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Rant #12
(published Late in the Year, 2000)
Devil's Night

Devil's Night is not a holiday recognized widely in this country. As far as I know, Devil's Night is a holiday celebrated only within the confines of the tri-county area surrounding Detroit. The rest of the citizens of the state of Michigan, of course, know all about this day, which is October 30 of every year, Halloween Eve.

Growing up, Devil's Night was all about soaping your neighbors' windows, any of them, especially your friends'. Perhaps you could toilet paper some trees, or set off some salvaged fireworks from the past July 4th on your neighbors' porch, or in front of their bedroom window (if all the lights were off.) The old standby of filling some newspaper with dog shit and lighting it on fire in somebody's porch was funny as hell. And something unfortunately branded "Nigger Knocking" was popular (it's where you knock a few times on someone's door and run off and hide, waiting for them to open the door to an empty porch in the middle of the night). As kids we did all these things year after year and didn't think nothing of it. Devil's Night was as fun as Halloween.

Then I grew up. I was in high school. Then I graduated. I was no longer under-age. I wasn't a minor anymore. Devil's Night was a new holiday. I watched Detroit burn. It burned, and burned. Year after year it burns. If you go to the city and open your eyes, look at the horizon every year you will see an orange glow. It doesn't encompass the whole horizon anymore, not like it used to in years past, but you can see the glow of isolated fires. If you open your ears you will hear a constant droning, a wailing of near and far sirens screaming down the boulevards. Gunshots and gleeful cheering round out the sound-track. I doubt if anyone is at the end of the barrels of those guns; the skies are the target. Street signs are the target. Rows and rows of abandon houses, storefronts, drug houses, cop cars, rotting cars, mail boxes, stop lights, and any other motherfuckers or useless piece of old shit laying around in town are the targets.

For one day out of the year this city in Michigan embraces anarchy. It's not good anarchy; there is nothing political about Devil's Night. It is the day to tear down. The city has been trying to combat this holiday for some time now. And they are doing a good job. Fires and random destruction reports are down for the last several years. Mayor Archer has declared a new holiday in replacement of Devil's Night. This new day is called "Angel's Night." How very fucking cute. And ironic.

Angel's Night is a futile attempt at preventing the public from lashing out against everything that needs to go or is unwelcome in their community. Devil's Night should not be put down. The driving idea behind it should be given due attention. The houses that are set aflame are not occupied by families. The buildings that are destroyed are not open. The inanimate objects which are torn down, burned or shot to hell are not alive. The harm is largely isolated— which isn't to say that there aren't occasionally unfortunate repercussions to the innocent. Occupied houses adjacent to empty crack houses, which are burning, do catch fire just as easily as the rest. This might seem harsh to some, but there are always unfortunate casualties to any "revolt." And that's what Devil's Night is, a revolt. A revolt from the people against everything they are sick of seeing and dealing with in their lives.

Now I don't agree with random burning and mayhem, exactly, but the message is what needs to be heeded: We are sick of the shit. We are sick of the shit. We are SICK of the shit. The crack houses need to go. The cops need to leave us alone. The system needs to lay off. I guess this one grave night is a release, a release from the built up horseshit of everyday living.

Perhaps what happens on this day isn't right, but it shouldn't be ignored. The motivation should be listened to and understood. Nowhere else does this take place, and maybe it should. Maybe LA and NYC should burn yearly, too. You know, in forests, there are some pinecones that can only open and release their seeds after being heated by a forest fire's blaze. There have been books written on Detroit and our Devil's Night. They should be read. And I guess the point to all of this is that something should be done. And it doesn't involve more cops or private Devil's Night patrols to fuck with us more.

Get out your Zippos— for at least one night it's our world, and no one can ever take it back.

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