I've gotten a lot of mail on Baltimore.
Why haven't you said anything? When are you going to weigh in on this? Do you not care?
Baltimore is burning and why haven’t I said anything?
You don't think there’s been enough self-serving gratuitous hand wringing, chest beating, and dick waggling on this subject?
Because every network, every pundit, every politician has managed to find a way to profit from this latest round of violence. Every single one.
Before that, though, not one of them ever mentioned Baltimore. Not even me. Nobody gives a shit about Baltimore – not even Martin O'Malley and he used to run the place. But suddenly every media outlet has a truck in Baltimore, live on the scene and streaming the pictures into every living room in glorious High Definition and there you are, on the bloody mean streets of Baltimore.
Every presidential hopeful has something to say about Baltimore.
Every Senator and every Representative knows who to blame for Baltimore.
Every pundit is an authority on Baltimore.
And every American has picked a side in Baltimore.
And so, what? I should make some hay in Baltimore too? Sure, why shouldn’t I pander for donations and page views and "likes" built on the pain and misery of others?
So, what is it exactly that you'd like me to say?
I mean, what is there left to say?
You're maybe expecting some pithy observation? Some special insight, right? Sorry, I'm fresh out.
We all, every single one of us whether we admit it or not, we all know what the deal is in Baltimore.
It's the same all over America.
It’s the same all over the world in fact.
When people have nothing left to lose, when rage and hopelessness are the norm, when violence and poverty have become birthrights, when systematic disenfranchisement is the order of the day, then riot and destruction are always only seconds away. Always.
What we forget is this: When people have nothing left to lose, then the only thing left to them is rage.
You've seen this how many times in your life? How many times throughout history? Here and abroad? Opportunists who inevitably turn peaceful protest to violence. Faceless police, machine-like in armor and shields. Riot and mayhem. Soldiers in the streets. Fire, shattered windows, blood, and the air dense with the fog of gas?
And you're surprised, shocked, how?
You look at the images on your screen and you see exactly what you want to see, confirmation of whatever terrors keep you up afraid in the night. The politicians and the media, left and right and lost in the middle, feed you whatever you want to hear.
We’ve seen this same, exact, scenario played out how many times? Frankly, I’m only surprised that it happens as infrequently as it does in America, that’s a luxury unknown for many outside our borders.
But the thing is this: You know how to solve this problem.
You know what the answers are, we all do, even those of us currently determined not to admit it.
Oh we certainly do: equality, justice, liberty, humanity, compassion, education, investment, opportunity, access, community, shared history, shared dreams, shared purpose, belonging, pride, acceptance, self worth, respect.
Those are what make up a stable civilization.
Those are the things that keep people from riot and rage.
Those are the things that hold civilization together and drive it forward.
But those things do not exist in a vacuum.
It’s not enough to tell others to pick themselves up.
It’s not enough to to yell, “get a job, have some pride, stop lighting shit on fire, you stupid lazy fuckers!”
You can not bootstrap from nothing to everything.
Civilization, society, they don't spring whole cloth from parched soil, they require effort. A healthy civilization, one that doesn’t go around lighting itself on fire, well, that requires we make good on the promise of our founders: life, liberty, and justice for all. Along with equality, humanity, compassion, tolerance, solid education, investment, opportunity, access, community, shared history and shared dreams and a shared purpose, a sense of belonging and ownership – only then will you see pride in self and respect for others replace rage.
But civilization is hard.
If it was easy, if those things listed above were easy, then they would be the human condition.
But it is injustice and intolerance and rage that are the norm instead.
Civilization has to be built from the ground up, nurtured, encouraged, protected, watched over, managed.
It's much easier to ignore the problem.
It’s far far easier to blame complex problems on simple things, race, drugs, ideology, religion, money. It makes for a better sound bite. It tells us that it’s not our fault nor our responsibility. It’s them, those stupid lazy fuckers, if they’d just get a job and stop lighting shit on fire, pull up their pants and take some pride in themselves…
Like New York and Berkeley, like Ferguson, like Brooklyn, like Anaheim, like Oakland, and like a thousand other moments of rage before, Baltimore will soon be forgotten.
And we’ll go on as before. Eyes averted, pretending there’s nothing wrong.
But down underneath? We all know, all of us, what needs to be done.
But we will not do it.
And tomorrow another city will burn.