Shed a Tear for Baltimore

Let me be clear. Baltimore is a shithole.

But it is my shithole. I spent two large chunks of my life there. My daughter was born there. My father died there. I finished high school by going to Night School on North Avenue. My first apartment was in a shithole of a building near the intersection of Fayette and Greene where I had to step over winos and puddles of piss when heading up to the Lexington Market for a breakfast sandwich. My daughter still lives there with her husband. My Orioles play there, although I guess this week in front of an empty stadium thanks to the riots and unrest.

It is a shithole of a city. But H.L Mencken once filed his prose there after a day stalking the corrupt halls of Baltimore power and scouring her pubs and whiskey joints in search of truth. Edgar Allan Poe went grandly and gloriously mad in Baltimore. A Baltimore lawyer (that’s sort of two strikes of shitholeness in one) penned our national anthem there. Cab Calloway learned to scat and jive there. So did Eubie Blake. F. Scott Fitzgerald was born there. So was Thurgood Marshall. Babe Ruth and Al Kaline played their first baseball games in the sandlots of Baltimore. Ogden Nash rhymed his first ditty in Baltimore and John Waters learned to be a dirty comedic genius on the streets of Baltimore. This shit hole has made some pretty respectable contributions to our society and American culture.

After this week’s madness of course everyone has an opinion about Baltimore and the events that have occurred there in the last few days. As always in these unfortunate times opinions and thoughts are split along carefully drawn dogmatic lines.

My conservative friends are of the mindset that these people are animals and that Freddy Gray has a long rap sheet and was less than a saint.  There is something to that point of view. Except. If I was Freddy Gray or another young black man in that neighborhood in that city I suspect I would look around at my world, where education was trivialized, more young men from my neighborhood were in prison than any other neighborhood in the city and state and the only ones with a nickel to their name that I could see were slinging drugs, I would probably sling a few bags of rock myself. The anger that has to build up from years of being marginalized and living in the crushing shadow of what I have to see, based on my entire life experience, as oppression by authority figures especially those wearing a badge, has to be crushing. Much has been made of the fact that he had an illegal knife when he was arrested. I have to tell you I have been in that part of Baltimore and if I had to go outside there today I would be gunned up like GI Fucking Joe during a suicide charge of COBRA world headquarters so I am not too concerned about his little knife. I would have been more surprised that if, in a place where life was so damn cheap he wasn’t armed. To a very large degree Freddy Green was doomed out of the womb as are so many young poor people in our country.

My liberal friends want to blame it on the Po-lice. They need to stop brutalizing these young black men. There is something to that point of view. Except. If I was a cop in one of these cities I would be very aware that most, if not all, of these young black men would cheerfully kill my ass if they thought they could get away with it. I know that when I go on a domestic call in some of the areas of poverty and stop some guy from beating his wife or girlfriend to death, there is a good chance that she will plunge a knife between my shoulder blades when I turn to cuff the battering bastard. It is very difficult to gently arrest someone who wants to fight. They have to enforce what they know are asinine laws passed by legislators in comfy chairs a long way from the broken down streets of West Baltimore. It is a difficult thankless job that by its nature involves violence and that is going to have unfortunate consequences at times. I would be all too aware that when I  left for the night shift my wife would be home staring at the ceiling with tears in her eyes praying to whatever gods exist I would be home in the morning and mentally rehearsing how she would tell the kids daddy wouldn’t be home anymore.

Of course the pundits, gurus and alleged leaders are today telling us that we need to have a conversation about race in America. I will tell you flatly that I do not think anyone wants  to have this fucking conversation. If you split this one open, like cattle intestines on the killing room floor a whole bunch of vested interests no one wants to acknowledge are going to come spilling out and the foul odor of shit is going to stink up the place.

The conversation starts with acknowledging that this is not a conversation about race. At all. Not anymore. Are there still racists in the world? The unfortunate truth is yeah there are some. Equally unfortunately there will always be some contingent of our society who hates niggers, white motherfuckers, kikes, gooks and spics based on race and skin color. We cannot eliminate these unbalanced fucktards but the problems in Baltimore and other cities around the country that have seen turmoil are not about race. This is not a race question. It is a matter of economics and politics and everyone has some issues they need to confront.

Everyone wants to lay the blame at the feet of the political conservatives and I just do not see how you can do that. Conservatives are not in power and have not been in the troubled cities and towns in decades. They may argue and vote against various legislative attempts to funnel money into troubled areas but they usually lose. Conservatives biggest role in all this stems from their ridiculous war on drugs that has lead, as surely as prohibition created the mafia, to drug crimes and violent crime. The number of people in jail for nonviolent drug crimes in this country is a crime- and a much fouler one than selling a little dope- in and of itself. Idiotic postures on immigration aren’t helping much either. The biggest failure of conservatives has been their absolute apathy about segments of the population that they know will never vote for them.

Liberals get a bunch of blame. After all they have been in charge of the government programs and funds that were passed by various legislative bodies to prevent these situation for about five decades now. It is time to admit the war on poverty has been an absolute colossal fucking failure and your well-meaning ideas were just wrong. All that money that has been spent should have just been given to poor folks.  By the time the bureaucratic vig was subtracted there was not much left and it didn’t do a whole lot of good. An unfortunate truth of government is that if a whole bunch of people’s livelihood depends on a problem getting solved, it is NEVER getting solved.

If you smelled the first whiff of blood and shit you are on the right track. I am sure they never meant for welfare and entitlement programs to crush the black and other poor communities but it did. Millions of Americans are dependent on the government for their daily bread, the roof over their head, their medical care and every other aspect of their life. They took every economic incentive away from an entire class of people. They depend on you and they pretty much have to vote your slate to keep the money rolling. It is not a race thing because the poor whites of Appalachia have the same problems as inner city black, albeit with more trees. The shitty aroma comes from the fact that while I cannot believe anyone was cruelly smart enough to have planned this outcome, neither can anyone in power be so fucking stupid as to not have noticed what has happened. It is easier to pretend you are doing the very best you can than give up the source of your political power and the liberals and bureaucracy have done exactly that. They need the votes of the poor and in order to maintain power they need lots of poor folks. Government programs that do not create jobs and improve education make damn sure there are more than enough poor people come Election Day.

I can hear folks rising in indignant rage to call me a racist son of a bitch soulless capitalist motherfucker. So before you climb on your self-righteous soap box just answer one question? Why are the ghettos of US cities still primarily black after all these years? Every other race and ethnic group in the world came to the ghettos and processed out of them in a generation or two. Germans, Poles, Irish, Italians, Jews, Greeks, Turks, Russians, Chinese. They came, they worked their ass off, educated their children and they were gone. There was no safety net. You made it or you perished so you made damn sure you made it and your kids made it further. It could be a harsh difficult life but is it more harsh than removing all incentives, hopes and dreams from several generations of people because it fits your absolutely convinced ideals ,even after it is pretty much proven they do not fucking work?

Here is another unfortunate fact about all that money that was supposed to solve all the problems of the poor. The bureaucracy took a lot of the money but Granny took what was left over. See, Granny and Gramps may not get around so good anymore but they do manage to make it to the polls on Election Day. To keep that vote block on their side politicians have simply given them the money. Hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller in a speech recently pointed out that in 1965 30% of the elderly were poor and child poverty was 21% of the population. Today just 9% of old folks are poor and 25% of the kids are below the poverty line. 56% of the money collected goes to the elderly and just 7% is being directed towards poor children. Entitlement spending has gone from 28% of federal outlay in 1970 to a   mind numbing 72% today but we still have poor people without enough food enduring horrid living conditions. That nice social worker and your grandma took all the cash. The bureaucracy took a bunch of the money and the active and large voting block of elderly took the rest.

This has to be a discussion about the only two things that can fix poverty. Schools and jobs. US corporations need to be in this discussion. I get so sick of reading about companies that close operations in the US and send the factories, offices and call centers overseas to reduce costs and then buyback tens of millions of shares of stock that just so coincidentally increases the value of their stock options and then donate few million bucks to the opera and art museum. Why not keep those jobs here and use you money to adopt a fucking school in a ghetto to create a more educated work force?  They preach about duty to shareholders but you are a citizen of these beleaguered cities and you have a duty to share the wealth that citizenship allows you to create with that community. I am a shareholder and my entire livelihood is based on being a shareholder and I can tell you that it is okay with me if you keep those jobs here and skip the PBS donations this year and use the cash to buy some books and computers for a school that needs them. Step up your game folks and be a part of a solution that gives you a better educated and productive workforce.

The black community needs to turn their back on so called leaders and politicians who want to talk about past wrongs. A preacher with no visible job and a $5000 suit telling you are a victim is exploiting you for their own gains. A politician talking about anything but jobs and safe functional schools is not acting in your best interests. We cannot fix the past but we can work towards a future that actually offers opportunities for you and more importantly for your children.

We do not need another discussion abut race. We need discussions about means testing social security. We need to have discussions about a failing education system. We need to make education important among the poorest parts of our country. We need more Moms like the lady who kicked her kids ass on national television for trying to take part in the riots. We need fewer fatherless families and we need to talk about ways to accomplish that. We need kids to feel like they can go to school and  get themselves a job afterwards that allows them to live a decent life. We need to talk about tax reform that creates jobs. We need to talk about politicians promoting victimhood to retain control over their office. We need to talk about policing our communities better. We need to talk about legalizing drugs and getting nonviolent offenders out of prison. We need to talk about ways to deliver on the economic promises of a free society to a much larger segment of society.  There a lot of things we need to talk about and they will be difficult and contentious but they are economic and political issues not race problems. There are a lot of problems in this country but I see very few we cannot solve with educations and jobs.

Yes, Baltimore is a shit hole but it is my shit hole. I shed a tear for Baltimore. I shed a tear for all those angry young men and women whose rage erupted into rioting. I don’t excuse their behavior but I shed a tear for them none the less. I shed a tear for my daughter who is afraid to step outside her own front door. I shed a tear for all those cops who will pin on a badge and head out into what is basically a combat zone. I shed many tears over the corrupt politicians who place their own ambitions over those they profess to serve. I shed a tear over the disgrace that is our urban public education system. I shed a tear for all of those who have been deprived of their hopes and dreams by an oppressive bureaucracy that cares only for itself and feeds on the rage and pain of the populace.

I shed a tear for Baltimore and another for the concept of liberty, freedom and justice for all.

 

 

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