Things aren't ugly out there. Not yet. This is when things are ugly:
The pundits' darling, Carl Elliott, boasted of his "liberal" economic record -- oblivious that in Alabama the word had become a curse. There was no more middle ground in a state where Klansmen painted "NEVER!" over his billboards.
In Georgia's gubernatorial race, polls gave a man named Lester Maddox a strong chance. His qualification for office was having chased Negroes from his Atlanta fried-chicken emporium after passage of the Civil Rights Act with a pistol and a pickax handle.
In Berkeley, fifteen thousand militants marched from campus to "pacify" the Oakland Army Terminal. They were turned back by cordons of riot-helmeted police, but not before Hells Angels were allowed across police lines to crack some hippie heads.
March saw firebombing assaults against the Du Bois clubs in New York and San Francisco. A week later, in Richmond, Virginia, two pacifists who had been passing out antiwar literature were found shot seventeen times in the back.
March 26: marchers in Oklahoma City and Boston were run off by mobs; in New York, phone threats that "if we march, we can be assured we will all be dead by four p.m."
March 31: four draft resisters were beaten by a teenage mob while police stood by and cameramen jostled for the best angles.
April: the headquarters of the Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee and the offices of two radical newspapers in New York were bombed.
On the afternoon of May 16, a man walked into the Detroit office of the Socialist Workers Party, told the three occupants "You're all Communist," and fired nine shots, killing one.
The barn of a pacifist communal farm in Voluntown, Connecticut burned down; police said nothing led them to believe the fire had been set, though the farm was constantly harassed by vigilantes after a local petition campaign failed to run the pacifists out of town.
At Boston College forty-five hundred students chanting "Get off our campus!" had to be held back by mounted police from attacking protesters at a Hubert Humphrey speech.
In Champaign, Illinois, leaders of peace demonstrations got stickers in their mailboxes reading "You are in the sights of a Minuteman."
In Queens, the DA seized an arsenal, to be used by the right-wing vigilante group the Minutemen in assaults on "left-wing camps in a three-state area,", including mortars, bazookas, grenades, trench knives, over 150 rifles, a "half dozen garroting devices," and over a million rounds of ammunition.
Early in the year a young, black Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist registering voters in Tuskegee, Alabama, stopped at a gas station for some cigarettes, asked the clerk to point him to the bathroom, and was told to use the one for coloreds out back. "Haven't you heard of the Civil Rights Act?" Sammy Younge snapped back. The clerk responded by shooting him in the head.
The previous Sunday, James Meredith set out on a quixotic 220-mile march from Memphis to Jackson to convince black voters it was safe to go to the polls. He crossed the border of the state whose university he had integrated in 1962. A farmer emptied a double-barreled shotgun into his hide.
Dateline Sacramento: shots from one or two cars filled with whites killed two Negro men in a downtown waterfront slum area Tuesday night.
The Fort Hood Three were abducted on July 7 at a church meeting by military police and held incommunicado.
That night in Cleveland a tavern owner put out a sign reading NO WATER FOR NIGGERS. Bar employees patrolled outside with shotguns, the mob torched a supermarket, then cut the hoses of arriving fire trucks; cops shooting into a suspected snipers' nest killed a mother leaning her head out the window screaming at them to hold their fire so she could check for her children.
As King marched, a fusillade of rocks, bottles, and cherry bombs came. Priests and nuns ("Whores!") were singled out. A first-grade teacher, Sister Mary Angelica, was pummeled to the ground. Marchers returning to their cars found them torched, overturned, or rolled into the muddy Marquette Park lagoon. On the approach to Halvorsen Realty, someone did throw a knife at king's back It caught some white kid in the neck instead.
That's what ugly looks like. But America has never faced an 1890s or 1930s-style depression in the post-labor era, in the era where large numbers of working-class people were right-wing conservatives instead of Democrats, in a time where the people likely to be hardest hit by the economy have been subject to 40 years of propaganda telling them all their troubles are the fault of liberals and minorities. If China calls in its chips and a period of prolonged inflation begins...
...well, that might be ugly.