It was Wednesday, the House of Delegates was in the last day of the Special Session to vote on taxes measures meant to balance the budget and not have cut a half billion dollars in public services to Maryland. It should have gone quickly, to the point, without any business brought to the floor that didn’t pertain to the bills at hand. Parliamentary procedure tries to prevent crazy, but there is always “that guy.” This time, “that guy” was Delegate Patrick McDonough (R-7th District).
McDonough, a 4 [non-consecutive] term Delegate representing Baltimore & Harford Counties, decided to announce his outrage that around St Patrick’s Day, while driving on Pratt St, he and his wife allegedly witnessed, as he put it, "a mob of nearly 100 people ‘battling’ in the middle of the street” all of whom he made a point to say were black. After over two months and having never reported what he supposedly saw to authorities, he decided to send out a press release entitled "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays." In both his press release and his statement on the House floor in defense of his unsubtly racist accusations, he claimed the current and previous Mayors of Baltimore of covering up a constant stream violent crime of comparable magnitude for years. He even went so far as to advise that the Inner Harbor needs to be classified as a “no travel zone” even comparing our home to the Middle East, advocating State Troopers patrol to supplement the BCPD that he feels are doing an inadequate job. When the Drudge Report picked up the story, at least one person cancelled his family’s upcoming vacation here in reaction.
The big guy kept on keeping on by arguing that if Mayor Rawlings-Blake "would dedicate that energy and resources to youth outreach, community centers and better intelligence tools for police, I think the city would be a lot safer." I must ask then, why did he, in lock-step with the whole of the GOP caucus, vote moments later against the tax increases to both balance the budget and protect needed public services in Baltimore and statewide, including school funding? Where was he whenever the Baltimore Education Coalition and others lobbied and rallied in Annapolis to protect state funding for City schools, while uber rich Montgomery Co got a funding increase? Where was his support of the Democratically-controlled 111th Congress and the President’s administration tried to support urban renewal? Where was he when any bill ever was voted on in the House that would have sent much needed funding to the City? Oh yes, that’s right, he was probably at a Golden Corral buffet somewhere.
I applaud our Governor, Mayor, Delegate Mitchell and others who took the high road and simply responded with such statements as “Pat should come and visit some time." I thankfully, don’t have to take that road.
McDonough, age 68 (his toupee is approximately age 27), who had seriously considered running for Governor in the last election, was born and raised in Baltimore City. That’s surprising, since every time I see him, I mistake him for that Southern fellow who played “Boss Hog” on the Dukes of Hazzard. He attended City College & UB. He then left for the County, like so many others during “White Flight.”
Let us briefly ignore the obvious fact that McDonough and many like him are obviously racist whether he is self-aware enough to admit it or not. All of this raises another issue of geography, although still inherently racial & socio-economic. There is a serious disconnect the rest of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area has with how they perceive Baltimore, versus reality. It’s not even solely the suburbs and country, people of the District of Columbia are just as guilty of perpetuating, with little to no 1st hand knowledge, the idea that Baltimore is as dangerous as an Afghani warzone.
DC Blogger, Emil Caillaux, maintains that the majority of people that move to DC, do so in the hopes of improving society in one way or another. If that’s partly why folks move to our Capitol, then why in the name of Thurgood Marshall do people in their right minds move to or remain in “Mobtown”? It’s because we are real here, seriously. To live in DC is to want to try to change the world or country, or achieve power. To live in suburbia is try hard to avoid one’s fellowman as much as possible while not being wholly isolated. To live in Baltimore, however, is to just want to unapologetically be ourselves, for better or worse, do so together, and to want the dignity and rights we all deserve, although often denied to us, either individually or collectively. We, by and large, have no choice but to accept human nature. To live in Baltimore, is to accept that the famous quotes of Anne Frank, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart” and of Hobbes, “the life of man [is] poor, nasty, brutish, and short” are true with equal regularity, no matter schizophrenic that may seem at first. For we all see the best and worst of humanity daily. Here, we are all on the level. It is not uncommon to witness a well-dressed professional and someone who may barely have a penny to his/her name enjoying each other’s company at a diner, bar, or on the street without thought to class. They may be childhood friends. They may be complete strangers. Regardless, they are neighbors, and that’s enough when Baltimoreans are at our best.
Yes, our City has issues. Yes, far too many are homeless people, but here they neither faceless nor nameless. We know them by name and count them as friends despite their personal troubles (be it mental illness, substance abuse, or both). LeRoy Moore, the “Mayor of Fell’s Point”, need I say more? Yes, we have thousands of vacants/blight, but there are numerous non-profits organizations, responsible developers (yes, they exist), and just plain old do-gooder citizens trying to turn things around. Small businesses are coming back. Arts, music, and culture of every medium and genre are thriving. Yes, there is rampant economic injustice, but there are Social Justice groups taking a stand. Yes, our school buildings are in worse shape than most prisons, and our educational system is leaving our children behind. But there are hundreds of hard-working teachers, volunteers, groups like ExperienceCorps, dedicated PTA members, and countless others trying to make a difference for our kids even while every level of government ignores them and cuts their budgets. Yes, we have crime, but it is at record lows thanks in part to the members of BCPD that actually care. We have countless problems, but you name a problem and somewhere there are good people keeping their heads held high, working to make a difference in this town. Some watch The Wire and view it as a warning, “enter at your own risk”. We here watch that show and see it for what Simon intended it to be, the truthful albeit partial story of a major American city, and a call to action to save our home.
In short, things are getting better here, and racist fear mongering that cost us all revenue does not help things. We, the people of Baltimore, are working to do the best we can with what we got. Yes, we still have a ways to go. Yes, we still need a true leader with long-term vision to direct all of our positive energies into one cohesive direction. However, if you aren’t fighting with us and for us, then you have no right to slander our fellow denizens or even our government, more especially if you left during “white flight”. That doesn’t just go for McDonough either.
So readers, both of you, show your friends in the County, DC and elsewhere the Baltimore we see, know, & love. Show them that the Inner Harbor is not only perfectly safe; it’s perfectly dull and bland too. Show them your favorite restaurants, stores, art galleries, quirky events, that hole-in-the-wall bar with the great juke box or live music where the bartender knows you by name. Take them to your favorite house of worship with that awesome choir. Play them the songs of your favorite local musicians. Take them duck pin bowling. Walk them around your neighborhood as you bump into all of your neighbors so they can see how gosh-darn nice we are here, usually. Take them to one of to the almost weekly summer festivals. Show them how even our myriad of collective sorrows and woes have beauty, for truth is always as beautiful as it is ugly.
This is a messed up town, but only because humans are a messed up species. Platypi are still far more messed up of a species, however. This town has character. This town has characters, many of them. This town is our home. Anyone who dares insult our friends, our family, our neighbors, our home, better either explore Charm City with open eyes, an open heart, and a pair of good walking shoes, or they should shut up.
On second thought, ignore everything I just wrote. Del. McDonough, DC, suburbia, and the rest of America, everything you heard about Baltimore is absolutely true. If you dare enter our borders, John Waters will molest you on the spot. He’s why I-83 is always backed up. A horde of hipsters on fixed-gear bikes will kidnap your children and brainwash them into gay anarchists with lice-ridden mullets. Armies of “scary” African-American toddlers will rob you, and then stab you as if were you Julius Caesar. Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost haunts the light rail, his creepy one-eyed black cat, Pluto too. Our hobos will bite you, turn you into zombies, and bum all your smokes (ok, the cigarette bit is sort of true). We will tax you to death and use the money for drugs, dirty needles, transsexual prostitutes, and Best Buy shopping sprees. Worst of all, our pothole-covered roads will totally ruin the alignment on your obnoxiously large SUV’s! We are a scary, scary city – stay away at all costs! Beware!
May the ignorance, irrational, and often racist or classist fears of the likes of Pat McDonough be to our benefit. People like him can stay in boring Middle River and elsewhere whilst we Baltimorons can enjoy our often overlooked and albeit slow, urban renaissance without them! Rolling Stone said it best: Baltimore is America’s underdog, and we’re fine with that.
So fellow Baltimoreans, let us come together as one people, regardless of race or class or creed or whatever, and be proud of OUR City. No matter what the naysayers might spout, this is our home and truly is the Land of Pleasant Living. Please also join the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council this Tuesday, May 22nd, at 5pm in front of City Hall to protest the vile comments of this shameful elected official and stand up for Baltimore.