These are the words, quoted in The State News, of Jennifer Kelly, a student at Michigan State University, during the first Grand River Avenue fire at last May’s “pro-alcohol” riot. Did the riot that occurred last May or the one that took place March 27-28, 1999 really show “democracy in action”? Or was this an example of “wilding”? Wilding, a term Charles Derber uses in "The Good Man Fill His Own Stomach", is doing crazy, destructive, savage crimes just for thrills. What does democracy have to have to operate? When most people are asked this question they only get a third of the answer right. According to The American Promise by James C. Crimmins democracy does not only have to have freedom, but also responsibility and participation (XV).
With citizens of the United States believing democracy solely equals freedom there can be trouble. Take the dates of March 27-28 for example, the dates of the most recent riot that occurred in East Lansing: "wilding" or "democracy in action"? I say "wilding". I cannot say for sure, but I bet that if you asked any of the students involved, “What does democracy have to have to operate?” not one of them would include anything about the responsibility and participation. Most answers would have included how they have to have the freedom to do as they please. It is true that with democracy there is freedom, but there are also limits. If you don’t agree with something that is going on you can speak your mind and you can protest. What can’t you do? Tip over and burn cars, trash others property, have three story high fires in the middle of the streets- you get the picture. Why can’t these events occur? Because of the responsibility and participation parts of democracy.
The responsibility part means to act for and with others. With the riot that would have meant walking away from the rioters. Other examples of the responsibility part is helping to carry on a heritage or not throwing a rock at the last unbroken window of a building. When people fail to take responsibility, neglect spreads like an infection (Crimmons 29).
The participation part of democracy means that it takes all of us together to accomplish jobs that need to be done. A community is more than streets and homes. It is communicating with your neighbors. It is working together with your neighbors to make the community better. An example from “The American Promise” is the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC). The BSVAC was started to increase response time to emergency sites. A community came together to form this service for all of it's citizens.
I think Jennifer Kelly may have possibly been intoxicated when she made
the statement that she did or she had not yet been educated about democracy.
Last May’s riot and the most recent one clearly demonstrated “wilding”
and not democracy. If a statement is to be made while watching a
riot it should start with, “I’m seeing “wilding” in action...” Democracy
does not just include freedom, but also responsibility and participation.