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The Baltimore You See...

Friday, May 01, 2015

... is not how we really are. It's TV. They sensationalize. They accentuate the extreme and the newsworthy. Blood sells, sadly. Did Don Henley not have that song called "Dirty Laundry" with the line about getting an interview with the (new) widow? See?

Truth is, I'm horrified, embarrassed, and profoundly disappointed with my hometown has been newsworthy all week long in such a profoundly negative way. It's so regrettable but in a way, also unsurprising. Not the Freddie Gray issue per se, but the larger societal challenges of racism, poverty, crime and drugs. The Baltimore you see, we also see and have seen, a lot. We choose to ignore it as often as possible, and thus at least tacitly contribute to the problem. We plot circuitous routes to avoid the most crime-ridden and blighted areas.

When out-of-towners visit, we show off only our City's sparkly harbor and ballparks. We know Baltimore; warts and all it is home. We know what to avoid.

You can tell that I've been thinking a lot about the protests. I cannot imagine what it must be like to face such economic disparity, disenfranchisement and hopelessness on a daily basis. It indeed must be maddening, saddening and frustrating all at the same time. I'll never condone the violence, burning or looting (and the areas you saw on TV with that going on are places we know well - and know full-well to completely avoid and have done so for decades), but protests and demands for greater civility and accountability, particularly by the police - I get that.

In fact, I'm the son of an experienced protester. In 1968, my Mom led the protests when the little carton of milk, at lunch for school in the elementary schools of Baltimore County, went up 50% in one year - from two cents to three cents. The Moms carried picket signs and everything. A year or two later, it had another steep escalation, this time to 4 cents. However, the significance of a penny was less perhaps because of inflation.

Calmer heads prevailed, as I hope now is the case for my home town of Baltimore. You deserve to get back to pop culture on your evening news. And we desperately need to be off of your evening news, altogether. At least until October.
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  • NUMD97
    I agree with Phebe: It is not *just* Baltimore. It is a reflection of what has been ongoing in this country for decades, always bubbling under the surface, waiting for an event to allow it to boil over and explode in the most heinous way possible.

    Your updates brought the news to me on a very personal level: I have close family living in the Baltimore suburbs, and when you noted one day that the rioting was expected to spill over to those suburbs by the afternoon, I stopped what I was doing and called my nephew's home and left a message to see if they were all right. My sister sent a follow up email to the whole family to let us all know that everyone was okay. But in the same email, she sent photos that my niece's coworker had snapped from the window of their office. They left work that day early, at 2 PM, and were met with jeers and a very angry crowd (my niece dresses in modest Orthodox clothing, and works as a CPA). My nephew wrote that she would most likely be working from home for the remainder of the week. The kids' routines apparently remained the same, and they attended playgroups which their parents felt was still a safe activity, as they were in people's homes.

    I am sorry to say that these events, even if the root cause is different, is not seemingly different from the rioting seen in Baltimore back in April of 1968, two days after MLK's assassination. Even 40 years ago, several years after the King assassination, when I was still a young teacher at the time, my father had told me that I was not going to change the world. I responded that I did not want to change the world, but to make my own classroom a functional one. The issues are indeed, societal, economical, political, and highly personal. Not one aspect can be addressed independently of the others. It was true 40 years ago, and it is still true today. So what has changed?

    I certainly have no answers. But I will say this: As embarrassed as you are, Mark, and it is definitely not a "Baltimore issue", what I am proud of is our country, warts and all. We can say to the world at large that, yes, we do indeed have a problem, and we can show the photos in a free press, and we can also acknowledge that we are far from perfect. And that alone speaks volumes to a world where there are many countries albeit "free" that are steeped in heavy denial.

    It is still good to be an American.
    1844 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/9/2015 7:32:28 AM
  • WOUBBIE
    PHEBESS says it best.

    emoticon
    1845 days ago
  • IAMAGEMLOVER
    Hey Mark. Sad to say I don't really know what is going on because I don't watch the news. It is too depressing. I didn't even know Kate had her baby until my Mom called and said It's a girl.
    1847 days ago
  • IMLOCOLINDA
    Glad to see your post. Figured that's about what was happening. Sad but true about "bad news sells"...and it's even worse now on the 24 hr news revolving clips over and over and over again. It was a weird summer here in Montana the year they arrested Ted Kazinski (the unibomber) and also had the gov't standoff with the tax protesters from Jordon, MT. I told people that Ted was from my mom's side of the family and the tax protesters were from my dad's.

    I know what you mean about where you take the tourists and how to avoid the bad neighborhoods from my time living in Chicago and LA! Glad you're safe and it IS important to count your blessings and pause to think of those less fortunate...even if there is not much you can do about it.

    Your picture of your mom the "Mad Milk Protestor" is wonderful.
    1850 days ago
  • LE7_1234
    Nothing like living in the headlines.

    Here\s hoping for quiet until October.

    1850 days ago
  • 1CRAZYDOG
    I had been wondering about you with the news portrayal of the Baltimore events.

    Sad that "blood sells" as you say! UGH

    Thanks for posting this well written "inside scoop" on the TRUTH of the matter.
    1851 days ago
  • PHEBESS
    I think, at this point in time, most thinking Americans are embarrassed by our country - the institutionalized prejudice, poverty, the racism, and the militarization of our police. The repeated deaths that are unjustified. And the protests that turn into riots and lose the message.

    So, it isn't just Baltimore. It's a microcosm of the whole country.
    1851 days ago
  • COOKIE_AT_51
    emoticon Sorry that Baltimore is in the spotlight this time. As always your writing stats the truth ... the good and bad. Hope it clears soon for all of you.
    Hugs ~ Cookie
    1851 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon
    1852 days ago
  • DALID414
    Sad to play ball with no crowd.
    1852 days ago
  • WATERMELLEN
    We want to be proud of our country, our city . . . and sometimes that's hard. Complex issues, hoping compassion surfaces.
    1852 days ago
  • MARYANN2323
    I hope you are off the news soon, as well. It is always heartbreaking when we see the little piece of earth we call home, shown in such a bad light. But it's nothing all of us don't see, from time to time, in our own towns. Maybe not to such a degree, but it's there all the same. Seems there's no escaping it anymore. emoticon
    1852 days ago
  • WORLDSERIES11
    Hi Boss...I've been waiting to hear from you about this...as always, honesty prevails.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about such an important and sad subject....am praying for all the people of Baltimore.
    Look forward to my Dodgers meeting/beating you in October emoticon
    1852 days ago
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