My Heart Bleeds For Baltimore

There is no good or bad, only perception

A view of rowhomes on Patterson Park Avenue with downtown in the background, taken from an upper level of the Patterson Park Pagoda.  (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore was my home for five years during my early twenties.  The city gave me countless irreplaceable memories.  When I think about my time living there I become incredibly nostalgic.

Playing football at Patterson Park and dodgeball at Du Burns Arena.  Going out drinking every weekend in Canton or Federal Hill.  Getting sushi and buckets of beer at Cross Street Market.  Orioles games at Camden Yards.  Looking back on those times I am incredibly grateful for those experiences.   A part of me will always love Baltimore.

I have continued to spend time in Charm City for the last 10 years.  Seeing riots break out in Baltimore struck a chord with me.  I felt anguish and anger as I watched areas I frequented being looted and destroyed.  It forced me to reevaluate and change my perspective on civil unrest.

I felt like the riots in Ferguson earlier this year were happening in another country.  I was rather indifferent to them.  My view of the riots was that a bunch of animals were destroying their homes.  People were responding in a violent manner over the police shooting of a criminal.  The cries of police abusing power were heard in my ears, but I didn’t take them to heart.  Having been the subject of police brutality myself, one would think I would be more sympathetic.

When the riots first started in Baltimore I kept the same narrow minded view as I had on Ferguson.  The police abused their power and took the life of another criminal.  Now opportunists were using this tragedy as the impetus to loot and riot for their own personal gain.

The way much of the media depicted this situation perpetuated the same parochial view to the rest of the public.  The news doesn’t normally show the peaceful protesters who are fed up, but are going about their way in a nonviolent manner.  In my opinion they tend to show volatile events in an irresponsible and dangerous manner in the name of ratings.

When I would look at social media, the majority of my feed was made up of clips pushing the media’s agenda.  Showing the riots instead of the nonviolent protests.  There is a certain rush from the injustice we feel when we see people acting barbaric, attacking innocent bystanders and burning down their own neighborhoods.

It’s easy to join in with that gang mentality and push what the media outlets show us. They dictate how we should perceive and feel about what was occurring .  In the past I would have joined in and shared the videos.  I would have made insensitive statements without thinking twice.  Hate and ignorance begets hate and ignorance.

image1Somewhere after the first day of the riots my mindset started to change.  My thoughts shifted to the people I love in Baltimore.  I became scared knowing they could possibly be victims of violence.   I feared for a little boy, who’s only 5, that has to grow up in the face of this type of unrest in this country.  The spill over and rage of people who feel that they have not been heard or seen for too long can no longer be silenced.

Out of every disaster and hardship comes opportunity if you look for it.  Deep down I truly believe that somewhere in these tumultuous events lies hope for a better future with more understanding.  This is possibly IF (and that is a gigantic if) we get the right people to look at and assess the situation.  Not the same people who continue to get us into these devastating catastrophes.

The unfortunate fact is that so many of us, myself included, have a set belief system that interferes with us seeing opportunity in tragedy.  It’s easy for me to drive on my default setting of what I have always thought was right and wrong.  Life’s simple that way.  I don’t have to make hard choices and think for myself.  I just stick to what I have always believed and stay ignorant.

However, there are people with the ability to see the bigger picture.  They have learned to expand their minds and remove the blinders that keep others from seeing the grey area where the opportunities live.  They have the capability to take something like these riots and turn it into something exceptional.

The biggest problem with finding opportunity in these occurrences is that the truly gifted people with that ability want nothing to do with politics.  We tend to have the most inept people, who are unwilling to perceive things differently, in power. That’s on both sides of the political spectrum. Until that changes, not much else will change.

When the right people examine a problem anything is possible.  Our country can no longer tolerate the pain and suffering of individuals without trying to empower them.  Archaic methods of making people dependent on a system that is broken and does not serve their best interests can no longer be allowed to exist.  We need to create new ways to stimulate growth and development throughout our country and improve relations across the racial divide.