I went dancing at the Florentine Gardens, a local disco and bar, the other night when the crowd was nearly incited to riot.
Why? Was it because the U.S. Senate had just approved military aid for the contras in Nicaragua and the crowd was protesting the possibility of another Vietnam War. Or was it because the disco crowd was chomping at the bit to join the nuclear disarmament advocates on their march to Washington ?
Well, no. None of these things came up.
In actuality, the Florentine Gardens had sold 200 more tickets than their maximum-capacity license allowed. And the disco was being closed a few hours early by the fire marshal.
While I joined in with the mostly college-age crowd in chanting “we want our money back,” I began to ask myself a whole series of questions. Was our money all that we wanted? Was there anything else that would satisfy us?
I was distracted by the whole three-ring circus of officials that were gathering on Hollywood Boulevard, where the Florentine is located.
Fire trucks and police cars lined the streets. A dozen or so police officers were lined up with billy clubs ready. One officer had a bullhorn and he was advising the crowd to disperse immediately.
After some lightweight pushing and shoving by the more rebellious members of the mob, the police were able to encourage the crowd to disperse without use of physical force.
Even as I got in the car and began to drive away, I still asked myself if my generation wanted anything more than our money back. Where were our causes to fight for? Had we been reduced to rioting because we were not allowed back in a disco?
A few days later, the questions were still coming to me as I read about the wild college student rampage in Palm Springs. What were these people rioting about? Were they concerned about world hunger, world peace or anything of real significance? Or were they rioting simply because the local 7-Eleven refused to sell them a keg of beer?
I reflected on my older brothers and sisters who were constantly telling me about the causes that they championed when they were in college. They wax nostalgic about the 1960s and 1970s. They talk about peace marches, marches with Martin Luther King Jr. and closely following the trial of the Chicago Seven.
They tell me that when they said “make love/not war,” they meant it and they were willing to fight for their causes. In the past when they told me this, I would call them martyrs and they would call me selfish.
I usually disagreed with this observation, but now I wonder. What are the causes that I believe in that don’t have anything to do with my own pleasure and comfort? What about my whole generation? What are our causes?