Here comes the Sun, and here comes summer.
June 21st marks the Summer Solstice — the first day of summer — in the northern hemisphere. People around the world are celebrating, formally and informally.
It's also the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.
At Stonehenge, in England, 20,000 people gathered to welcome the summer sun.
"Druids, pagans, punks and New Age travelers mingled with the merely curious," the London Times reported.
King Arthur Pendragon, a self-styled Druid leader, said, "The fire welcomes the Sun for the longest day of the year, part of the seasonal wheel which we as Druids and pagans celebrate. At the end of the day, this living temple we call Stonehenge belongs to all of us. We all have a right to come here and celebrate the solstice."
The group celebrated by dancing, drumming, and smoking cannabis, now reclassified as a class C drug in the UK, meaning the police now usually ignore pot-smoking or only give a verbal warning and confiscate the cannabis, though possession can still officially bring a two-year sentence.
Meanwhile, in the United States, yesterday two people in separate cities were pulled from their cars and beaten, one to death, by merrymakers at summer events known as Juneteenth, which celebrate the freeing of American slaves.
In Austin, Texas, David Rivas Morales, a passenger in a car that had struck a young child, was pulled from the car and beaten to death. The child had non-life-threatening injuries.
Officials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are now denying that the mob attack on a driver there was related to the Juneteenth celebration. The attack happened after the official celebration was over, it is now claimed, while celebrants were leaving the area. It was a spilling-over of a fight between a group of girls. An earlier report indicated the attacks were indeed related to the Juneteenth event.
Later news stories from Austin also deny the attack had anything to do with the Juneteenth gathering.
I don't have any answers, but I've pondered a few questions.
Are Americans by nature more aggressive or violent? Or are pagans, British or otherwise, less prone to violence?
Were the Juneteenth attackers abusing alcohol?
Were the pagans too stoned to be violent?
Were the Juneteenth attacks racially motivated? Most Juneteenth celebrants were probably black, and the name of the man who was killed in Austin would indicate he was most likely Hispanic.
Did the different mindsets of the groups make one peaceful and one prone to anger? Those at Stonehenge were in a spiritual mood and those at Juneteenth had just spent all day reminiscing about their ancestors being enslaved.
Why did a subset of a relatively small group estimated at 2,000-3,000 people turn violent, while 20,000 people halfway across the planet stayed mellow even in the rain?
Peter Carson, who manages Stonehenge on behalf of English Heritage said, "It’s wonderful. We are delighted that people have been able to come here and enjoy the solstice in a safe and peaceful manner."
By contrast, Austin police commander Harold Piatt said, "It's that same crowd mindset of being one face in 1,000. Things get out of hand pretty quickly and people don't have the good sense to stop," and Milwaukee police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said, "Unfortunately at closing time everything came unhinged and there were some problems."
Image: Revelers at Stonehenge summer solstice celebration, June 21, 2007
Violence | Juneteenth | Stonehenge | Summer Solstice | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com