One reason literate people like you and I feel uncomfortable as we survey the passing scene is as follows.
Back in mid-August of the year 1837, in England, an election was held, apparently on schedule. Queen Victoria was newly ascended to the throne and a Lord John Russell reported the election results to her in a letter. It reads:
Lord John Russell is sorry to add that bribery, intimidation, and drunkenness have been very prevalent at the late elections, and that in many cases the disposition to riot has only been checked by the appearance of the Military, who have in all cases conducted conducted themselves with great temper and judgment.
I want to call your attention to the “the disposition to riot has only been checked by the appearance of the Military” part.
An obvious reaction is how it feels like this could have been written last week. But such obviousness makes it a blasé reaction, and you deserve better.
The deeper, more profound reaction—the reason for our uncomfortableness—comes upon reflection that rioters like to pretend that their actions are accomplishing something noble. The tale they spin has an “ends justify the means” flavor. Rioters, or those who explain away rioters’ actions as What do you expect?!, load their words with a, “This will be the last time riots are necessary. If you only capitulate to their/our demands, then there will be no more riots,” sentiment.
This is a lie told by criminals.
What were the near riots about in 1837 England? Who cares. What were they about in 1968 in America? Who cares. What were they about last week? Who cares.
The thing that I do care about, the thing that matters, is you and I, the literate, properly identify our problem—uncomfortableness—and address it.
Put bluntly, our problem is we are not quite sure how to effectively explain to rioters, or those who see it as justifiable, that they are merely criminals and/or defending criminal behavior. We’d like to believe words could help. We’d like to believe a conversation would work. We’d like to believe all people, at all times, have something to say that’s worth a listen. The trouble is we can read. Consequently, we know that riots will occur again. And in that instance they will, again, be criminal. And criminal behavior, by definition, is incapable of communicating and reasoning in a civilized manner. So off to jail, by use of force or threat of force, the rioters go.
Conclusion-style, then, we have to admit a truth that we’re generally uncomfortable with; we have to admit that the conversation, the explanation, is foolish to attempt. (Well, we have to admit this if we want to regain our peace, if we want to end the uncomfortableness.) To be clear, I’m commending that we don’t even listen to them. There is nothing to be gained by “understanding” the rioters or those that would defend their behavior—only something to be lost: time.