Adam L. Silverman
About three weeks ago Confused Ponder in his response to Walrus about the events in Ukraine excerpted a block quote that referred to the events in Ukraine as a "botched up color revolution". What I found interesting about that reference is that none of the color revolutions have led to significant consolidation. In fact many led to follow on revolutions. This is certainly the case in Ukraine - the 2004 Orange Revolution failed, leading to several follow on state and societal crises that eventually blew up - for internal and external reasons - in the 2014 Maidan events. What happens is that expectations for change get raised, the post revolutionary government cannot meet them, and the cycle that leads to revolution starts all over again. The US has seen this phenomena too. There were several small rebellions and uprisings between the first founding and the acceptance of the Articles of Confederation and the second founding and the ratification of the Constitution. Things didn't end there with regional rebellions in the 19th Century punctuated by the Civil War, which was originally called The Great Rebellion. These were interwoven with smaller riots and uprisings. While many of these were race riots or labor riots - as in either minorities or labor fighting back against institutionalized authority or institutionalized authority violently targeting minorities or labor - there have been over 200 rebellions and uprisings since the American Revolution! They also include several sports related riots - both because some community's team won or lost. In many of these cases, including some of the sports riots, the rebellion, uprising, and/or riot occurred because expectations were raised and not met. In many ways the events we are witnessing in Baltimore this week are the result of the frustration that arises and boils over when social, political, and economic expectations are not met. While the immediate driver may have been the death of a Baltimorean in police custody, the real drivers are much, much deeper.
John Angelos, the COO of the Baltimore Orioles has made a statement about the real drivers of unrest in Baltimore this week (h/t John Cole at Balloon Juice) that provides a very easy to follow explanation of the effects of the dashed expectations that lead to revolutions, rebellions, and uprisings:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
The real question is how much longer things can continue on continuing on before this becomes more widespread than it is and moves from communities of color to the larger cross section of Americans that John Angelos references in his remarks. And perhaps the real question is whether we, as Americans, have the social, political, and economic will to make the changes necessary to bring about positive changes. And if we have leaders that can recognize opportunities for real, positive improvements rather than opportunistically exploiting the reality Angelos so clearly describes for their own and their patrons limited self interests.