The looters frozen in time in the above photo have just swept a CVS pharmacy clean of goods as their particular expression of free speech to protest the circumstances surrounding the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland police custody. Freddie Gray was 25 when he was arrested and subdued by officers on April 12th,2015 for attempting to flee police. He was chased down by officers and shackled hand and foot, and in the period of time from the arrest process and the subsequent 45 minute drive in the police wagon to detention, he sustained a severe spinal cord injury that led to his death one week later. The city of Baltimore erupted in violent protest, and the city authorities struggled to find a way out from the anger. The initial incoherent response by the mayor to give the rioters “space to destroy” to vet their emotions quickly was superseded by the governor calling out the National Guard and the authorities instituting a curfew. The states attorney Marilyn Mosby, without waiting for completion of the police investigation of the event or interviewing all witnesses, announced her own department’s initial investigation determined sufficient evidence to rule the death of Mr. Gray as a homicide, and charged six officers of the Baltimore Police force involved in the arrest with various charges, including false imprisonment, negligence, assault and second degree murder charges. She expressed her actions were a direct response to the riots, stating emotively, ” I heard your call, ‘No Justice, No Peace!’ ” and underscoring her intent to obtain “justice”.
Mr. Gray was arrested in the Sandstown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, where, according to his brother in law as reported by CNN, his occupation to ‘support his family’ was pharmaceutical sales – of the street kind. In his short life he had 20 arrests and several incarcerations for various crimes including being a repeat offender of drug possession with intent to sell. He was already scheduled for an April 24th court date for repeat drug charges when he was stopped by police on April 12th and the subsequent tragic events occurred. His life parallels so many other urban blight stories that the particular tragic ending to his earthy contribution no longer shocks, so often occurring, as it might in isolation. The particular willful and uncaring negligence that may prove to have been present by the arm of societal order that interacted with Mr. Gray, is really a microcosm of the societal negligence that has secured the environment for such tragedies prevalent in so much of our modern society. Baltimore is just the most recent example of repeated examples of how we continue to stumble toward a failed state, by our continued willingness to ignore the underlying critical components of the toxic brew.
Mr. Gray’s neighborhood of Sandstown- Winchester is rife with the results of the poisonous potion of modern statist policies. Two decades ago, the neighborhood was selected for attention to solve the progressive urban blight that had seized the once ordered and prosperous region. Baltimore, for more than 50 years, has been in the hands of statist elites, linked by the terrible triad of democrat monopoly power politics, liberal programs, and self interested local leaders. The plan to ‘save’ Sandstown- Winchester was not absent of funds or effort – private investors looked to infuse 130 million dollars of ‘quality affordable housing’ cocooned by the usual government designs to provide direct government assistance and to improve health and education of the afflicted neighborhood residents. Schools were built, over a thousand homes were renovated. And the neighborhood collapsed even farther down into the terrible engines of despair – poverty, crime, and drug trade. After two decades of focus, the region is more hopeless than ever, and the calls in response to the recent violent outrage – is for more government programs and ‘targeted’ spending. And nothing, but nothing, done to restore employment opportunities, support individual initiative, or reward behaviors of self improvement.
The Shakespearean ‘hero’ of this tragedy turns out to be Mr. Grey, who was using his own wits to survive in such a neighborhood. As with so much of the statist impulse, the fact that he and others have continued the cycle of despair with such ‘opportunity’ offered them, leaves the elitists agog at the failure of collectivist logic to win the local inhabitants hearts and minds. As with all Shakespearean tragedies, the players of the tragedy are foreordained. Billions of dollars of failed urban investment lead the government to turn to billions more of failed investment. Generations of immobile inhabitants repeat the failures of the previous generation addicted to the triggers of continuing poverty, with broken families and out of wedlock children, no job experience and worthless educational processes, artificially supported and encouraged by governmental allotment. Government leaders that fight over the amount of governmental largess and the power that comes with it, rather than taking responsibility for the continuing and progressively failed societies they are supposed to serve. The increasingly distracted police force, that, incapable and unsupported in their role of restoring order and safety to the community, progressively sees the community as a threat and an enemy to be avoided, or subdued.
So is written another chapter of a book with no ending in our modern society. The local inhabitants without hope, strike out in anarchic fashion. The statist authorities look to blame race, poverty, police, and the society to prevent the focus on their own cluelessness or any attempt at reduction of their role as power broker. The police know no one really cares, and they become immune to their own contribution to the madness. And the civilization founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the individual pursuit of happiness through the unfettered opportunity to control one’s destiny, crumbles evermore.
Shakespearean tragedy indeed. As the Great One said:
Men at some times are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.