Friday, May 1, 2015

We go on, hurting each other

There's no need for me to detail the incidents that led to the rioting in Baltimore this past week.  But I keep thinking of Mike McCormack, The Carpenters, and car salespeople during all the fallout that keeps settling on us, even on those of us who don't even live in the city.

Car salespeople have a trick that they might have used on you; it's called "closing on a minor point."  It works like this: you're thinking of getting a new car to replace the old Family Truckster. You're not sure what model you want, you're not sure what manufacturer you want, and you're sure not sure about what color car you would choose if you were about to make the decision.  Salespeople know this, and they know what cars make them the most commission, and they steer the conversation over to the Gadabout 4-wheel drive SUV with power everything, and they sidle up to you, all confidential, and say, "Now, Mr Mxyzptlk, if you WERE to settle on the Gadabout, which color would you choose, and which interior?"  Now he's got you picking out the color of the floor mats, and from there, it's just a matter of time before you're signing on the bottom line.

So there it is, and as you drive home in your new Chamois Tan Gadabout, ponder this:  Baltimore is full of people arguing, not over police procedures or what the true facts are or whether lawlessness is an appropriate response to kindlessness.  No, we are arguing over whether the word "thug" is hurtful and harmful, and on what level.

Of course it is.  But is that the most important point to settle on right now?  Of course it isn't.

Mike McCormack was a great big guy whose play with the Cleveland Browns of the 1950s earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  An offensive tackle, he moved men out of the way for running backs and protected quarterbacks.  Later in life he went into coaching, and it was his misfortune to coach the Baltimore Colts under the ownership of Bob "Bob The Drunk" Irsay.

During that time, I wound up sitting at a luncheon of Colts fans, and McCormack was the guest speaker.  He said something I will never forget, referring to the people who were falling all over themselves trying to assign blame for the Colts' lousy record: "When you're pointing fingers at someone else, there are three more pointing back at you."

For those of you who want to play the blame game about the conditions, some of them in existence for hundreds of years, and some of them occurring on the morning of Freddie Gray's arrest, and for the rioting, looting and arson that resulted, there is plenty of blame to go around.  People point to the cops, who point to the criminals, who point to the joblessness and hopelessness, which comes from the...This can go on all day.  But we cannot do anything about the past, beyond investigations and trials for those at fault.  The important thing is to move forward and make improvements in our city and for its people and for their children's children's children. Learn from the past, but don't live there.

And if we can progress and change the city, then maybe I can stop hearing that treacly "Hurting Each Other" song over and over in my mind.

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