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“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Race-War In America”

I was in the streets of Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic Convention. It was only a few months after Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot to death. The “establishment,” as we called it back then, was all set to nominate Vice-president Hubert Humphrey who had started out in Washington as a Midwestern progressive firebrand but was now was broadly perceived by America’s hippie youth as a stooge and a sell-out to the evil forces running the Vietnam War.

I wasn’t exactly a protester, more like a proto-journalist, there to witness an epochal event. It was a wild three days with a lot of moiling in Lincoln Park and Grant Park, and finally out on Michigan Avenue the night of Humphrey’s awful apotheosis, where things got especially ugly and the tear gas canisters flew. But that was about it. Nobody got killed by the police, or vice-versa, and then we all went back to college (my SUNY school cost $500-a-year back then, by the bye). Nixon was the consolation prize.

Back then, it was in style to assassinate political leaders. Today it’s in fashion to assassinate police. It’s hard to imagine easier targets. Where trouble is brewing in the streets nowadays, there they stand: right out in front, easily distinguished in their uniforms. That was exactly the picture on the front page of The New York Times today: the thin blue line in Cleveland, where the Republican convention convenes this week to nominate the golden deus ex machina Donald Trump. There are few things in life one can predict with certainty, but given the grave events of recent weeks, it is hard to see how deadly gunplay might be avoided at the 2016 Republican convention.

Maybe the police will just decide to stay indoors and not present themselves as targets. Likelihood of that: not much. Ohio officials are talking about suspending the “open carry” law for the duration of the event. That would probably make for better “optics” than, say, an armed mob brandishing repeating rifles, but even if that law is suspended, it’s not hard to imagine people carrying weapons in a guitar case or a backpack. The killing meme is just on, like the deadly spirits that wafted out of Pandora’s Box.

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