Too Remote for Revolt?

I believe a blog is a great forum to interpose controversial questions and hypotheticals, and to see how my peers and colleagues respond. Keeping in conformity with my latest post concerning what has been happening in Egypt and Libya, I’ve often wondered if something of the sort could ever happen in our own country? When I asked a few friends what they thought of the idea, they looked at me as if law school has completely fried my brain. Admittedly, I believe it has, but at the same time I did not think that the idea was so completely “out there.” Here’s why… As a country, we have seen what happens to a nation when it is at its worst. At the outset of our founding, we had the Revolutionary War. Change was necessary and democratic means was not the answer to inspire that change. To the contrary, war was what won our independence from Great Britain. Jumping ahead many years, the Civil Rights Movement was a violent war itself. While protestors tried to use peaceful means to institute change in a racially divided America, those opposed to change used violent measures to show their lack of support towards integration. Many of my peers to whom I have posed this question have snapped back at me with the idea that our country as a whole is more civilized then a country such as Libya. They further state that our nation, with strong law enforcement agencies and well-trained armies, would never let such revolt occur. By no means do I wish to see a violent revolt break out in the streets of Manhattan, but it makes me wonder if the will of the people will always outlast the bullets or jail bars standing in their way.

3 comments

  1. I think the people of Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia are reacting to some of the same things that the colonists reacted to in the 1700’s. The need to have control over your community/country seems to be deep seated in all people.

    So when considering whether something similar could happen in America, there would first need to be a deprivation of something similarly deep seated in order to spark the unrest.

    And I think the United States political system is effective enough at addressing these fundamental problems (the Civil Rights Movement and the legislation that followed is a good example). I can’t foresee the government growing so out of touch that it would be unable to resolve the types of disputes that would potentially lead to widespread violence.

  2. Actually, this is a topic I’ve discussed at length with friends before. I disagree with Nick in that it’s the political system that has been effective at preventing unrest; rather, it’s American culture and media that’s ultra-effective at subsuming the counterculture and the rumblings of unrest. It’s utterly reduced the power of protest in America.

    Those that would potentially be angry have been convinced they can “express” themselves via consumer culture: buying t-shirts with Che Guevera’s face on it; tattooing guns on their necks; slapping a magnetic “ribbon” on their car, or rubber bracelet on their wrist for the cause of the moment. Those that are angry are largely convinced that there is nothing that can be done: elections are rigged; lobbyists, corporations and industry hold insurmountable sway; protests MAY get short-lived attention — if you’re famous [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/30/daryl-hannah-arrested-at-white-house]. Everyone in between is a fragmented mess, generally content to let talking heads speak for them if it sounds vaguely right and completely contrary to those crazies in the [red/blue] states.

    There was a tense period and a real possibility of great change that passed with the Vietnam War. The New Left, a promising, significant, intellectual and political reformist movement became overly associated with, overtaken and ultimately made impotent by the hippie counterculture that soon became mainstream. Sit-in’s and protests haven’t had the same power since. I think the closest that discontent has risen since was the 2000 Election, followed closely by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. But nothing happened. When I was at NYU, the entire student body walked out of classes, including some faculty, and marched to Union Square to protest the wars. Not a single major news channel covered it, as far as I knew.

    The riots in the United Kingdom, similarly considered a peaceful democracy, were totally unexpected. Every Londoner I spoke to while I was there said no one ever could have imagined something like that could happen in their country. Canada has riots over hockey games alone. Can mass violence break out in the U.S.? Absolutely.

  3. It could happen here in the US, but it’s doubtful. Everyone is so apathetic to what happens around them, that it’s hard to imagine anything changing. Another reason is that young people (who are usually the most likely to revolt) don’t feel like there is anything that needs to be fought over. For the most part, people of different races are treated equally, women are mostly equal with men etc… I also get the feeling that kids just don’t think that doing anything would matter. One of my friends refuses to vote because he thinks his vote doesn’t have any meaning. If we can’t even get kids to vote, how can we even contemplate revolution?

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