Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Riot in Bellingham: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

What does it take to get college students in the U.S. to riot?

There are, after all, a whole lot of things for educated students to get up in arms about: the gross absurdity of the government shut down, Obama’s predator drone program, a global financial system that actively promotes substandard labor practices and the exploitation of millions of people around the world–the choices for indignation seem endless.

Last Saturday, approximately three hundred Western Washington University students took to the streets and clashed with police. Bottles were thrown, street signs were removed and riot gear was brought out.

What was the dispute that brought so many young, bright students into combat with society’s forces of order?

Somebody tried to shut down their party.

According to reports, the problems started around 9:30 p.m. Officers responded to noise complaints coming from a block party at some apartments on Jersey Street. The partygoers, already numbering over 100, moved on to Laurel Park. More disgruntled drunken kids, drawn from other parties in the area, came to join them and the situation quickly escalated.

The students launched a full-scale riot, hurtling glass bottles and plates at the group of police standing down the avenue.

According to The Western Front, police finally took action against the crowd at around 11 p.m. Police responded in the manner they are oft to do: they drove a heavily armored vehicle into the crowd and started dispersing it by way of smoke grenades and pepper spray.

The article reports that at least two arrests have been made, but it’s still unclear if there were any injuries or how much damage the rioting did.

Now, partying is part of anyone’s college experience. Since we were young, we’ve been inundated with films and television shows about the benefits of good ole fashioned Dionysian revelry, and there’s a lot to be said for those crazy nights that don’t end until you and your friends are half-asleep over cold waffles in IHOP at five in the morning.

Assaulting police officers because they stifled your attempts to beer pong? Not particularly impressive.

There are people all over the world getting murdered by their own governments because they have taken to the streets. When our own students—who could be on the frontlines of the culture holding our government accountable—choose instead to rip out street signs and insight violence because they don’t get to drink with their friends, they disrespect the privilege they have to be getting a college education at all.

It might seem overdramatic to view it this way, but nights like Saturday are indicative of a larger problem confronting young people in the U.S. We’ve been sold a consumer dream that we are somehow entitled to our own selfish hedonism and any attempts to curve our own pleasure seeking are seen as somehow oppressive.

Throwing bottles at people doesn’t mean you’re being a rebel. It means you’re acting exactly the way power in society wants you to. Somewhere along the way, corporate forces tricked young people into thinking that acts of rebellion were restricted to wild, drunken nights. This allows us to parade our own selfishness as “individuality”—an individuality that conveniently involves buying a lot of stuff we don’t need and refusing to take anything seriously.

What if, instead of rioting for vodka, we did it for the laborers currently arguing for a living wage in the U.S.? Or the factory workers in Bangladesh making our clothes? Or, you know, for the countless lives our government snuffs out every year in the war on terror?

Or better yet, what if, instead of rioting, these kids had actually turned their energy towards creating something? What if, instead of trying to live out their own teenage dream, they cared about one another and took seriously the power their educations have given them?

If we keep acting like children, we’ll keep being treated like them.

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Sheldon Costa, Author

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