Baltimore

Baltimore.

Back in the 90s, when I was a teenager, it was called The City that Bleeds. A rip on the ‘City that Reads’ slogan we used to boast, and an indicator of the level of violence back in those days.

Today, Yahoo had a story on Baltimore, and though I knew better than to read the comments, I did read a few. And I got angry, of course. Too many people that can’t even find my city on a map have opinions on the liberal government, calling the people here entitled, blaming black leadership when this problem began under white leadership and has carried over from centuries of economic inequality.

I’ll tell you now, the problem isn’t specifically racial. Most people in Baltimore will tell you the same thing, and I even saw several try to tell the national news media when they were here for our ‘riots’ only to be shut down because it didn’t fit the narrative people were trying to tell. Or sell, as the case may be.

I hate when you start talking about my city without knowing a thing about it. I hate when you develop a misinformed opinion based on what you think you know. Just because you watched The Wire doesn’t mean you know anything about this city. You’ve got to live here to understand.

I’ll give a run-down, though. Just to help a little.

  1. We’re way more diverse than the media would have you believe. We’re also way more integrated in most neighborhoods…except the very poorest where the majority of residents are people of color and brown immigrants. That’s a problem that’s echoed in every city in this nation. So…if you live in a city, you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb thanks to the lack of opportunities for the poorest people.
  2. We haven’t had youth programs in this city since the early 90s, when the Police Athletic League was done away with. BTW, that was not done under black leadership, either. When you deprive the youth of safe entertainment and socialization outlets, they will create their own or fall into alternative opportunities that may result in high crimes and/or death. Spend some money on youth programs and I guarantee the crime rates will fall. Idle hands, and whatnot—you know that saying?
  3. There is no future, no community investment, no opportunities for growth and mobility. That leaves limited options. If you’re trying to support your family, where will you go for money? Gangs, when there are no legitimate means. And that goes back to youth programs because gangs recruit early and they foster a sense of loyalty and family the government and your grandma can’t compete with. Oh, and we’re currently working on the second or third generation of this, so kids learned what their parents learned…
  4. Food deserts exist in cities. We have Arabers who carry food into the communities, but we need more. We need more smaller groceries and farmer’s markets, more local produce options and community gardens. Neighborhoods don’t always have good access to markets and grocery stores because space is limited. You won’t find a Walmart close by and lots of people have to buy only what they can carry on the bus, so no savings on bulk like the suburbanites and their wholesale clubs. It’s a problem for nutrition and health, energy and output and has educational ramifications, as well. Kids don’t have enough food to concentrate on daily studies, so we need to be feeding them better in school. Don’t tell me how your kid hated the healthy food Michelle Obama chose for the education system. Don’t tell me how they threw it away and don’t be smug about it when there are legitimate cases of severe malnourishment in poor neighborhoods.
  5. The education is for shit here. They restructured thanks to George W. Bush’s (not liberal, BTW) No Child Left Behind policy, which may have had good intentions, but resulted in children being pushed through the system no matter if they could read or not. America’s literacy rate has fallen, and continues to fall, drastically, dramatically and alarmingly. Wake up, people. Start wondering what your own kids are being taught, and start questioning what the school system may have hidden from you. In my city and the surrounding counties, we are now learning some terrible truths and if you start digging, I’ll bet you’ll find some too.
  6. Entrepreneurship was turned into a dirty word, or just made impossible. Unless you want to open a liquor store, of course. How about spending some money on grants for small businesses? How about broadly advertising SBA programs and workshops to help budding businessmen and women learn about their options and what’s needed to open a business. Get more small boutiques, stores and services into every community to help lift everyone, to create a stable micro-economy that feeds into the larger city revenues. Focus on small and work up, because trickle down really, really doesn’t work.
  7. Which brings me to the politicians. It’s human nature to be greedy and grasping—and don’t try to sputter a defense of yourself, we all have those moments. Unfortunately, too many in power are allowed to have those moments too frequently, and it doesn’t matter if they’re liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, black or white. They are people, so things universal to human nature hold true regardless of whatever box you’d like to shove them into. Yes they get reelected—what do you expect of a population that has a lowering literacy rate? What do you expect of a population that is told repeatedly that they are worthless and their voice doesn’t matter?

 

And, BTW, why are any elected officials allowed to vote themselves a raise? (Revenue from the speed cameras, I suppose?) A public servant’s pay increase should be a matter of public referendum. How dare you believe you deserve more money for a job well done when we can bury the dead in all the potholes and your own detectives are being killed on the job? How dare you think you should get more money when our kids are graduating with zero proficiency in their school subjects? You think you’re doing well? Let’s take a vote. If we agree, you get your raise, if not, you don’t. It’s called accountability…or theft, the way you do it.

 

Jesus preserve us, for the second time in as many weeks I find myself repeating the words of an evil madman who doesn’t deserve the fame the world afforded him. People are reflections of the society around them. They are what we made them.

You don’t want violence in your cities? Invest in the people. Don’t give them things, teach them things. Provide opportunities and you won’t have to give them hand-outs. They’re not entitled, they’re appeased in the most negligent way the white patriarchy could come up with. And yes, I blame white patriarchy in particular even though many white people are caught in the same system with the same limitations because—from the outset—our system was set up to  accommodate the rich.

Most poor people are white, but most black people are poor.

Think about that.

Honestly, at the end of the day, this is all classist, not specifically racist, but we are appeased by racist thinking because then we of the lower 50% turn on each other rather than put our considerably energy and talents toward rectifying the true problem. The hoarding of resources.

So, the next time you want to form an opinion on a place you’ve never been based on something you saw in the media, but you’ve never heard a single truth from someone who lives there…just bite your tongue and, instead, start thinking about all the ways we could improve the lives of the clearly downtrodden.

Better schools, business loan programs, good nutrition and a focus on the youth to teach them how to be productive citizens. That kind of knowledge doesn’t result on its own, you know. Someone taught you how to tie your shoes, right? Hands-on approach rather than through observation.

Also, you with your opinions, what are doing to make your own community better?

 

That’s my bone to pick…

Is it human nature to isolate?

Is it human nature to isolate? To put yourself into a box, to put all others into a box, to create many boxes and make someone fit somewhere?

Us versus them.

I understand the importance of this concept evolutionarily speaking. Your tribe might have been in direct competition with another tribe for various resources… And we all know we’ve got to take care of our own first, right?

But human society has evolved faster than human brains have. Humans are still hardwired toward selfishness because that greed could have meant the difference between survival and a horrendous death. Those with resources hoarded them in case they ever faced a time when those resources were scarce.

Fuck everybody else.

But we’ve come so far. As a society, as a technologically advancing series of societies, as a global tribe with a greater understanding of each other every day…we’ve come so far. Do you really want to be great? Then you have to lift everyone to greatness.

A rising tide floats all boats.

I don’t believe communism is the answer. I think it’s a terrible system, in fact, because humans are hardwired to be selfish hoarders. Why would I do the work when I’ll get what I need anyway? And if you’re not doing the work and you’re still getting what I’m getting, why would I continue to do the work? Society breaks down.

We definitely need a merit system. But we need a system where we are all accountable to each other, invested in each other and our communities. We need our governments to be accountable too, because that is the purpose of being a tribe. A tribe has to have accountable leaders who care about their people, or at least cares about a people’s revolution enough to work in the community’s interests rather than their own.

This holiday season, let’s try to look at things from a different perspective. Let’s find some compassion, some understanding. Stop the isolationism, work together and break out of those boxes…and maybe then we truly can be great.

Trickling down takes a certain gravity

Drip, drip, drip…does it ever become a flood?

What do the people who think they’re in charge mean by trickle-down economics? They mean that they pass laws that benefit the wealthiest pocketbooks and, in return, the money trickles down…to them. They get money to pass more laws to benefit the wealthiest and the money trickles down again…to them.

We’ll call this the Money Wheel. No, the Economic Cycle… Ooh, no, The Price is Right.

My education focused on social and political developmental issues, things like education (and a rant on that is coming soon) the need for safe roads and youth programs, and also free elections and a multiple party electoral system where no one ideology can gain the majority and those who are supposed to be representing the people are no longer able to represent their own economic interests instead.

We have entered a truly capitalist age in the United States. Currently, we are seeing a massive expansion of corporate interests and protections, but this comes at the cost of resources our country has long valued. These economic changes come at the cost of blessings that we have taken for granted…

Clean drinking water, for example. Silt, oil and god-only-knows-what-else can pollute the ground water to the point that our water treatment facilities are unable to adequately clean it. If they shut down, we’ll have to hope the microscopic organisms don’t kill us first. (Ask around any area flooded after a hurricane, they’ll tell you how nightmarish ‘no water’ can be.) That means, we’ll either poison ourselves with chemical agents trying to disinfect the water, or we’ll get used to the taste of petroleum. Either way, it’s a remarkable change from what we have now, with enough clean water access that we can dig massive holes, fill them up with water that won’t kill us via some awful flesh-eating bacteria, and play in it.

For comparison: I used to live in Africa. If I wanted to play in water, I had to take my chances next to the sharp-toothed wildlife. To drink the water, I walked a half-kilometer, pumped the water into a bucket I then carried home on my head, boiled it and put it through a filter. There are some families over there who must designate one member to nearly exclusive water duty, and it takes hours to get enough to supply the family for the day. Would you like to switch over to that system? Because that might be coming…

The majority of us value our resources and understand that our society is not just capitalist. If so, we’d all be registered as corporations. We wouldn’t care about education, healthcare, food or water. We’d be in the ring every day, fighting for own survival…

A society has other concerns than money, and those concerns must be met. Just look at Maslow’s Hierarchy (and consider where we might be on this scale):

We must balance the things we need to survive into the future with the economic interests of today. Clear air, so we can breathe, clean water, so we can live. The bees are already in danger because of human actions, and they are extremely important to the environment and the way life lives. If you’re not concerned, if you’re skeptical of a need to protect the environment, then you don’t understand the consequences.

Side note: if you’re a Christian arguing against things like climate change and the importance of forest preservation and species conservation, I suggest you take a look back at Genesis, where God creates Adam to be a caretaker of the earth and all things in it. Are you doing your part? When you stand before the Creator on judgment day, neither ignorance nor disbelief will be a proper defense for the way you, personally, probably treated the environment around you.

All right, all right. I’ll put that particular soap box away and come to my point. Trickle down economics is a myth. They’ve been trying to rationalize this lie for decades now, and it still doesn’t pan out. Do you really think that the richest people who have stockpiles of money don’t have enough to hire more people for their corporations? They can invest in everything but people, we’ve got computers and robots and advanced research & development happening every single day, and you think they can’t afford to pay somebody $10 an hour to…what are you going to do for them, anyway? Sweep the floor? They got a Roomba.

It’s a pyramid scheme, and you’ve been taken. Quite frankly, we’ve all been taken—hostage, that is. There is no trickle down, and no, there is no real trickle up, either. There is a small benefit to giving more money to poor people, because they will actually spend the money in their local economies, unlike rich people, who only buy designer brands and fly to foreign countries for handmade specialty items.

We need a radiate out program, instead. (Historically, people in charge don’t like that idea.) Pump the money into the middle class and you suddenly create upward mobility. They will both spend in their local economies and invest in large corporations. We need entrepreneurial programs to help ordinary folks with a vision open their own businesses. We really do need a return to Main Street, and I can see this country clamoring for it.

I saw a comment on a forum the other day about the death of Mom & Pop stores, and how they’ll never come back. But that’s not true. The comment focused on bigger businesses, like Walmart and Target, and the importation of cheaper, foreign-made objects. That has their place, and it’s a valuable one to our society. Everyone should have the right to affordable soap and underwear, right?

But raise your hand if you’d rather shop for something special at a local boutique. Raise your hand if you’d like to buy a handmade piece of jewelry that no one else has—all for a good price from a local artist. Raise your hand if you have a favorite independent coffee shop that suits your personality exactly. How about fresh bread, yummy pastries? Tell me why Farmer’s Markets do so well if Mom & Pop’s have gone the way of the dodo.

This country isn’t all about big business, that’s just what the baby boomers focused on. And, to be brutally honest, I’m getting tired of them deciding our future, when they won’t have to pay the consequences for their bad decisions and tunnel vision.

We are a people. A tribe, a nation. In spite of our differences, we’re all supposed to be on the same side, one team. That’s a functioning society, where we all contribute, are allowed to contribute and respect each other’s differences and opinions and unique perspectives. But, for too long, we’ve been treated like a corporation, with clear favoritism, cut-throat hiring practices and little opportunity for advancement. Now, they’re turning us into cage-match fighters, looking for survival.

So, take a minute to think… Let’s pretend rich people and corporations really do hire more people when they get a kick back from the government. Do you think they’ll hire you? Are you close enough to get a job with them? Are you qualified for a job with them? How do you think the current economic plan that’s making its way through the Senate and the House will benefit you? You, personally. If your answer has a ‘but’ in there, it doesn’t. It won’t help you at all.

Our society needs to balance the economy with other interests. How about healthcare, education, saving our national treasures and reducing crime. All the things we have issues with today are a direct result of poor and/or nefarious financial decisions. We need to stop walking party lines in this country and start remembering that we’re all in the same boat. And the people we trusted with our oars are steering us toward a waterfall.

~~~

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know?

To have and to hold…

Today I’m interested in the Fourth Amendment.

Search and Seizure. Essentially, this amendment guarantees every citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their lives, property, businesses, etc. This is why the police and government agencies need warrants to look deeper when they suspect you’ve committed some crime or infraction. This is why it’s illegal to pull someone over for no good reason and search the trunk of their car, or their pockets. It’s why police can’t just barge into your house, why they can’t stop and frisk young black men for simply walking down the street. It’s why the government can’t fly drones over your corn field looking for your hidden marijuana plants or tap your phone or read your emails. Social media is not included…

This Amendment doesn’t get as much press as the First or Second, and do you even know what the Third is? (Quartering soldiers. Britain used to make people house the military at their own expense. Way to save on the military budget, right?) Anyway, the Fourth is very important, so while 1 and 2 have their rabid battles, the Fourth is quietly doing the heavy lifting of protecting the citizens of this country.

While everyone was distracted, it came under fire.

Most notably, the Fourth has been undermined by Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio. According to the Washingtom Post (just to name a source, but it’s validated by other news organizations) a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people who were not suspected of actual criminal activity.

Essentially, Arpaio disregarded court orders and targeted people he thought specifically fit a stereotype in his region of what an ‘illegal immigrant’ was. Cough, cough…’Mexicans’…

For the record, being in this country, even without documentation, isn’t illegal—which I know will be a shocker for so many to learn. Undocumented residence in this country is a civil violation. It’s on the same level as not paying child support—which may, depending upon state rules, result in a stay in jail, but isn’t something that would go on your record or even cause deportation (shock!). Jaywalking is a crime, living somewhere isn’t.

Side note to create empathy: let’s say you’re a white man. Let’s pretend that being in the KKK, while not a crime, will get you fined for some civil violation. Maybe…I don’t know…it’s against your town’s decency standards, or something. So, Sheriff Someone goes looking for KKK members, but he starts stopping every white man he comes across because, let’s face it, nobody else is joining the group, right? But you got stopped, just because you were white… You’re not part of the group, would never be part of the group, but you still got stopped, frisked for any potential burning crosses, strip searched and checked out for swastika tattoos and then your home was also ransacked—and God help you if your sheets are white, yeah?

Is that fair? No. No, it’s not fair because you were just walking across the Walmart parking lot, minding your own business with no discernible tattoos or political/religious affiliations. Still, you fit the stereotype and so you were stopped. Wow, that must be infuriating…and illegal.

But Sheriff Someone was given a free pass, not only setting a precedent that other sheriffs in other towns may follow, but creating a boisterous, though small, group of supporters for Sheriff Someone’s policies regarding this terrible, indecent nuisance. Yes? So what happens when the town council decides it’s indecent for men to wear socks with sandals, which is your favorite thing to do? Or for residents to eat anything other than locally-grown fair trade organic produce but you’re allergic to spinach and only eat meat? With me so far? Maybe….?

Well, here’s another example, then. According to the NY Post, among others, Trump’s lawyers have asked Facebook for private information concerning private individuals who have ‘liked’ anti-Trump pages. Like the rest of America, I take news these days with a grain of salt and look for multiple sources to validate whatever claims are made. This is not making waves, so do your research, butI believe this case to be true, especially given this Administration’s history with these things.

What history? Demanding voter information, for one example. Some of what they wanted was public knowledge, or for sale through the State, but other requested data was inessential to what they were looking for. So what will they really use it for? What does this particular, and unpopular/authoritarian-leaning, administration want with the information that previous administrations didn’t feel the need to waste money on? We blame Trump’s narcissism, he needs to prove those other 3 million votes were illegally cast, but there could be a darker purpose.

Like, oh, I don’t know, rounding up critics and those opposed to the sweeping and oft-times detrimental policy changes being enacted upon us. Puts that Facebook thing into a different light, looking at it from that perspective, right? How…Orwellian. I suggest you read some, in fact.

They’ve got the ‘average’ American hoodwinked, too. They (a particular set of media/politicians/ideologues) challenge your natural reaction to giving up your privacy. You shy away, you have a funny resistance to it… But they say, what do you have to hide? You’re a good American, a patriot, don’t you want to help…

But you’re helping the downfall of your own Constitution. Every time you say, sure you can look at my corn field on camera, sure that phone could be tapped, of course they should give up their emails…what do they have to hide? You are undermining the very hard-working Fourth Amendment, and you might not care so much about it right now, but just wait till it’s gone. This one, above all, is the very concept that truly stands between freedom and totalitarianism.

Laws can be changed, and in this political climate there is no guarantee that you’ll know beforehand. You could let the police into your house thinking to be helpful, and, in certain towns, if they spy your dildo, you can be charged. If they use the bathroom, without search and seizure restrictions they can open your medicine cabinet and poke around…What do you have in there? Did you dispose of any leftover medications legally and properly?

The wholesale removal of rights would cause an uproar among us all, but a little bit here and there…and what does it matter of you’ve done ‘nothing’ wrong…

There are a myriad of small infractions a lot of us commit every day, and the Fourth keeps our little, mostly innocuous secrets safe. So be a good citizen, pay attention, and protect your privacy however you can.

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know? I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative. I believe the best path lies in the middle and the truth takes participation from both sides. I also believe we’re on a dangerous, slippery slope because a lot of sides of a lot of issues aren’t listening to anyone else.

Nobody is always entirely right…

 

 

Monday Morning I want my Quarterbacks

So, for a while now, I’ve been threatening to get my rant on. For the most part, I’ve wanted to keep my politics separate from my business because we all know how how fast a business goes up in flames when you voice an opinion that somebody is bound to disagree with…

Which is, ultimately, why I decided to start up this section, entitled My Bone to Pick. My opinion, my perspective, and we all know that, in this day and age, perspective IS reality, no matter if that perspective is right or wrong, true or false, yes?

I’m not a coward. My business doesn’t mean more to me than speaking out for the right things. And why should everybody else get to have their say and not me?

So, the topic du jour this Monday, September 25th, 2017: Who took a knee at the football game?

Oh, let me rephrase that: Who cares who took a knee at the football game while North Korea declares (potentially nuclear) war on the United States of America?

Y’all are so worried about your favorite player having an opinion different than yours that you’ve ignored the real threat to your freedoms and safety. Squabbling amongst ourselves is going to get much more difficult to do when we’re all choking on toxic radiation. And you were so concerned about Zika…and Ebola…wait till you get a load of what’s coming.

Hold on, though. I promised an opinion, right?

My opinion is, #takeaknee. Quite frankly, I think Kap was lazy, didn’t feel like standing up, got called out on it and came up with a brilliant protest on the fly. (So, good job, there, man.) Now that there’s something to kneel for though, I’m down with it. Since when is kneeling disrespectful? Don’t you kneel before God (because, let’s just call a stereotypical spade a stereotypical spade and posit the theory that Good Christians are the ones with the strongest Anti-Knee opinion, mmm-kay?).

They shouldn’t do it on their team owner’s time? Maybe the owner doesn’t mind. Maybe, in fact, the owner agrees with the protest. After all, he sees the value in the men of color on his team, right? He doesn’t just appreciate the white players. The owner sees their achievements, their skills and, in many cases, their humanitarian efforts. And yet, so many people in the communities these men have come from, who may even share similar value, efforts and achievements, don’t have the same opportunities…and they don’t have the same freedoms. Maybe rectifying that is a fight the owners believe in and support.

Sure, you have the right to not watch, tear up your ticket, write the Commissioner (because I’m sure he’s personally reading your letter, uh-huh, I’m positive). Or, you could just sing the anthem louder. (You do know the words right? ‘Cause, if not, that’s disrespectful, you know?) They only kneel for the length of the first verse, so, maybe you could just handle yourself until the game starts?

Maybe, while you put your hand over your heart and honor those who fought and died for your country and your Constitution, you could also spare a minute’s contemplation for the men and women who have served to protect freedoms they didn’t, and still don’t, have.

And if you’re feeling moved by any amount of Christian sentiment, any molecule of empathy for your fellow Americans, those who put their lives on the line so you could argue about non-harmful, peaceful events that took place in the last five minutes of a pre-game ritual, perhaps you, too, will be driven to your knees so you can pray that all people of your homeland, all members of what essentially amounts to being your tribe, may one day share the same equality and justice that you have.

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know? I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative. I believe the best path lies in the middle and the truth takes participation from both sides. I also believe we’re on a dangerous, slippery slope because a lot of sides of a lot of issues aren’t listening to anyone else.

Nobody is always entirely right…