Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore, Burning.

Yesterday, I played a round of golf at the Federal club. I sponsored a foursome for my friend's charity tournament. We successfully raised quite a bit of money for the First Tee program which benefits mostly disadvantaged kids in the inner city of Richmond. We heard a guy speak of the work they do mentoring at-risk kids, teaching them valuable life lessons. Then I get in my car to drive home and hear on the radio that Baltimore is in flames.

I listened to the reporters describe the scenes of destruction and violence. I hear the incompetent press conference given by Baltimore's mayor and wonder how someone so relentlessly, hopelessly naive could possibly have gotten elected. Then I got home, turned on the television and saw the police cars on fire, the triumphant young men parading their looted cans of Pringles and toilet paper for all to see. I saw lines of police in riot gear dodging rocks and bricks, boys and girls in hoodies having the time of their lives, caught up in the melee.

A CNN reporter informed me that this all was a reaction to the funeral of Freddie Gray, the young black man who recently had his neck broken inside a police van and died while in custody. Further, the Gray incident had simply been the catalyst for decades of heavy handed policing tactics employed by Baltimore's finest. 

I switch channels and hear a FOX reporter telling me that two rival street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods had recently made a deal to temporarily stop killing each other in order to strike a blow at Baltimore's policemen. There's a picture of them standing together with several bow-tied representatives of the Nation of Islam, giving their gang hand signs.

I switch over to MSNBC, for no particular reason, and see footage of dense clouds of smoke billowing from a burning CVS. A fire truck has arrived to put out the flames, but some guy is filmed slashing the hose. He apparently wants the store to burn to the ground.

I switch back to CNN. There's Elijah Cummings pleading with the rioters to stop. To the rest of us he laments, "This is not Baltimore!" Over on FOX Montel Williams says the same thing. "Just a couple hundred knuckleheads out of a city of 600,000 people."

Martin O'Malley, former Maryland Governor and nascent Democrat Presidential candidate issues a statement talking about how he mourns the city he loves and longs for the day when all can come together to begin the healing process. Hillary Clinton tweets out a warning to her supporters not to miss their chance to get free campaign bumper stickers.

This morning I read of the ubiquitous Al Sharpton and his plan for yet another march, this one from Baltimore to Washington to protest the root causes of all this mayhem. No justice, no peace, or some such thing. Ok. Looks like we are in for a long, hot summer.

I watch and listen, and come away with nothing. I don't even know how to respond to what I see and hear. It all seems so hopeless. I'm basically a law and order type of person, one who believes that without some sort of basic respect for the law and private property, chaos is what happens. But I also believe something is dreadfully wrong with policing in this country. While the vast majority of cops are good guys doing a terribly difficult job, there have been enough bad apples to suggest that we have a serious problem with excessive force, racism or...something. Too often the victims of this unwarranted aggression are black, and with every new revelation, the tensions become more dangerous. There will be more Baltimore's. We will watch young blacks destroying their own communities, gleefully watching the few businesses stupid enough to locate in the inner city, burning to the ground. And what will replace them? Will CVS be willing to rebuild a store in such a place? If they don't, will they be accused of racism? Will the feckless mayor of Baltimore appear before a House committee soon pleading for tax-payer funds to rebuild the city that her hands off policy helped destroy? 

You can count on it.