Rodney King Asks, Can We All Get Along? May 1, 1992

I take what follows for the most part from Jonathan Haidt’s Introduction to his book, The Righteous Mind.

The appeal and question, “Can we all get along?” was made famous on May 1, 1992, by Rodney King, a black man who had been beaten nearly to death by four Los Angeles police officers a year earlier. The entire nation had seen a videotape of the beating, so when a jury failed to convict the officers, their acquittal triggered widespread outrage and six days of rioting in Los Angeles. Fifty-three people were killed and more than seven thousand buildings were torched. Much of the mayhem was carried live; news cameras tracked the action from helicopters circling overhead.

After a particularly horrific act of violence against a white truck driver, King was moved to make his appeal for peace.

This appeal is now so overused that it has become cultural kitsch, a catchphrase1 more often said for laughs than as a serious plea for mutual understanding. I therefore hesitated to use King’s words as the opening line of this book, but I decided to go ahead anyway.

Americans nowadays are asking King’s question not about race relations but about political relations and the collapse of cooperation across party lines. Many Americans feel as though the nightly news from Washington is being sent to us from helicopters circling over the city, delivering dispatches from the war zone.

As he stumbled through h his is television interview King holding back tears and often repeating himself followed up with something lovely, something rarely quoted, with these words:

“Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out.”

This book is about why it’s so hard for us to get along. We are indeed all stuck here for a while, so let’s at least let’s do what we can to understand why we are so easily divided into hostile groups, each one certain of its righteousness.

Sound familiar? Shouldn’t we be able to get along? The Republicans need to abandon Trump for otherwise there is no “working things out.” But they can’t do so. Why is that? Perhaps because they are convinced that their livelihood is for better or worst tied to the Party, and as the Party goes so will it go for them.

But their Party is no longer the Republican Party they once knew, but the Party of Donald Trump. The 251 Republican members of the House and Senate do seem to believe that they can’t abandon the one without abandoning the other. For if they abandon Trump they will be abandoning their Party, now his Party, allowing it to drift aimlessly and finally break up on whatever distant shore awaits it.

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