My former colleague Garry Gillis upbraided me over the weekend for reimagining our post-Minneapolis morass as a nightmare of drunken debauchery supplanting MLK’s halcyon dream of racial justice and harmony. (Thanks for commenting, Garry.) His salient points were: the protests were mostly peaceful; the whole bash was “an awakening,” not a nightmare; MLK reminded us justice delayed is justice denied. “Shall we ask people,” Garry said, “to wait so you can sleep better?” Ouch! A little rebuke there. Well, Garry “the delirium of the brave” of which Yeats sweetly sang, can, in its lower avatars, become the dementia of thugs and vandals. It was a work of kindness, therefore, to make believe this horror was the work of innocent drunks busting up a saloon. Surely there were silver threads among the burlap. Peaceful protester don’t kill, loot, burn and vandalizes. Mobs will be mobs, of course. A small facsimile of a riot breaks out every time the Sox win the Pennant. But “As for the destruction and looting,” Garry went on,” you are no doubt aware that a portion of that violence and destruction and looting was fomented by individuals and groups on the far right.” I confess I wasn’t aware of that. I must have slacked off channel surfing as the news grew unbearable. (Keep in mind Garry said a “portion” – and the far-right, like the poor, we will always have with us. Like the far-left). Garry sent me video and news copy as purported evidence of alleged mischief. I found it persuasive enough of alt-right small ball. Could this, then, explain the defacing of – of all things — the world famous Augustus St. Gauden’s bronze relief across from the Mass State House? It honors the Civil War heroic sacrifice of Robert Gould Shaw and the all-black Mass 54th Regiment and its deadly 1863 storming of Fort Wagner in South Carolina. It is among the greatest African American monuments on the planet. Scrawled over the Common side was BLACK LIVES MATTER, KILL THE POLICE PIGS, NO JUSTICE NO PEACE and a couple of “F*CKs for good measure. Was this the work of Right-wing pretenders? Of ANTIFA, those anti-fascist fascists? Or punk philistines with spray paint? Who knows? In all, nineteen Boston Common and Public Garden monuments, including the 911 memorial, were defaced during a Sunday, May 31st peaceful march and protest that was followed by a night rampage. The jerks stick around or come out at night? I have no doubt somewhere in that maelstrom were those Garry identifies as “taking a stand against oppression.” (Too often, we’ll remember a kid with an armful of pilfered merchandise stepping gleefully out a broken store window and have trouble imagining him or her or any of that rabble as “oppressed.” But, no, they’re not the whole story. )
Among the newly “oppressed” — pity poor Liz Vizza, director of Friends of the Public Garden (and, incidentally) among those who believe there are too many “dead white men” in Boston parks. (I was relieved to learn she was talking about statues.) This very “woke” individual woke June 1st to find her Beacon Street office windows shattered even as she was learning of the rest of the monumental destruction. Ironically, just two weeks ago, nearly $3 million was designated to restore the St. Gaudens bronze treasure. The night mob claiming to defend human dignity did its dirty work on the 123 anniversary of its dedication.
So — what’s next? I was chagrined to read that Garry is among those who believe the French, Russian and American Revolutions, without distinction, “were all responses to taxation without representation.” Leaving aside for a minute our raucous but just revolt against British tyranny that shouldn’t be mentioned on the same breath with the execrable French Reign of Terror, the vermin spawned by the revolutionaries of 1917 are nesting in the American House now. The torrid conditions are right for them to thrive – fierce agitation being stirred up among social classes, renewed tension between races, plenty of hustlers to keep those tensions high, an ultra- tormented election season and therefore– in my estimate — fear and loathing in the land, possibly to be augured by a migration to a neighborhood near you of the late Hunter Thompson’s hallucinatory desert bats. That’s not an “awakening”. That’s a nightmare.