of social injustice for blacks and magnifies them to push an agenda.  Social media is a new catalyst to accelerate inciting violence, death, injuries, and loss or destruction of property.  As soon as politicians open their mouths to placate “the permanently aggrieved,” the resultant melee can be expected.  If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon!  Defund the police!  What happened when Saddam Hussein was deposed?  A power vacuum was created and that “JV team,” ISIS, was formed to establish a 21st century caliphate.  How did that work out when an adult took over? 

What about CHAZ or CHOP?  The media and the “blue” politicians need to back off their quest to deny President Trump’s successes for we the people are through inciting false social justice memes now.

Here's a recent photo taken in downtown San Diego:

Is this not pandering?  IMHO this statement that excludes non-blacks is another example of the current cancel culture.  How many more generations of riots, loss of life, needless injuries, and property damage must be endured as certain groups are used as pawns to stoke the flames?  Didn’t Rodney King say years before he drowned in a pool while under the influence of drugs, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Image credit: Brian C. Tomlinson