The year was 1992, and America went up in flames. Riots in LA and a host of other cities followed the acquital of four policemen caught on amateur video footage while beating up citizen Rodney King following his high-speed car chase.
The riots were outbursts of racial frustration, a free-for-all, go-for-it home appliance loot fest, self-inflicted wounds on the part of the poorest neighborhoods. Rodney King, no longer the outcast with a brief criminal record, became Rodney King the legend, infinitely larger than himself. Rodney King, the citizen, died on the day LA went up in flames, weeping live on TV, thoughts clouded no doubt by a perverse sense of guilt over the magnitude of such loss.
Rodney King, the person, died today, silently drowned in a pool. The legend is, of course, immortal, even if on fade-out as far as star quality metrics go; even if as a negative, in sheer contrast with the banality of the surveillance act and infinitely more subtle ways of beating up a broken man twenty years later.