Christine Flowers, 4/30/2015 [Archive]

What's the Appropriate Word for a Baltimore Vandal?

By Christine Flowers

I like to say that I was born on Mt. Sinai, along with the Ten Commandments.Unlike the tablets, though, which were delivered by Moses, I was delivered by Dr. Rizika, an obstetrician at that Baltimore hospital with the biblical name in December of 1961.

This hardly makes me a Baltimorean, since I was barely 1 when we returned north to my parents' hometown.I was an accidental asterix, alone among generations of Philadelphia Flowers and Fuscos, and owe my below-the-Mason-Dixon-Line birth to Daddy's last semester at the University of Maryland.

But Baltimore is someplace deep inside as well, because I bear gratitude to the city that welcomed me into the human family. I go back on occasion, to cheer on my second favorite baseball team at magnificent Camden Yards, to wander around the inner harbor where they were just breaking ground when I was born, to eat crabs on the dock, to walk the few brief blocks of Little Italy and to look for the ghosts of Johnny U and the Babe and the stallions at Pimlico.

I guess, in a way, Baltimore was my first love, if cities can be the object of devotion.

That must be why I actually cried when I saw the carnage on television. The tears were real, they were unexpected and came from an anger that I didn't know I could muster.I hadn't cried when I saw the bomb dropped on the Move compound in Philadelphia three decades ago, even though there was an equal amount of anger.

To see Baltimore in flames because animals were rampaging through her streets left me with a feeling of bitterness that not even the release of social media outlets could alleviate.I went on Facebook and engaged in some polite (and not so polite) debate with "friends" who chewed over the political and social and cultural and legal significance of what was happening.

And yes, I was criticized in the most deliberate terms about calling the protestors "animals" because in the world of political correctness, the lexicon we use cannot offend the evolved sensibilities of the intellectuals.

Well I was not an intellectual. In fact, I don't even know what that means.When your birth city is in flames and you are seeing police being attacked and a mayor who is losing her tenuous grip on municipal authority (and sanity,) you don't look for the thesaurus to find a more appropriate word for vandal.

I would say that the animals I mentioned also included any police officer who believed that a beating brutal enough to sever a spine was justifiable force.Brutality and inhumanity have no color, no creed, no canon.We are apparently all capable of swilling around in the dirt and snapping that tenuous thread that tethers us to the civilization.

Being angry about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and now Freddie Gray doesn't justify destroying a city. It doesn't justify terrorizing innocent people.If you even try and say "I understand why" and "they shattered those windows" in the same sentence, you are a fool and a tool of race baiters.If you, on the other hand, reflexively defend the police and refuse to believe that they overreacted in Ferguson, New York or Baltimore, you are also blind to the realities that black men face.

I'm not blind, and I'm not a fool.I know that there is anger on both sides, and that some of the anger is justifiable.But there is nothing that justifies turning the dogs of hell loose in a city where people are simply trying to move forward and live lives of purpose.

I weep for Baltimore.It has its warts, its dark regions of menace and despair, its northeastern rot and decay from years of failed social programs and an aging populace.But it is a place of great beauty, of history, of importance.

I weep for what we are losing, when we unleash the furies in its streets.We are losing our humanity, and in that maelstrom of hatred and recrimination and justification of violence, we are losing our chance at a future.

I weep while writing these words.I am glad that both of my parents, who considered staying in Baltimore before familial ties pulled them ever-so-reluctantly home, are dead.They had bright memories of the place.

And I weep for Philadelphia because, if my native city cannot avoid the senseless violence, it's only a matter of time before my hometown feels the onslaught of those same destructive flames.

——-

©2015 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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