I haven’t been able to follow the riots in London as much as I wish I could, so I can’t say that I’m really well enough informed to say much about them.
But when has that ever stopped me?
I grew up in Los Angeles, and I was in my freshman year at Occidental College when the verdict acquitting the four LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King came down. I watched my city burn. I watched helicopter coverage from South Central. I saw a 7-11 next door to the pizza place from which we would get pizza on Saturday shifts for Saferides trashed. I heard radio chatter about the national guard needing support while I drove the campus escort van. I watched flames from what turned out to be the home of an elderly lady from my church.
It was sickening, and I have no doubt that the vast majority of Londoners feel the same way.
Eventually, hopefully soon, order will be restored and the cleanup can begin. So will the talking.
Some will say that the rioting was just caused by thugs, by ill behaved gangs of disaffected youth and criticize the police for not just going in and busting heads.
Others will analyze the social conditions and the underlying causes of the riots. They will criticize the police for busting heads, too often and too rapidly.
The thing is, the answer is somewhere in the middle. Violence should never be condoned, and once started, it needs to be stopped. But, to simply take a hard line against the rioters and label them as some kind of dangerous “other” is to dismiss the fact that rioters don’t riot for nothing. You need a spark to light a fire, but you also need kindling. There is always an underlying cause, maybe understandable, maybe not. There is always a reason, and that reason needs to be explored and identified.