LA Riots Remembered

Two decades later, the world still burns

My friend suffered his first and only nervous breakdown early that morning, shutting himself into his room for most of the next day, unable to speak. We never really talked about it, although occasionally we joked about how he'd suffered a "psychedelic freak-out." I finally asked him about the episode a few weeks ago. He was at a loss to explain what had happened, except to call the experience a "head-on collision with the reality principle" that produced a "radical disjuncture" in his brain.

At the time, his mind simply couldn't grasp the vastness of his alienation from his social peers, people for whom what was happening on the streets was either only a nuisance or held absolutely no meaning at all. By the time I saw myself kicking that door via television 10 years later, I'd aged to the point it was actually exciting to realize the whole thing really was caught on camera. I managed to record the broadcast and eventually wore out the tape showing it to friends and family members, the youngest of whom only knew about the riots thanks to the Sublime song. I married my girlfriend and had a kid, who's 7 now and knows nothing of any of this.

Looking back to April 29, 1992, with the benefit of two decades of hindsight, one thought remains. The revolution my college friend and I had hoped to join by going downtown never happened, but we were just play-acting, anyways, pretending that what we were doing and what was happening was real.

No justice, no peace
Ted Soqui
No justice, no peace

It wasn't. Now we're half a lifetime older, and there's a new generation trying to sort out what it all means while we raise families and worry about our next paychecks amid a global, great depression. Time seems to be running out, and the world is falling apart just fine without us.

This article appeared in print as "Burning World: The LA Riots, 20 years later."

« Previous Page