As what's left of the Republican Party gathers in Cleveland for what promises to be the most chaotic nominating convention since the 1968 Democratic gathering in Chicago, the rest of the country is wondering where the next shots are coming from — and who's going to be pulling the trigger.
The possibilities are many, of course: a mentally disturbed loner taking out as many people as he can in a mall, a movie theater, or a school; a police officer killing an unarmed black man during a routine traffic stop; an Islamic radical with Jihad on his mind, shooting as many Americans as he can kill; an angry African American taking "revenge" on cops who are performing their duties; a right-wing racist wacko killing black folks in a church. Not to mention, your "sovereign citizens," your KKK, your Stormfront Nazis, and various other well-armed fruits and nuts.
And special thanks to the NRA and their legislative enablers for ensuring that all of the above can now easily obtain and carry military-grade weaponry.
Oh, America, land of the free, home of the brave, God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
The last year the United States underwent this level of madness was 1968. We had more than 500,000 troops in Vietnam, and the news was filled with the war and its fallout every day — the weekly body counts, the incessant bombing campaigns, the bloody protests at home, the domestic bombings by radical leftists.
In April, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and cities were burned all over the country. In June, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated after announcing he would run for president. Insanity and bloodshed ruled the headlines as the nation reeled from blow after blow. Even the Olympics weren't immune, as two U.S. athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, performed the black power salute during the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Eugene McCarthy briefly captured the hopes of many of the country's young people and made a Bernie Sanders-like run for the Democratic nomination but lost to the establishment candidate, Hubert Humphrey. As it ever was.
Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, beat Humprey in the general election, with Alabama segregationist/racist George Wallace winning 13 percent of the national vote. The country was embroiled in racial strife and political chaos, much as we seem to be in 2016. The biggest difference, in my opinion: guns. The NRA was sane, back then. Now, everybody's got guns, and it's making everyone paranoid, and rightfully so.
Try to imagine being a cop in Cleveland this week, with open-carry activists walking the streets around the convention center, mixing with protestors and all the Trump-inspired madness. Only a crazy person (or a reporter or a cop) would voluntarily be on those streets in the first place, and many will have weapons. If a riot breaks out, God help them all. All it will take is one itchy trigger finger, one frightened fool with a gun.
The real irony is that the disgruntled, angry white Trump supporters and the disgruntled, angry Black Lives Matter folks have much in common: Our political/economic system has disenfranchised both groups. If they ever figure that out and join forces, a real tsunami of change will be upon us.
If we don't all shoot each other first.