Friday, April 15, 2011
It's hard to imagine Lydia McKenzie starting a riot. She doesn't like to ride the subway because it forces her to stand too close to strangers. But starting a riot isn't always intentional.
Riots are frightening. A whole crowd surges and moves like a tsunami. People get trampled and killed. I've never been in a riot, but I have been in some really scary situations. I was once afraid that I and my infant son would get crushed on 5th Avenue in the Christmas crowd. People were pushing and shoving and there wasn't room for everyone. I had to work my way to the police barricades and demand to be let out. The cop didn't want to do it at first, so I used my best Jedi Master imitation (and threatened to call 911). He opened up the barricade and I marched off through the cars on 5th Avenue still carrying my child and his stroller. I didn't start shaking until a few minutes later. Delayed shock.
Years ago, when my husband and I were living in Paris, we were riding the subway to a friend's house for dinner. Someone tossed a tear gas canister into our subway car as a joke. I can still remember vividly the helpless feeling of being blind as the crowd rushed toward us. I think of that often when I see footage of the police firing "harmless" tear gas at protestors. The oddest part of the story was that when we arrived at our dinner party full of our adventures, our French friends assured us that it happened all the time. Not cool.
Lydia isn't much of a rabble-rouser, to be honest. She wouldn't hesitate to interfere or speak up if she thought someone was getting picked on or abused. She has a strong sense of justice. But why would she want a crowd to get all riled up? I can only imagine that it might be in order to distract a killer so someone could get away. And in hipster Williamsburg it's a bit difficult to arouse passions in an ironic crowd. So what would get them excited? A big sale on Clove cigarettes? A free Brian Eno concert in McCarren Park? A Bud Lite to the first 100 people to enter a bar? Who knows. But hopefully she'll never have to start trouble on the street. Too often the trouble just finds her. And a riot does nothing to stop it.