Posted by: johnhourihan | October 3, 2012

Of disconnect and the quiet riot

When Republicans dredge up a five year old video tape of Barrack Obama speaking of a “disconnect” between the poor and  those in charge during the devastation of Katrina,
it occurs tome that I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the same bootless question asked whenever some horrid or violent occurrence goes unimpeded and unpunished in the poorer districts of one of our cities.
One side is now asking if this is some race-based shortcoming in the person bringing up the idea of “quiet riots.” In this case the president.
The other side says it is a day late and a dollar short, and if the Republicans thought it was important for the American people, they should have used it in the last election since it is old news.
I ask the real question, “Where were the police?”
We always ask that. We know it isn’t fair, but it makes us feel better to ask.
After some soul searching, I think I know the answer. It has to do with the night Slats got arrested for murder.
The Greek’s diner was across Route 140 from where I was hanging out. It was a back-road, two-lane highway through a map dot in Southern Massachusetts.
We could see its neon glow from the darker parking lot 30 yards away where we barely-teens converged after CYC record hops. The older crowd coming from Lakeview’s live bands would drive hot-rods and family cars into Teddy’s later. We knew the players, and we watched them like a soap opera. They would all be coming tonight — The Gravedigger, the O’Brien brothers, Billy Smith, Genovese the Dancer and Slats Connick.
It was Slats who showed up first in his drop-top ‘50 Ford flat-head, flat black racer. We had been told that he even had a suicide knob of a naked woman.
He wasn’t so cool, but he was big.
I lit a Lucky and watched as he stepped from his car. He was where 50’s stereotypes come from: Combat boots, dungarees, garrison belt, white T-shirt and jet black oiled hair.
He stepped out of his car.
“Hey, what’s he carrying?”
He looked directly across at me, cocked the shotgun, turned, kicked his car door shut and knelt down.
Then he leaned forward and lay prone beside his car for a few seconds. He flicked the cigarette off into the night and slid under the car.
Boys like Slats were our heroes, so we never even thought of calling a cop.
I don’t know which side came to the conclusion first, but cops and us had very little use for each other. We were disconnected.
We laughed at them and treated them pretty shabby, and, in turn, they didn’t listen to us and sometimes slapped us around for hardly nothing. They probably wouldn’t have come if we called, I thought later.
We watched as traffic thickened, telling us Lakeview had emptied.
As Dancer’s bull-nosed, chopped and decked, flat green Merc with the cruiser skirts and hood scoop, pulled into the Teddy’s parking lot, his lights swung around and landed directly on Slats laying under his car.
There was a blast, and the Merc’s windshield shattered.
Most of the guys in our lot ran, but I stood a while longer. The cops wouldn’t be here for a while and I wanted to see more.
Across the road to the right was Slats climbing out from under his car. A whiff of gunpowder blew by me as I looked to the left to Dancer’s Merc.
Slats emptied the second barrel into the now open windshield from a standing position.
I could see through the side window into Dancer’s front seat.
Slats dropped the gun and just stood there. His mouth open, eyes wide, beer gut hanging over his garrison belt — a standing slump.
To this day I don’t believe Slats knew his own little sister was in the front seat of Dancer’s Merc.
Dancer died that night. Slats’ sister died a few days later.
They came and arrested Slats. He did more than 20 years.
No one talked to the cops, and I don’t think the cops cared all that much.
Over breakfast, I told the story and my mother asked, “Where were the police?”
I still wonder why none of us called them.
I guess there are just some groups who have little use for each other, that between those groups there is a disconnect, and in the interim between a disaster and the arrival of help there is a quiet riot.
Or maybe that has changed.
Maybe not.
Maybe that disconnect between the poor and those in charge still exists. It sure seemed that way in the aftermath of Katrina. It sure seemed to me, at the time, that Mr. Obama was just telling the truth. I guess that’s why the Republicans didn’t use it in the last election. I guess if it was used that close in time to the truth we would all remember that it was the truth.



  1. I do believe your right.

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