Tuesday, May 16, 2006


As the chaos widens abroad, I find myself wondering what shape the riots will take here in America, and how soon they will begin.

Melting pot that we are, we could follow the lead of the Central and South American immigrants here, who have put on record-shattering, peaceful demonstrations in support of a path to citizenship and a recognition of their essential role in the American economy.

We could look to Argentina, where the middle class, finally ensnared by IMF austerity budgets, threw out three or four presidents in a few weeks in December 2001, banging pots, smashing bank windows, and creating neighborhood councils to take back their country.

We could look to France, where a few months ago, students aligned with trade unionists to strike, march and defeat a legislative measure that would have allowed employers to fire young workers within two years of hire, while retaining job security structures for older workers.

Then again, a few months before that, poor immigrant suburbs around Paris erupted in flaming cars, protesting the same discrimination against the young and the foreign-born, the massive unemployment, the irrelevant educational programs.

We could look to Nigeria, where Nigerian activists are sabotaging oil refineries, kidnapping and killing multinational oil workers and executives, demanding an end to corruption and that oil wealth benefit Nigerians, not Western corporations.

We could look to Darfur, where desertification and other environmental destruction have driven traditional peoples - from different traditions - into each other's territory, sparking genocide, refugee camps, rape, killing, starvation.

We could look to Nepal, with its lawyers shot during a peaceful demonstration in support of the rule of law.

We could look to Iraq, with its "insurgents," its executions, its ever-almost-ready police and military.

We could look to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with its prison riots spilling into police assassinations and bystander slayings.

We could open our eyes and look at America's inner cities - drive-by shootings, gang warfare, hopelessness and despair.

What will it look like here when the smoldering embers of violence spark and are fanned into full flame? When will it begin? What can we do to prevent it, quench it, understand it, contain it, direct it toward something less angry, less fearful, less hate-filled: more open, cooler, more accepting and inviting and nurturing and creative?


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