Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Brick

Third World Baltimore
 I spent my childhood in Maryland. My dad worked for the government in D.C. and I remember the riots in 1968, I saw that wreckage, it looked like a bomb went off. I saw it but, I didn't understand it. What I really don't understand, is that since 1968 things have only turned out worse.
My grandfather lived in Baltimore, so, I can at least say I have been there, visiting my grandfather.
My memories of Maryland are of a place and time when you could ride a horse down a lane at night and never pass a car. It was so quiet all you could hear was the clop clop of hooves on the road until you got to a field, then take off cantering down a dirt road to the remains of a plantation I lived close to. There was a fork in the path where you veer off to the left, I had been that way before a few times. I had discovered something there that astonished me. First were the ramshackle run down shacks, (you couldn't call them houses) then further out in a field were wooden crosses in varying states of decay. What I had come across was where the slaves from the plantation must have lived and died. I don't know how those people survived the conditions. It was obvious that some didn't. Looking at the sorry excuse for housing they existed in (you couldn't call it living) I couldn't see how they could make it through even the mildest Maryland winter.
When I read about the conditions in Baltimore, I wasn't surprised. It reminded me of what I saw, years ago in the Maryland countryside, it looked like a sort of slum for slaves. What I witnessed there, almost exactly 100 years after the Civil War had passed, were conditions that no human being should have been subjected to.
What I see now is that things seem even more unequal than they were in 1968.
In the times before and probably after the Civil War, when posses of men would saddle up to either kill or wreak havoc on some desperate slave just trying to run from his horrible circumstances, I now view these cops as much the same, rounding up random people, probably black people and just throwing them in vans willy-nilly for the "rough ride."
I don't think anyone really makes the connection. That this apartheid is nothing new. That we have played this out before. After Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and any of the unarmed black people shot every 28 hours by the police. Really what is the difference between the lynchings that were regularly carried out, while police turned a blind eye? Now they just do it directly instead, they use guns instead of rope. It all looks nice and legal, except it isn't. It's not justice and it's not justified. It's sickening and I am afraid it is going to continue. I don't know if we are headed for another Civil War. If we don't look really hard at the context of what the people in Baltimore and Ferguson all the other cities and towns are enduring, where in the guise of policing, the war on drugs, the war on the poor, whatever euphemism you want to call it, it's murder and it can't go on. When you push people too far and they have no where to go they push back.
There have been many times when I went back in time to that place in Maryland, where I saw first hand what injustice and mans inhumanity subjected human beings to for profit, for free labor, for greed. I saw those graves decorated with the relics of wooden crosses, since those enslaved people didn't have the means to buy granite for a gravestone. I wondered how hard their lives were? I never forgot what I saw, but most people conveniently forget. Most people have no context of what it's like to really struggle, on top of all of that you have to watch your back, because the people who are supposed to protect and serve, serve themselves and suppress. We continue to be surprised when people pick up a brick or torch the neighborhood they live in because everything is so broken there the real estate is worthless anyway, especially after the banks subprimed it to the hilt, foreclosed and decimated the place with abandoned homes.
I didn't understand what I saw in Washington D.C. in 1968. It took years for me to process the trauma that those poor people went through, forced to live in draft ridden shacks, while high upon that hill in Maryland their owners lived in luxury. Maybe it's because I am an artist, when I see something I can commit it to memory and take it out again and again to examine. What I see now is that very little has changed. The 1% live in their ivory towers while the 99 are hunted on a daily basis and killed with impunity. Our government has done nothing, for a very long time about inequality. It is purposeful, it's no accident. I highly doubt any legislation will come out of this sorry episode in American history. The irony is that now it's our supposed representatives that are owned, by lobbies, corporations and corruption. People know that the system isn't working for them, It's broken, it's no longer a democracy, when that happens and society continues to degrade, don't be shocked when the oppressed feel like they have so few choices available to them that the brick is their solution.

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