WHAT THE UK RIOTS TEACH US

They came from no where. In four days the civil calm of London life was turned upside down. Flash crowds, ugly looting, deaths, beatings, fire and fear came a calling. A war zone came to Tottenham and soon spread to other neighborhoods. In its aftermath people were left stunned. Amid the chaos, days later, most everyone is still searching for answers. While taking the train from London down the English countryside this last weekend I heard the conversations. All polite British talk with not much tolerance for the stain that had befallen this elegant landscape. What you heard mostly was ‘why didn’t the police do more to subvert the feral teenagers?’ Much was made of their face covering hoodies and their thirst for all things material that their money in their lifetimes’ might never buy. When I reached my destination, a wedding in West Sussex, there was more talk and so many more questions. People were shocked by the now overcrowded courthouses filled with young men of different backgrounds. One wedding guest had a friend who was bloodied and beaten by rioters. The friend he said went to the police in this bloodied state to be told ‘he was alive’ and was therefore ‘not their priority.’ They were clearly not prepared for this. No one was expecting that crowds could converge so quickly and destroy their surroundings and civility. People died there. Five bodies by last count. No one wanted this repeated. So the questions about single parent homes with teens out of control continued. Excuses like not enough help from the government were bandied about but what you really heard surmised by those still haunted by the week’s shocker were feelings that angry young people who had no stake in their neighborhoods and no hope for improvement went on a wilding spree. They were empowered now by their physical threat to their institutions and their rules and yes their government. I was asked what the police would have done in America? I said “in our country they carry guns and if threatened they are not afraid to point them.” No one disagreed that their country could use some Yankee intervention. Enter Bill Bratton the latest British import. He is a man who knows a thing or two about crowd control and all things law enforcement. A new sheriff has come to town. He is one of our own so what do we really learn from it? America is still looked up to. Here much of the western world still believes we have answers. We have not lived through world war II on our mainland as much of Europe has but we survived 911. We also had our ‘race’ riots in the 60‘s. We got past that. We have high unemployment and poverty problems both ingredients to incite uprisings. So far nothing like has happened. Why? In some communities there is some sense of pride in the role model we have in the White house. Don’t choke. Some may hate him but to many out of work and disenchanted Obama is still a symbol of hope. He is for many, what is right with this country. He is not perfect and the country is in deep trouble but only here could we have elected a man to power with the name Barack Obama. That is why when I came home to hear the usual political rhetoric from the candidates it somehow sounded outdated, not in touch and just a wrong track narrative. Rick Perry’s declaration about our first black president that “There is a ‘Black Cloud’ hanging over the US.” Did he really say that? Doesn’t he get it? Over there in Britain they remember when our president went before their parliament. They loved him. Conservative or liberal in England you never would have heard such a declaration. A “black cloud?” The people I talked to had a deep respect for Obama and for the US in having elected him. It is only here in the US that we somehow have gotten away from respecting the office of the Presidency. I could say thank you Nixon, thank you Bill Clinton, thank you George W but this guy Obama has only been in power for two and a half years. In that time it has been mostly about putting out huge fires of the past still burning at the core of our nation. He is still swatting away racial insults and nasty innuendoes that seem to be so 60’s. I don’t see where he has embarrassed us. What’s embarrassing is the way we conduct our political business. A non functioning congress and people running for office who can’t get their facts right. People who love to attack him on a very personal level. Like the latest gaff by candidate Michelle Bachmann when she yelled to a crowd of her supporters that “on this day, Elvis Presley’s birthday, we should celebrate because I am going to start my campaign to ‘Take Back America.’” Take it back from what? And oh by the way this was NOT Elvis Presley’s birthday it was the day he was buried. It’s the day that we as American’s need to understand we have bury stupidity. Over there in England they get that. So should we, before we too have to ask questions after a flash riot like “how did we get here?”