CSotD: Fort Sumter, Minnesota

There’s no point in trying to discuss the current situation chronologically, so let’s start with Matt Wuerker’s cartoon, which assumes a moment midstream.

And it assumes an old-fashioned view of calling in the National Guard, because that was how you tamped down vicious local cops back in the days of Little Rock and such.

But it was the National Guard that opened fire on demonstrators at Kent State, and that was the difference between their being called out during the Eisenhower administration and their being called out in the Nixon years.


A brief but relevant discursion: The release of Derf Backderf’s excellent graphic history of Kent State (which I reviewed here) was delayed by his publisher because of the coronavirus, and I hope they are kicking themselves. It’s highly, highly relevant to what’s going on right now and even if Derf couldn’t run around giving speeches, people could have still bought the book.

One of Lyndon Johnson’s favorite phrases was from Isaiah: “Come, let us reason together.” Of course, one of the reasons LBJ was such a good VP for the charismatic, inexperienced Kennedy was that he had a long history in the Senate of having his opponents’ testicles firmly in hand as he invited them to reason with him.

The difference between Johnson and McConnell being that Johnson generally had the public good in mind, at least on Civil Rights if not in Vietnam.

Which attitude brings us to our first

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Clay Bennett)

(Ann Telnaes)

There are any number of “pouring gas on the fire” cartoons out there; one of those cases where the idea came quickly enough that cartoonists should have realized how many of their colleagues were also having it.

Bennett improves on the concept by avoiding the cliche and even making it comically absurd. Not only are the antique bellows funny, but Trump playing dress-up is doubly so, even if the situation itself is far from humorous.

But even that iteration assumes Trump was stoking a fire already kindled, and I like Telnaes’ accusation that he started the blaze himself, intentionally.

It’s not simply this week’s riots. It’s three years of dividing our country into irreconcilable teams, which is why Wuerker’s idea of reminding cops of the Bill of Rights seems weak.

It’s like reminding a drunk that he promised to come home sober.

John and Yoko wondered aloud what someone had done to little Adolph as a child that turned him into the evil genocidal monster he grew up to be, to which Frank Zappa responded “That’s an interesting observation, but it doesn’t solve the problem in 1938.”

And, as he went on to say, the problem wasn’t that Hitler existed but that people in Germany welcomed his message.

Which seemed highly theoretical 34 years ago but has since become terrifyingly real.


The police are well aware of the Bill of Rights, but the corrupt bullyboys among them — as seen in this popular 1967 poster, as seen in the 1973 film, “Serpico” — consider it a barrier to “doing their jobs,” which, in turn, they consider to be keeping “other people” in their place.

Since then, we’ve turned Dirty Harry into a hero for having the same attitude.

It’s certainly true that, to these corrupt cops, “other people” can be identified by their skin color, but at other times, in other places, they were identifiable by six-pointed stars on their clothing or, more recently, by long hair.


Or by their microphones and cameras, this Louisville news team, pepper-balled by police on camera last night, giving the lie to the notion that they single out black and Latino reporters.

Lord, if it were only that simple.


Pat Bagley is one of many to note that the armed demonstrators in the Michigan capitol building were not tear-gassed or beaten by the police.

He’s right, of course, but, to begin with, Michigan and Minnesota are not the same place and these were not the same cops.

It’s fair to ask “Why can’t you show restraint like those police did?”

To which one answer might be “Michigan cops are better trained, better led and more disciplined.”

I don’t know if that’s true, but I would like to see more police forces increase training and use more discretion in hiring.

I’ve seen places where training included getting a BA and I’ve seen places where they hired any knuckle-dragger who could find his way into the building.

But there’s a second answer in the Michigan case, which is “They came in, they made their stupid speeches, they left.”

Similar to the “New Black Panthers” a few years ago, who gave rightwingers the vapors by standing outside a voting station with guns but were neither gassed nor beaten for it.

Even the case of one CNN team arrested while another CNN team scant blocks away was treated respectfully doesn’t necessarily prove racism, since it more likely proves that some cops are assholes and some cops are decent people.

One day on the way back from lunch, I came across yellow tape and huge numbers of cop cars (a bank robbery), so I pulled over. A snarling cop told me I couldn’t cross the tape, so I explained that I was a reporter and he told me to get out of there.

I drove around the corner, crossed the tape and waved my reporter’s pad to the cop there who nodded and let me pass.


Sometimes it goes bad, but, in the words of Dan Rather, “It’s all in a day’s work.”

We’ll see how the next few days unfold. There’s no doubt Trump has done a masterful job of dividing our nation, and this could be the first clash of a civil war fought not between armies but between fellow citizens.

People absolutely should take to the streets, because nothing else ever seems to work.

Still, demonstrations are only one tool in the box, and owning a hammer does not make you a master cabinetmaker.

And if you do go out there, stay safe and listen to the people who know the rules:

4 thoughts on “CSotD: Fort Sumter, Minnesota

  1. FWIW, the New Black panthers had a large stick, not a gun. And they were there to PROTECT voters, not to stop people from voting. That last little detail kept getting omitted by the press for some reason.

  2. Actually, in the first American Civil War (1861-1865) they were fellow citizens too.

    Having not seen Derf”s book I don’t know if he includes this bit of info : A week or two before KSU, the same guard units were deployed during a Teamsters’ strike. Without live ammo.

    Because if they’d fired even one real shot at the Teamsters, they would have had their rifles shoved down their throats.Or up some other part of their anatomy.

    Yes, just scared angry kids on both sides. But Gov. James Rhodes was neither.

  3. Derf was a 10-year-old in a suburb of Akron, where those National Guardsmen were deployed against the Teamsters strike, and yes it looms large at the beginning of the book.

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