Riots have an interesting history. At the Boston Tea Party, patriots stood against tyranny of the British by destroying tea on American ships. July 14 — the French celebrate Bastille Day — a day citizens burned down a police station and prison. We celebrate May Day, May 1, which commemorates the 1894 labor riots in Cleveland where police shot and killed protesters.

Riots of the past can become the holidays of the present. Given the problems our country faces, the riots today are unfortunate, but predictable.

Chris L’Hommedieu

I was an Air Force brat growing up in “socialist” Europe, spent time in the military and have 22 years as a bankruptcy attorney. As a “liberal” I see staggering deficiencies in our system. I love this country, but you can love your country and recognize its flaws.

Those flaws are turning into festering wounds. The protests across the country are about more than the death of George Floyd. They are about inequality and a disregard for the needs of average citizens. These are but a few:

Heath care: I have served hundreds of people having to file bankruptcy because they got sick — even with insurance. I call health insurance “doctor’s wealth insurance.” The doctors, the insurance company executives and hospital administrators get wealthy while people who paid $8,000 a year for insurance go bankrupt. We have a for-profit health care system that leaves large swaths of the country without adequate care, while millions still have no insurance. Our system costs double that of other countries, with far worse overall outcomes.

Education: The best indicator of your future wealth is the wealth of your parents. College is now out of the financial reach of most Americans. Twenty-one-year-olds come out of college with crushing debt. The quality of our high schools depends on where you live; while a school in a rich neighborhood weighs investing in a planetarium and applauds the sailing team, poor schools struggle to buy textbooks.

Policing: A black man is far more likely to be killed by an officer than a white man; more likely to be imprisoned for the same crime; more likely to have a longer sentence. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the western world.

Income inequality: Working people are one paycheck from disaster. Mitt Romney owed 7% tax on $20 million in income, while working Joes pay over 20%.

Elections: In the U.S., the party that wins the least seats wins total power. Donald Trump lost by 3 million votes but “won.” Senate Democrats represent 9 million more Americans than Republicans, but Republicans are cramming through a record number of far-right wing judges. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina, Democrats won the most votes but still lost the state houses. Polling places in southern state minority districts are being closed en masse.

Guns: With 1.2 guns per man, woman and child, the U.S. tops the world in gun deaths — some 40,000 per year. No other Western country is even close. Despite this, federal law makes it illegal for the U.S. government to track gun deaths. With so many guns on the street, is it any wonder police live in perpetual fear of the next person they stop? I’d lock and load, too, if I were a cop. You never know, with so many guns in this country.

American police kill more than 1,000 people a year. Norwegian police haven’t killed a single person in 10 years. Ten. Years.

We live in a country of extreme income and wealth inequality; inequality in access to health care, to groceries, education, equal justice, and on and on and on.

Martin Luther Kind said “riots are the language of the unheard.” Americans of all stripes — Trump supporters and otherwise — are not being heard. They have legitimate grievances about the quality of life in the richest nation on the plant.

Let’s be honest. This nation is failing. On many levels. These riots may be seen by history as the catalyst for positive change and have a holiday named after them. Or, they may be just a footnote. Time will tell.

Let us hope, and pray, that all this leads to positive changes.

Chris LHommedieu is a lawyer. He has an office in Lewiston.


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