Sunday, October 13, 2013

An 18 year old historical timeline....

"Nevertheless, this "riot" in the community we are proud to call home has stunned us all, for it is so out of character.  We are a university consistently recognized as the best of our type in the Pacific Northwest.  Importantly in the current context, we are also a university recognized nationally, year after year, as foremost in the state of Washington for the engagement of our students in service to the community. Consequently, we are all straining to understand why something like this happened. [emphasis added]"  from Pierpoint Emergency System release WWU University President Bruce Shepard and WWU Student Body President Carly Roberts. 
Disclaimer: I am 51, married with young children and a mortgage. I was 18 in 1980.

After reviewing the 'riot'  videos (some of them now marked private),  I started to think about the unusual historical timeline of an 18 year old in 2013. If you are entering college this year, you were 6 when '911' occurred.  You were 7 when your country invaded Afghanistan, 8 when we invaded Iraq.  Sometime between 10 - 12 years of age (2005 - 2007) you probably had your first serious awareness of politics, the "war on terrorism", and America's foreign engagements.  Given the controverial nature of those wars, you probably realized  at some level that the adults explaining those wars to you misunderstood them. During the years 2007 - 2010, (ages 12 - 15) you lived through undeniably the worst three years of economic collaspe in post WWII American history. It would have been unusual for you not to have known adults who did not suffer because of this crisis; your parents and your brothers and sisters not the least among them.

In the short run of your life, the decisive pace of political scandal and intrigue has included names, places, and labels like:  Al Qaeda, Guantanamo, Ramadi, Fallujah, Khandahar, Bagraam, Waziristan, Abu Ghraib, Black Sites, Osama Bin Laden,Wikileaks, Occupy, Drones, Banking Crisis,  Jamie Dimon, Dick Cheney, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Michael Hastings, DHS, CIA, and NSA. You have never known a time when your country has not been actively involved in war; wars where almost every target is a person of color. You have never known a time when your country has either (a) been at peace or (b) not run an inflated war time military economy.

If you have been like many others, it is probable the adults in your life have struggled with employment, their mortgages, their debt, and rising energy prices.  It is entirely possible you are one of the many families that have needed government assistance programs. You have a very strong statistical chance of having grown up in a single parent household. You may well have had parents, or  brothers (or sisters) who fought and died in the Middle East. They too, may have struggled with employment, debt, financial issues upon return.  In short, if you are 18 today, there is a good chance you don't remember any historical era of peace or real prosperity in your life.  Worse than this, you may well have born witness to the tremendous despair of the adults in your life affected by the last 12 years of economic uncertainty and the "war on terrorism".

If you are a WWU student as well, it is probable that you come from a middle or (more likely) upper middle class family.  Your academic record for your short life has probably been exceptional. You most probably have worked hard and been blessed with talent to accompany your resourced life. Some of this may have sheltered some of you from the trauma of your times. But for many of you who are 18 today, you have not been sheltered from this trauma; perhaps even in spite of a middle class family. Some who watched the video last night of the riot saw the flying glass bottles, the pepper spray, tear gas and wondered how this much defiance has come to a usually subdued Bellingham and WWU. But those of us who have paid attention to the last 12 years wonder why intermittent public riots of the young haven't become a permanent part of every community by this point.

At one point during last night's 'riot', a group of youth yanked a stop sign out of the ground and planted it in the middle of the street in front of the police. Not exactly typical 18 - 21 year old behavior I've ever seen before.  Some will call that moment drunkeness and vandalism. They will have missed the point. They will have missed the message, anger, and defiance. STOP!!!

  • Stop the War
  • Stop the Terror
  • Stop the Unemployment
  • Stop the Surveillance
  • Stop the Shutdown
  • Stop all the Uncertainty YOU have been Spreading like Crap all over my still Young life.
I'm sorry the most prescient points of last night's video have been removed or marked private. I watched it twice. I asked my wife watch. And then I understood. This "riot" should not be considered out of character. It should be considered a harbinger. It should have been expected. 

The BPD may want to keep that 'Bear Cat' handy. On Thursday, our government will apparently engage our public in another act of economic uncertainty by plunging our country into default. And that might upset more than a few age groups not to mention foreign countries.