"We gotta sit around at home and watch this thing begin
but I bet there won't be many left to see it really end
'cause the fire in the street ain't like the fire in the heart
and in the eyes of all these people don't ya know that this could start
on any street in any town, in any state if any clown
decides that now's the time to fight for some ideal he thinks is right
and if a million more agree there ain't no Great Society
as it applies to you and me, our country isn't free..."
-Frank Zappa, "Trouble Every Day"
On April 25, 2010, two state representatives called on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to deploy the National Guard; Democrats John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford said they wanted Quinn, Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis to allow guardsmen to patrol streets and help quell violence.
"As we speak, National Guard members are working side-by-side with our troops to fight a war halfway around the world," Fritchey said. "The unfortunate reality is that we have another war that is just as deadly taking place right in our backyard."
As of April 25, 2010, across Chicago, 113 people had been killed, the same number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined in the same period.
At roughly the same time Ford and Fritchey were declaring Chicago a war zone, thousands of protesters descended on Arizona's Capitol to rally against a tough new immigration law . Arizona Senate Bill 1070 requires police to question people about their immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.
Once this bill was signed into law, several organizations canceled planned conventions in Arizona. The American Immigration Lawyers Association announced that it was moving its fall convention, which was originally scheduled for Scottsdale. "We just felt that given this new law signed by the governor that it would not be right for our association to meet and convene there and take on the issues of immigration in a state that passed such a misguided bill," said George Tzamaras, spokesman for the group.
In 1978, in Memphis, TN, members of the Memphis Fire Department had similar grievances. They said the department treated men like boys. They said they were unhappy about what they called a hostile work environment, about management that presumed employees were guilty until proven innocent, and about unfair charges brought against those who questioned management.
In July of the same year, all the firemen (except the chiefs) went on strike, and to up the ante, they started setting fire to abandoned buildings and houses. The National Guard was called in and curfews were enforced. Still the fires continued with only a handful of chiefs and inexperienced National Guardsmen to fight them. At the height of the strike, an intoxicated worker at one of the city's electric substations threw a switch that turned off a large segment of the city's electric grid; in the total darkness you could see fires burning all over the city. Half the population of Memphis went to bed with their guns, certain the other half had declared war on them.
Approximately 350 fires were reported before a court order halted the 3-day strike, and during this time, Memphis police and teachers also went on strike.
In Los Angeles, in 1992, after the acquittal of three police officers who beat him within an inch of his life and the city-wide riots which ensued, Rodney King appeared before the television cameras and plaintively asked, "Can't we all just get along?"
Having propelled ourselves amongst the stars, we are no less inventive in finding ways to justify our fears.
Unfortunately, the answer to Mr. King’s query, is No.
The fire in the street ain't like the fire, in the heart.