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"Can We All Get Along?"

It was overcast that Wednesday. I was in a mood. I'd been in a mood throughout that semester; I was in a college creative writing class and survived my first real critque. Our teacher had to go teach a seminar on something so we had a subsititute that wasn't as, what's the word, nice? It wasn't like he tore me apart or anything, but step by step he dismantled this story I'd been working on all semester long. It was about a girl in Catholic School who during a rainy day at school after a fun game of Heads Up Seven Up is treated to a DARE woman who lights up pot to teach the children to "stay away from this smell!" Their teacher becomes so scared she tells the children to flee. It was half made up, half true, like all my stories.

Anyway the teacher said that the story had no resolution, nothing to say the character had changed. "You have what it takes to be a wonderful writer," he told me. "But it's going to take work." I just looked at him and thought what? I want to be a wonderful writer now, damnit!

So I was a bit bummed. I met Meranda and her then boyfriend after class and they took me for yogurt. I managed to laugh, realize it wasn't all bad. When I got home around twoish, I felt better and ready to go to the library for work.

After watching Guiding Light I started brushing my hair, putting on makeup, getting ready for work. The TV was still on, a Barney Miller rerun. In the bathroom, I overheard a breaking news update: They reached a verdict on the Rodney King case.

 

I was still brushing my hair. Yeah, I had long hair, wanting to look like Sarah Miles in Ryan's Daughter. It was a bit difficult to deal with; always getting tangly, and I had a problem eating soup because my hair ends would get in the soup. Still that day I had long hair, brushing it out, half listening to the news. It was going to be guilty; it had to be guilty.

 

 

CBS went to the courtroom and we saw the four police officers, sitting in a table, looking nervous. I wondered if they were envisioning themselves in bright prison orange. They started reading the verdicts. Stacey Koon, not guilty. I stopped brushing my hair. What the hell? Lawrence Powell, not guilty. I walked out of the bathroom, hairbrush in my hand. Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty repeated over and over. And I thought oh God. Oh no.

Yet I had to go to work. I needed to go to work. I kept on brushing my hair, then when I was done I put on my shoes and walked to work. I felt slightly stunned. Like everyone, I'd seen Rodney King being beaten up on grainy black and white images. The officers kicked him, rammed him with batons, and tasered (thanks wikipedia for this info) him. It was bad, really bad. That there wasn't one guilty verdict felt so wrong. I had a bad bad feeling about what was going to happen.

The next day I stayed home from school, still feel stunned. I can't tell you why I felt like I did. I guess I was incredibly naive. I believed if you did something wrong, you were punished. Yes, bad things happened, but that was in the past. This was 1992, things had changed, right?  I give you permission to laugh. But it was the truth. I really felt like that. But I realized what many had before me: justice could be blind, deaf, and dumb. And incredibly dopey.

I ended up eating Ben and Jerry's all day and watched CNN. I made myself wash my hair and put it up. As I did I kept on thinking of Ryan's Daughter (if you haven't seen the movie, skip to the next paragraph) Rosy (Sarah Miles) is accused of a crime by the jackasses in her small Irish village. They hit her, then sheared her hair. Her beautiful beautiful hair. And she didn't do the crime she was accused of. And it was unfair. Incredibly unfair, but yet again, who said life was fair? Rodney King certainly knew it wasn't fair.

And yet, I saw Rodney King wearing a blue sweater, looking at the camera. He said, in a slow voice: "Can we all get along?" Oh Rodney. I wasn't sure. I suddenly understood the meaning of what Jacqueline Kennedy said after Robert Kennedy died: "I hate this country...they're killing Kennedys and my kids are number one targets."  I didn't hate my country, but I sure didn't like it much. It was then I decided I would look into the London semester DVC offered. I knew I had to leave. I just hoped when I came back, I could see the country maybe with not rose colored glasses, but maybe a tinted pink. I turned off the TV and went to work.