Sunday, May 31, 2020

Some reflections on campus unrest in 1969 - 1970 year at Washington State University in light of Spring 2020 protests nationwide.

News of the riots brings back memories of the late 1969 - 70 era. I was growing up in Pullman, WA. A freshman in high school. Pullman isn't a big city, but it wasn't exempt from violence; property damage that is. Pullman is a college town.

My most dramatic memory was when the football stadium was set on fire. Arson is pretty easy to do; especially when the target is an old wooden structure. The grandstands were made out of wood. A fire ravaged the south grandstands and to this day no one knows who set the fire or what the motive was; from what I understand. It may have had nothing to do with the protests.

While things like this are disturbing, they are also a bit exciting. I remember watching till around 1 AM. Lots of people were watching. My parents at first, but they eventually went back home.

Interesting to note that my parents didn't seem worried about me out there by myself. This must have been before the current era of "helicopter parents."

Eventually, I got back home okay. The house was unlocked most of the time. There was crime, but maybe less worry? Looking back, there is the thought of innocence, but that's probably somewhat of a myth. Today, there's quite a bit of fear and suspicion.

Quite a bit of other violence affected Pullman that year. To protest the condition of farm workers, some folks took baseball bats to the wine sections in two supermarkets in Pullman. Dismore's and Rosaeur's.

They smashed wine bottles all over the place. I just heard about this in the news, but whenever I pass the wine section in a supermarket, that memory still comes up.

That thought also comes up at a few "wine and cheese parties;" tho I haven't been to many of those kind of parties. On another morning, I remember being greeted by my mom at the breakfast table with phrase, "bricks through the bookstore windows." Apparently that news had just been on the radio. Someone decided to throw bricks through the plate glass windows of the Student Bookstore on campus.

Pullman had a lot of teach ins and protests back then. Anti Vietnam War rallies, protests against racism, the farm workers union starting and so forth. Most rallies were non violent, but there was the violence also.

One of the outcomes of that era has been tighter security. More locked doors. There is a wider gap between the halves and the have not's than before. Those with the most power usually prevail when violence becomes the means of expression.

I still think there are better and more creative ways to rebel against the social order. The gay movement has made lots of progress and it's mostly non violent, tho admittedly there was the Stonewall Riots and a few other things. The White Night Riots after the Dan White verdict; for instance.

Rebellion can mean folks wanting change become their own enemies. Internal strife. Then the divide and conquer strategy sets in. There are so many contradictory goals. The need for people; women for instance, to feel safe versus folks wishing to express themselves with little in the way of boundaries. There's the interests of small businesses. Lots of different situations.

Thinking about racism, it's interesting to note that quite a few people are trying to defend single family zoning. Yuppies that don't want less fortunate people in their neighborhoods? Sometimes neighbors can be "trouble;" admittedly. Recently, there has been quite a bit of talk about the racial history of zoning in the late 1940's and 1950's. Similar patterns today as reinforced by income.

There is sure a lot to think about. I can go on and on, but I could be rambling.

I hope people can find creative ways to disrupt oppressive things, but violence usually leads to more repression