The View From Baltimore

Just days ago, Baltimore was being torn to shreds and people wondered why. Why did they wonder? The causes are staring us in the face. A little background, first.

I moved to Baltimore in 1959, at the age of 17, to go to school here. Then, this city was utterly beautiful, with cool parks in summer, tree lined streets, a great university, some of the nation’s finest hospitals. I attended one of the four best schools of music in the US, right here in this city. We used to sit out on the balcony of the Conservatory building and play string quartets to people milling in the park. A culture of peace and prosperity, based on the American work ethics and established standards of civility, made it a fine place to live.

In the downtown area, one walked past beautiful buildings with department stores and restaurants where whole families could stroll, shop, eat, go to the movies, and generally get along. That began to change in the late sixties. Some changes were good. Black people at last got the right to eat in restaurants and go to theaters at will, with no danger of being refused service. The values that Martin Luther King propounded were accepted and embraced by white and black alike. This was a fine social achievement. But some changes led to the awful breakdown of traditional values, which, despite arguments to the contrary, held society together.

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The changes began with Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. LBJ himself said of his policies, “I’ll keep those n***** voting Democrat for the next 200 years.” I left Baltimore in 1983 and came back in 2007. I suppose the shock was all the greater after my long absence, but my memory of the city jarred with what I now saw. Vast areas of downtown had turned into a massive slum, populated by street types who are mostly on welfare and constantly self-medicated with drugs, both legal and illegal, and consisting of discount beauty supply stores and cheap electronics in the few occupied buildings sandwiched between boarded up store fronts defaced by ugly graffiti.

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Baltimore was already on the right path. Neighborhoods were already integrating voluntarily. People were beginning to accept and even embrace the whole idea of integration. Yes, some work still needed to be done, but it was happening as all good social things to: on its own. Then, under the Liberalism of the sixties—forced busing and other disastrous policies promoted by leftward drift of the Johnson administration—our culture began its downward decent. And in 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King sparked the first Baltimore Riots and set us on a path ripe for the racist rhetoric of those who followed King and corrupted his message.

The introduction of Federal Welfare, a cheating scheme created to buy black votes, as LBJ promised, created the present ruinous entitlement mentality by destroying the work incentive among otherwise hard-working people and created generational indigence in entire neighborhoods. Black people were inversely affected by this program because it was aimed at them.

At one time the local economy was supported mostly by Bethlehem steel, the city’s largest employer, providing thousands of jobs for blacks and whites alike. But that was ruined—some say by unions, high taxes and oppressive policies. Now, the economy is largely buoyed by Johns Hopkins and other medical facilities. Hopkins has replaced Bethlehem Steel as the city’s biggest employer. Baltimore’s hospitals are some of the best in the world. They thrive economically, hire a lot of people and improve property, replacing slums with habitable housing.

But, at the very least, it’s a contradiction of symbols. A vigorous city, once supported by the virile production of steel and shipping, is now sick and must be nursed by hospitals, mental facilities, and drug clinics. Driving my daughter to school, I pass by a drug clinic whose clients can be seen not quite standing, but not quite falling down either, in a drug-induced stupor that makes them seem barely alive.

Baltimore is a Liberal stronghold, run by the most awful elements of the Left who have created a massively corrupt and corrosive culture of welfare-driven indigence. Welfare used to mean charity and it was always administered locally, largely by private institutions supported voluntarily by caring local people. When charity is made mandatory—which is what Federal welfare policies have done—it ceases to be charitable. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It eventually destabilizes society and ruins the moral fiber necessary to keep it whole.

As for the latest mess, I watched as a newly constructed senior citizen’s building was burned to the ground by angry, ignorant mobs claiming white racism as their motive. This city is now about 72% black and has been run by black Democrats for decades. 41% of the cops are black. The mobs chant anti-white slogans while being told by Al Sharpton that when black people express race hatred it is not racism, because blacks are not part of the power structure, therefore, cannot be racist. This, of course, is absolutely absurd. Black people can and often are racists. Moreover, people are not the cause of these riots. Look at who makes up the mobs. But neither are most black people, who live here peaceably. In fact, many local black people were so disgusted by the horror that they spoke out against the rioters.

Skin color does not cause social breakdown. Attitude resulting from the culture of slums does the damage. Those slums and that culture is encouraged by self-serving Liberal politicians and demagogues who spout the effluvium that all whites are racist. In so doing, they encourage the very real and very pernicious racism of black against white. Yes, racism, because there is no such thing as reverse racism. Racism is the determination of a person’s worth by his race. Nothing else. And it is encouraged and instigated by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama. Now we have Loretta Lynch to add to that list.

Their purpose in encouraging this destructive attitude is nefarious. So long as class and race hatred exists, they have power. But the result is ruining whole populations and it is the product of Liberal policies that have turned this one-time beautiful city into a crumbling mess, doing only marginally better than Detroit.

People become stupid when they are collectivized and fed propaganda instead of truth. The collectivizing process dehumanizes people by robbing them of their ability to think as individuals. This turns people into mobs, who do not think or act with moral imperative as individual human beings do. Instead, they act with brute force; they riot, loot, and burn down other people’s property. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, a person for whom I once had at least grudging respect, made the extraordinary statement that she had given the mob room to destroy. This is not leadership. It is driving people over a cliff, the worst kind of leading from behind because it is a hard push in exactly the wrong direction. At first, trying to cover the criminal mishandling of the situation, local media insisted that the violent agitators were outsiders and the locals all peaceable. In the end, even Rep. Elijah Cummings had to admit that most of the looting and burning was done by locals. At first even Mayor Rawlings Blake rightly called them “thugs,” but then she made the criminally stupid move of walking in procession with Al Sharpton, the worst racist-mongering liar around. It was a career-ruining move on her part because nobody liked what happened here. And when she admitted giving the thugs room to loot and pillage while ordering police to stand down, she committed professional suicide. After her, came the State Attorney, Marylin Mosby, who is now being accused of corruption. Good riddance to all of them.

I love this city and would like to save it. There are many good people in Baltimore of all colors and creeds. They are my neighbors and friends. But until people give up the hate-filled rhetoric of Liberalism and again embrace the core values of American initiative, civility, and harmony, the culture of this city will not cure itself of the present pestilence. Until we get away from generational welfare and other destructive Liberal policies that cause high rates of crime and illegitimacy, until families once again occupy the city, it will not be resurrected.

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