As Baltimore considers the now, we remember the then and ponder the when

I watched the evening news with clips and recaps from Baltimore and flinched.

Out of control in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

Out of control in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

Fires and riots and looting.

We are in trouble, I thought. Why would we do this. Oh, I’d heard the back story of how our police force had done things that had led to the death of one of our citizens. A portion of our fellow folks down there took exception and protested peacefully. Another portion of our people took advantage of that premise and acted like evil, ugly thugs.

We are in trouble, I thought again, worrying about a city I have come to love because of the years I spent as a student down the road at the University of Maryland and some years thereafter working at the Prince George’s Journal in suburban Maryland, needing friends, making friends, keeping friends.

Girls clean up their neighborhood in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

Girls clean up their neighborhood in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

Clips and news from today took a different tone.

Big portions of our fellow citizens were out in their neighborhoods cleaning up that big mess. Interviews heard them talking of how they planned to reclaim their streets and stores and corners, how they were teaching their children right by taking them to this action with brooms, brushes, dustpans.

We are bouncing back quickly, I thought. We have quite a resilient spirit.

Then, reporting live from the Baltimore streets, NBC anchor Lester Holt and “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd added more texture, with the Baltimore mayor and her handle on actions, with retrospectives about Ferguson trouble past in Missouri, with President Obama answering a question about Baltimore while he was sharing an important news conference in Japan by speaking for 14 minutes about his thoughts for our cities and people.

There’s a whole lot of hating and blaming and fearing going on, too, still.

We’re not going to figure it out and solve it because of Baltimore’s calamity. But I surely hope we get a better handle on our emotions, policies and actions before another city breaks out in flames and looting by our fellow citizens.

Here’s the source for the fire photo.

Here’s the source for the clean-up photograph.

If you notice, I purposefully did not use the words they or we above. I think the us vs. them thinking — race, social class, job status, political party — is part of the problem and thus far has not been part of the solution. Idealistic, sure. Simplistic, probably. Do I get angry about our direction and leadership and opportunities? Yes, I do, heading toward 60, piecing together freelance opportunities since being laid off from a job I held for just short of 30 years and hoping that Social Security is still around when I’m old enough to start drawing on what I’ve spent all those years putting into the system. But hope is what I have for us, my friends.

What have these past two days in Baltimore left you feeling? Are you more positive or more negative about what will happen in America in the next several years? Do you have a plan to offer, and if so, what is it?

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60 thoughts on “As Baltimore considers the now, we remember the then and ponder the when

  1. I have to turn away from any more scenes of rioting or police shootings. It’s awful that police kill innocent people, and awful that they are put in positions to have to respond to people fighting arrest or trying to take their weapons from them. Surely this is the peak in the unrest of these relations, and things will get better soon. And I bet you’ll get your SSN benefits.

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  2. Complex Mark. I sure have no idea how to address it. Although I have to say that I trucked in some of the worst areas in the US and I had no problem. I really think that attitude has a lot to do with the interactions. But I am doubtful that the prevailing attitudes will change.

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    • I know you have gone over this with other troubles, Paul, in other areas of the country. You’ve seen a lot on your travels. I don’t know what we can do to swing the attitude. It’s scary to me, very scary.

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  3. Brief and eloquent, Mark. I feel little hope, sometimes. When the rioting happened here in L.A., we were living in a slum/gentrification neighborhood. The bulk of my neighbors erupted from their houses, ran down the street, and stole all the inventory from the tire store at the end of the block–from a man who had given them all tremendous discounts for more than two decades. Who had fixed flats for free at times. These were parents and grandparents trailing their children and grandchildren behind them. No shame. It was a big party atmosphere–lots of laughter. Was that about Rodney King? Four blocks away, where there were TV cameras, one saw angry faces.

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  4. So tired of people acting like savages, police included, I know sometimes they do need to use force, but don’t shoot people in the back or run people down with your cars and of course we have the public destroying what is not theirs. What’s the answer, maybe just common sense which seems to not even exist in our great country any longer. So mad about these occurrences!!!!!

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  5. Smashing shop windows and taking stuff is not protesting its stealing. Very sad for the people living there. And sad for the image of the country as well from a perspective of someone living else where, just adds to the unjust stereotypical view a few have about America “too dangerous to visit”. Which Mark you know isn’t mine but I do hear this a lot when my family hear we are off again travelling.

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    • It makes me sad for my country, Mabel Jane, for an evil bunch to make all of us look so bad. I can’t say I blame what you hear after these pictures go over the news, Mabel Janes. It’s awful to see. I know you love us. I’m glad for that.

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      • It is sad. Always a few bad apples in the bunch. We get it all the time “oh the guns…. Oh the crime”. Very silly people. Crime is everywhere and we have bad apples just like you do. But I do feel for the everyday people in Baltimore it’s just not fair to have to worry about your safely and your families. not when it’s under the guise of a protest for justice.

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  6. I don’t get too hyped about national news as the home life is enough drama. Though I bet if it happened in my own backyard, I’d be reeling. Wish the system was one where you could win the Presidency, Mark. I’d vote for you!

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  7. Excellent writing MBM. There is enough ‘blame and shame’ across the board. But there is enough hope and responsibility stepping up to the forefront as well. People need held accountable for their actions, no matter what their positions are. And people who are bonding together to build and stabilize and show community need more members.

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      • I haven’t gotten to the news yet tonight. But I saw a picture of a line of men standing guard in FRONT of the police, shielding the police from rioters. When we all start taking a stand to try and calm one another down in our moments of chaos ….. we may find hope.

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      • I am sick as well. Too many lines is true. Hopefully though, the lines will begin to merge. I still believe that those who are causing the violence are taking advantage and not standing ground for a belief. I’m not sure how stealing toilet paper. Or burning down a local business. Or their neighbor’s cars. Is making their point. Yet there are plenty of other people making points being HEARD and they are not throwing a single rock or burning a single torch. I think the people standing together will merge MBM, I do.

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      • The anger and hatred for the system and ignorance or ambivalence to the wider consequences that leads to the looting and pillage has to be addressed somehow, too, or we will sink together like a stone. MBC. But I agree with you on the lines of cooler heads being a wonderful sign of progress and conciliation and hope.

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  8. We have a problem, but that one brave mom that pulled her son out by the ear gives me hope – we need more moms like that! Moms like that on all sides- Moms that make good honest policeman and moms that help the most disadvantaged keep on the path of hope. Moms can save this country.

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    • Thank you, Wayne, for pointing out that brave woman. I cheered her in that news clip, and the people they interviewed who agreed she did the right thing and they would do it, too. Some said she went too far. No, we must stay on the path of hope.

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  9. A young African-American male has his spine nearly severed and subsequently dies, all while in police custody. THAT is the tragedy. Until our society finds a way to end the direct oppression of blacks by the police and to truly integrate our society, we will continue to see the flashes of inchoate rage that engulfed Baltimore.

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  10. Humanity is certainly complex… so much “good” going on all the time and so much “bad” along with it. I cannot give up hope for myself or the world… because what is there without it? The cleanup is what gives me hope.

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  11. I love your post, Mark. I wrote one earlier today about Baltimore and it was hard to know what to say. Still have so many friends and family there. They are a hard working, warm and resilient community and will no doubt bounce back from this…but, there is so much healing to be done. It already seems to have begun. Thanks for the visit and follow. I look forward to exploring your blog further…have seen your comments on so many of my favorite bloggers ! ☺ Van

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Van. They mean much to me. I have many good friends that live in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor, so this hurts me so inside. I hope your family and friends were not directly affected by fire or personal injury. I know they all must be reeling mentally.

      I will be watching your place now, too. I’ve seen your comments all over friends I follow as well. Now we’ve met at last. 🙂 Long may we run.

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  12. Mark, I like your “us” view. Now this may sound flip or sarcastic, but it is not intended that way at all. It struck me with the Baltimore crisis, and Ferguson, and Charleston … and on and on … that so many reactions are framed in black and white. Not just racially, but as in oversimplification by whoever “we” and “they” are, enabling them to find the simplest basis for their polarized views. It’s the easy way out, but it leads nowhere. What struck me as ironic and poignant just this morning is the surname of the victim in Baltimore. Gray. There is a vast gray area in these situations, but it’s often too much trouble or too unsettling for many people to go there. Until the majority of “us” get to that point, yeah … we’re all in trouble.

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    • It’s not flip at all Jim. How symbolic of a name, for this tragedy to lie upon the severed spine of a Gray.

      You are correct about the rushing to sides in polarity being far too easy and very, very unproductive. It’s gotten to the point where is much appears to be name-calling and worse — this kind of worse — with no movement toward a middle ground. And we can’t be that way.

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  13. Ir was a tragedy which started this but I have been appalled at the lack of decency among people, rioting, ruining/burning people’s livelihoods and hurting others doesn’t make things right.
    “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
    I wish the peace that the Police were able to maintain last night, the first ‘quiet’ night in Baltimore, would have come by people choosing to do the right thing. Waiting for justice and not making things worse. I am definitely wishing for caring human beings and less of what chaos happens when things go wrong. I expect better of Americans, Mark!

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  14. You know what I think? I think there’s a big difference between protesting and rioting/looting. The first is done by civilized people who know their civic rights and duties, the second is committed by miserable scumbags who simply ride the bandwagons.

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  15. I hate when I hear about things like this happening, but I do love that you did a wonderful job “staying neutral”. It makes me scared for the future when I read about things like this.

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  16. Mark, thanks for a sensitive piece. I’ve been so upset the past week. As you know, I was raised in Baltimore City, and I love my old hometown. It has been distressing to watch the coverage. My emotions have been all over the place! I drafted two blog posts about the situation, and deleted both. I just cannot write about it. I’m glad that you did. 🙂

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