“Gangs stash guns for more riots”
So reads the headline of a Sky News article.
The image of the contraband is telling and bizarre: two flintlocks, two flare guns and an antiquated revolver. This is hardly what I’d think of as evidence of a planned violent uprising.
I half expected the report to continue, “Next to the arms was a menacing pile of sticks and stones, likely amassed with the same evil intent.”
A concerned citizen tipped a reporter about the stash; he then contacted the police who responded with a raid of thirty officers, including an armed contingent (were they carrying flintlocks too?). Interested museum curators were later called in to process the booty.
What kind of gang would actually boast about their collection of flintlocks?
This is not planning for a riot; this is an act of desperation which begs the question not what was gathered, but why.
Are these “angry young men” really so desperate for attention that they would pinch their grandpa’s antique weaponry? And if so, what do they want? More flat screen TVs? Another laptop? Free broadband? Membership in the local Black Powder and Musket Club?
A central tenet of Martin Luther King’s philosophy was that the oppressor will never voluntarily concede his power to the oppressed: that it must be taken by the oppressed or forced from his hand by the legislature. The civil rights movement triumphed in the first with non-violent confrontation, later succeeding in the second through the witness of their constructive efforts.
The real genius of the movement was that it simply held a mirror before the angry mob. Shame did the work that words and bullets could not. It was only when the oppressor understood the disgraceful injustice of his own deeds that he became willing to admit his wrong.
The more I think about the work of this “gang” the more it sounds like a joke played out at the expense of the Red Coats. But the question of the real message remains unanswered.
Who is the oppressor in the case of our recent national shame? Who is perpetrating violence on whom? Is it the “bad guys” in the hoods brazenly waving their 18th century side arms? Is it the “good guys” in the riot gear trying desperately to restore order? Is it the once apathetic, now outraged citizenry? Is it the high street robber-barons? Is it bankers and corporate executives bagging millions at the expense of the common man? Is it you? Is it me?
Better yet, who needs to have a look in the mirror?