Culture Rover

#167 - Arsenal of Democracy

Last week was the fortieth anniversary of the Detroit riots, alternatively known as the Detroit rebellion. NPR's Talk of the Nation did a nice show on the topic, but one of the best descriptions that Culture Rover has ever read comes from Jeffrey Eugenides's novel Middlesex.

Here is how the young Calliope/Cal Stephanides witnesses events from her bike as she follows a line of National Guard tanks into downtown Detroit:

"A real battle is under way now, a firefight, a little bit of Vietnam brought back home. But in this case the Vietcong are lying on Beautyrest mattresses. They are sitting in camping chairs and drinking malt liquor, a volunteer army facing off against the enlistees in the streets.

It's impossible to know who all these snipers were. But it's easy to understand why the police called them snipers. It's easy to understand why Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh called them snipers, and Governor George Romney too. A sniper, by definition, acts alone. A sniper is cowardly, sneaky; he kills from a distance, unseen. It was convenient to call them snipers, because if they weren't snipers, then what were they? The governor didn't say it:; the newspapers didn't say it; the history books still do not say it, but I who watched the entire thing on my bike, saw it clearly: in Detroit, in July of 1967, what happened was nothing less than a guerrilla uprising.

The Second American Revolution."

1 August 2007

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