A small town’s dance of violence

I was watching “Love Actually” with my girlfriend when police dispersed a drunken mob of 300-400 college-aged people whooping it up in the streets with pepper balls, smoke, bean-bag guns and flash-bang grenades. It didn’t last very long, but I’ll have to admit I got a little sweaty just watching it on YouTube.

“What is y’alls struggle?” my English professor asks. It’s the first day of class since the “riot.”

Students mutter the usual college, work, family, relationships. We are studying African Science Fiction, which at its core, is about a struggle for unity and autonomy; Pan-Afrikanism in the genre, as well as in the physical world.

The students in my class make no mention of the riot, missing it completely or  dismissing it as drunken violence plain and simple.

Some in the mob threw empty bottles at the rows of cop cars that surrounded them. Some tore out street signs and paraded them in the street. On the police scanner I heard additional reports of violence in downtown Bellingham at bars and in clubs, as if it had spread like a stubborn bacteria.

“What is y’alls struggle?” my professor asks again.

Unlike the African sci-fi stories we have studied, we find ourselves in a predominantly white, mid-to-upper class town attending a decent school. What is our struggle? Someone says boredom… and then we’re on to something.

Frantz Fanon writes about the need for a repressed culture to express itself through dance – a metaphor for aggression – in “On Violence.” The rivaling tribes fight each other in an attempt to release “gas” from their valves. Fanon believes their violence is necessary, even when it is internal and not directed at their repressors.

What is our struggle? Are we trying to create one? Is the Bellingham riot a psychological release? I try my hardest to believe that violence is not a necessity when a group of people are being repressed. But then my professor says that my generation is headed for dark times in comparison to those previous I can’t help but think of the worst.

It seems silly to think that this act of violence in Bellingham is reflective of what’s going on with the U.S. as a whole. But in a way, it makes perfect sense. Those who championed anarchy on Indian Street – however briefly – still managed to attain some semblance of power. It’s a little scary, mainly because these people are so young. But is a fascinating place I find myself in, as a student and as a journalist.

Maybe dark times are ahead.

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