Think about it -- the leaders of our universities, cities and police are baby boomers. It seems normal to them that the authorities would respond to any politically minded gathering of students with riot police. There isn't a riot going on -- no destruction of property, no harm to people, no rampaging mobs -- but it seems normal to send riot police. It seems normal when we watch it on the news.
It seems normal to the police that the proper thing to do is to draw a line in the sand and dare people to cross it. It then seems normal to the police to arrest people, pepper spray people and beat people who cross that line. There is no crime actually happening -- but it seems normal to everyone that the police would invite defiance and criminalize it.
It is shocking to watch students being pepper sprayed. But the underlying situation seemed normal to us -- students were sitting in a circle on their own campus in a place where police said that they could not sit, and so something had to be done. Why didn't the police just walk away? Students sit on the lawn all the time. That would have been a sane response. But it seems normal to everyone that the authorities would abuse the students.
It seems normal to the present generation of leaders because that is what happened to them.
The leaders of institutions of today were all participants or witnesses to the abuse of young people decades ago. Everybody then had to take a stand on that abuse: some endured it; but were forced in time to say that they deserved it; some participated in it as young people themselves; some witnessed it and were made complicit in it by not having the tools to stop it.
Abused children grow up to be abusing parents because it seems normal.
This is what is happening right now in our country. All questioning of authority is defiance; all defiance is a crime; all measures can be used to fight crime. We are living in the craziness of an abusive family, where violence is uncontrolled, but always justified.
It is time to stop it and not pass on the abuse of the past into the future. The leaders of institutions can meet non-violence with non-violence; questions with dialogue; democracy with democracy.