Sunday, April 29, 2012

Twenty Years Ago I Was Directing Traffic. How About You?

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Four officers of the LAPD stood trial for the brutal beating of Rodney King a year before. All four were acquitted of assault charges and three were acquitted of excessive force.

And L.A. burned because of it.

The city went batshit for the next six days. Fifty-three people dead, 2000 injured. Over 3600 fires destroyed 1100 buildings and dealt almost a billion dollars in damages. The National Guard was called out. Marines came up from Pendleton.

And a lot of people risked their lives to help others.

Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck on the corner of Normandie and Florence and beaten within an inch of his life by a pissed off mob. There were no police to help him.

Instead, after seeing the scene played out on the news as it was being filmed by a helicopter, a lone, unarmed man, Bobby Green Jr., drove to the scene and pulled Denny to safety.

A few minutes later, at the same intersection, Fidel Lopez was beaten into unconsciousness and would have died if not for Reverend Bennie Newton, who put himself between the mob and Lopez telling them that if they were going to kill the man, they'd have to kill him, too.

I got stuck on Lincoln Boulevard heading home. I've never seen traffic so bad before or since, which is saying something for L.A. Horrible gridlock. People panicking. At one point I got out of my car and helped another guy direct traffic just so we could get cars moving.

Hardly heroic, but I'd like to think it helped a little bit.

On this twentieth anniversary of a really shitty week I don't want to think about the looting, the fires or the people who did terrible things out of anger and frustration. I don't want to dwell on the race problems and bullshit politics that made the riots possible. I don't want to focus on the problems that are still apparent, and the inequalities that set L.A. on fire.

I think about that shit every fucking day.

Today I want to remember the men and women who did the right thing. Who went out of their way to help their friends, neighbors and total strangers. I want to remember the people who put themselves in harm's way. The paramedics and firefighters, the police who put themselves in the line of fire to keep them alive, the doctors and nurses who drove into a war zone to do their jobs, the civilians who crossed their fingers, kept their heads down and did what they could.

So do me a favor, would you? Help somebody out today. Make someone's life a little better. Give 'em a hug, buy 'em a beer. Stand up for somebody less fortunate. Fight for somebody's equality. Pull somebody out of the gutter.

Big things, small things, I don't care. Just make the world a better place, would ya?



le0pard13 said...

Hear, hear.

Stan R. Mitchell said...

Great post. I'm looking forward to reviewing your work. It's on my reading list.