I have been listening to Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland on Audible for the last week or so. I started reading it back when it originally came out, but didn’t make it very far before I had to return it to the library. The lack of progress that first time with the book had much less to do with the book itself than that my first kid had recently been born, and I had little time for reading.
It is an excellent book, and well worth reading.
As it happens, I have hit the part of the book in which Perlstein is describing the civil unrest that happened around the country (Watts, Chicago, Cleveland, etc.) in the mid- to late 1960s in the wake of the Civil Rights Act and further efforts to desegregate American cities. As I am reading these chapters, my Twitter and RSS feeds are filling up with commentary on the unrest in Ferguson, MO following the shooting of Michael Brown and the apparent lack of indictment of the Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot him. While the current protests do not match those described in Nixonland in breadth and depth, the reactions to them seem basically the same: mealy-mouthed platitudes about how violence never solves anything and paranoid white demagoguery about black-on-black violence.
The similarity is both striking and depressing. Here we are, fifty years later, and how much has really changed? We still deny basic human rights and dignity to large swaths of our citizenry, and then express surprise and outrage when they push back.