Opposite Sides of the Protest

Here’s a richly described set of characters and context that make for good story telling. Excerpts from an interview with Joan Walsh on the “Truth out” site sketch a tense encounter between brothers with very different world views:

White working class men were already feeling the early rumbles of deindustrialization. And they were also angry and resentful at the youth revolt. Some of it was patriotism – they couldn’t stand to see the flag or the president disrespected. Some were veterans. Some were just angry that college kids who got chances they never had turned out to be so ungrateful! The Hard Hat Riot of 1970 followed a peaceful protest near New York City Hall, after four students were shot by the National Guard at Kent State University May 4. By all accounts, it wasn’t a rowdy or angry or at all violent gathering, but a little ways into it, about 200 construction workers from the World Trade Center site came charging up the street with flags, and they began beating some of the protesters with their hard hats. My father was there as a protester, and he thought he saw his brother, a steamfitter, among the rioters. He fled and went back to his office and to my knowledge they never spoke about it.”Below the interview, a reader had this useful tidbit to add in the comments:

It’s a human characteristic to be afraid of change. Strangely, it seems, the worse a person’s situation is, the less promising any change for the better will happen, the more a person fears change. I remember the time when so-called ‘hard-hats’ (labor) felt directly threatened by any man with long hair and a beard, especially young men. When it was pointed out to the ‘hard-hats’ that for the greater part of American history men had longish hair and beards, they were merely a fashion statement or popular trend, it fell on deafened ears. Clean-shaven and short hair were their normal, long hair and beards were abnormal, a change in, of all things, men’s styles was to be feared.”



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