This morning I learned that 250 students at the local college plan to walk out of class tomorrow in political protest. This is scheduled during the time I tutor someone on campus, so I started writing a benevolent e-mail, telling him I understand if he’d prefer not to meet. Maybe he wants to join the protest, or perhaps he’d rather avoid the campus because of the potential for violence?
By the start of the third paragraph, I sat back and said, “Oh, this is my shit.”
So the Watts Riots of 1965. (My first piece of merchandise is going to be an official Windmill Tilter Neck Brace. “Wear at all times. This blog contains herky-jerky segues.”)
The Watts Riots happened just around the corner from us in ’65. For years I thought they were a million miles away, but Google Maps just told me, “Holy crap, Cindy. That maelstrom was happening in the next neighborhood!” *
Considering how close it was, it’s no surprise that my father sat me down and, in a voice filled with gravitas, said, “If you’re anywhere near a riot, run. Even from the cops. I know we keep telling you the police are your friends, but in the chaos, they won’t be able to tell the difference between you and a rioter.”
Good advice, that, except the cops could easily pick me out of a crowd then because I was five years old.
We lived in an area that was so breathtaking in its safety that I used to go door to door, alone, “shopping” for peaches. Everyone stocked up on them just in case I visited. Why the hell would I stroll into a riot zone when there’s no guarantee of free fruit?
For fifty-two years now, I’ve avoided all marches, rallies, and sit-ins. I’m stuck with my fear, but I admire those who speak their mind loudly or silently, publicly, and peacefully.
To all aspiring thugs who want to bring violence and distract from the protesters’ message: Fuck you in advance.
To all peaceful protesters: Be as loud or quiet as you see fit, but please be safe.
* Yes, I believe Google Maps talks to me. You try sitting alone in a home office, day after day, and maintaining sanity. I dare you.