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Proper Epitaphs

Posted 1/26/2005

We are writing you concerning City Paper’s Murder Ink column. We feel as though the facts of a murder are enough to write about. If there can’t be any research done to find anything positive or any facts on whom these people actually were, then there shouldn’t be any negative information provided. By which we mean murder victims’ police arrest records, which are listed at the end of how they were murdered. Checking the police record and putting what you find in the article kind of leads your readers to believe that that is who they are or how they lived.

This issue came to our attention only because the undersigned read about a loved one lost to a murder, Lydell Honeyblue (Murder Ink, Jan. 5). Outrage and anger to say the least is what we felt—what was written would lead a reader to believe he was a criminal, when the reality is he was the exact opposite.

We thank you for your time and hope something will be done about this.

Eugene Lewis, Tia McCarthy, Stephanie Harris, Annette Henry, Aleta Lewis, Cassandra Lewis, Lakeisha Parker, Yulonda Square, et al.
Baltimore

Editor Lee Gardner responds: We have been printing the arrest records of Baltimore murder victims, as derived from police reports and the Criminal Justice Information System, in Murder Ink in an effort to provide possible context for their lives and deaths. But as the writers of this letter and other concerned readers have pointed out, such cursory information, taken out of context, might unduly color the circumstances of some of those lives and deaths. As such, we will no longer include arrest records in Murder Ink unless fully researched and duly warranted.

 

For Whom the Toll?

I understand that there are circumstances that make it so that many young black men have a rougher, less equal way to go in life (“The Toll,” Jan. 19). I understand there are institutional issues like education, housing, drugs, employment, and health care/insurance that make it difficult for some people to even make it to equal footing, let alone get ahead. However, I am sick and tired of people not taking responsibility for their own actions and decisions.

I am a big believer in government-sponsored programs that help people get on their feet and lead a decent life. I do not, however, believe that any government-sponsored program can fix the real roots of many people’s problems: plain old irresponsibility and failure (sometimes flat-out refusal) to see what role they play in their situations. Too many people are under the false assumption that they are owed something in life. There are institutional policies that need to change, but I doubt that even under the best circumstances some of the people featured in the article would finally take responsibility for themselves.

One unnamed person was quoted as saying, “Nobody care about us.” Do they care about themselves? Do they care about their communities? Why should someone else care about them if they’re not going to care about themselves and their situations? Why is it my responsibility to live my life, plus care about countless others who, from what I can tell, have done little to make sure they are not the next person lying on a Baltimore street surrounded by blood? I don’t hail from the best area or come from much privilege either, but I value my life and my future enough to make sure I’m not among the hundreds who die on city streets each year. No one gave me that sense of value—it comes from within.

Terrell Fowlkes, upon talking about his decision to stop dealing drugs, is quoted as saying, “I’m trying to do the right thing for a minute. If it don’t work, I got to go back to doing what I got to do.” Is he serious? Is this worth the newspaper space? No—if going on the “straight and narrow” doesn’t work for Mr. Fowlkes, then he needs to find another path to take within the limits of responsible, legal actions. He has no excuse to do the things he does, except for his own admission that he got into the drug business and stayed there because of the money.

I’m not picking on Terrell Fowlkes—he deserves to live a happy, healthy, successful life. But if he’s going to live his life on his terms, where drug dealing and basically being a hoodlum are acceptable, then he also deserves to suffer the consequences, one of which is not having anyone or any program to help him. There’s help for everyone if they want it. But those who want help must be willing to sacrifice whatever benefits come from their street lives (money, cars, etc.) and help themselves as well. Mr. Fowlkes and those like him can go cry me a river.

Lindsay Tyler Bowlin
Baltimore

 

Men of Letters

May I compliment a previous letter to your pages—a Mr. Gerald Ben Shargel (The Mail, Jan. 19) who wrote of President Bush that he has “shit or brains” and is surrounded by “shits”?

When I was a protester in the ’60s (I am now 63), I was very measured and thoughtful in my anger. Now I am aware that some of my letters never make The Sun or The Washington Post because, while still angry and thoughtful, they are more direct and passionate. I don’t mean passionate in the blow-hard manner of a Rush Limbaugh. I think the truth, which is leftist and progressive, may be honest and outrageous and so is too hot for “mainstream” media.

It’s like sex to many Americans—a secret thing they dare not discuss. In many ways the media is no different than it was in the 1950s—mostly now being written by the persons over 30 the Yippies and hippies told us not to trust. The generation in power has become that generation they warned us against. But, hasn’t it always be so? The present generation has its share of “young fogies.”

Dave Eberhardt
Baltimore

I continue to be amazed at the vitriolic letters to the editor and City Paper columnists regarding George W. Bush. The latest screeching comes from Mr. Gerald Ben Shargel, who blames Bush for privatizing Social Security (he intends no such thing), permanent tax cuts for the rich (who pay a higher percentage of taxes than any other income group and spend their tax savings by investing in the economy, thus creating jobs), abolishing the estate tax (translated: it’s unfair to pass our savings on to our heirs instead of giving it to the government to spend inefficiently), trashing our environment (recall that Bill Clinton’s Senate voted 96-0 against the Kyoto protocol), barbaric capital punishment (many states have capital punishment—instead of blaming Bush, blame the voters), the war (it’s the Congress—not the prez—that votes to fund war and the Democrats who received the same weapons of mass destruction intel Bush got supported the war), and on and on.

Earth to the Left: The last two elections seem to say that voters want the country governed from the middle, not the extremes, so stop carping about the messenger (Shargel calls John Kerry a “waffling doormat”; he’s half right) and recognize it’s your message the voters aren’t buying. The growing (white and, especially, black) middle class does not want income redistribution (Sweden and other cradle-to-grave countries are already rethinking their policies; Americans are catching on). It does not want activist judges who the Left use to accomplish from the bench what it can’t get done at the ballot box (Tom Daschle learned the hard way; Harry Reid may follow suit in Republican Nevada). It does not want a “welfare state” where victimhood is protected and encouraged. Instead, it recognizes that to get out of poverty you must 1) get a high-school education, 2) get a job (even at minimum wage), 3) don’t do drugs, and 4) don’t have babies out of wedlock. And although it will help those who truly can’t help themselves, the rest are responsible for the consequences of their actions. (Side note: Where is black leadership on this? Jesse Jackson spends all his time shaking down corporations and the NAACP runs ads accusing Bush of killing that poor man dragged behind a truck in Texas and then wailing about Bush not coming to its convention.)

CP has devoted enough space to the whiners. Your otherwise informative and highly readable paper tries (politically) to be too much like The Sun, which wants to be The Washington Post, which wants to be The New York Times, which wants to be God. Enough already; please move on.

Paul O’Connell
Baltimore

 

Us Verses Them

I’m hidden on the fringes of this great society.
I’m stuck between the hinges and I bleed for you and me.

I’ve been overlooked by programs that are meant to help my kind.
Am I truly invisible, or are you truly blind?

I made it to the big time or at least I thought I did.
I thought that you would understand, or at least not keep me hid.

But now it seems the very ones who put me on the map
are scrambling for excuses, and it feels like one big slap!

 

I am just a city, a small city by the sea.
I’m not as popular as Boston or as savvy as D.C.

But I’ve got such a lovely harbor and so much diversity—
why shouldn’t I advance beyond season number three?

I’m not usually this sensitive, but I must take offense.
Only 250 Wire fans? That makes no kind of sense.

I’m more popular than K Street, Family Bonds, or Entourage
Now you want to lock me in a damned garage?

There is so much more to tell you all about my little town.
So far, you’ve only seen the things that wear a body down.

In fact, there’s quite a bit more, maybe far more worms than silk—
Yet what’s more fascinating than a city of my ilk?

I am just a city, a small city by the sea.
Not as dangerous as Philly, or the capital, D.C.!

Still, I’ve got this lovely harbor—it’s enough to make me cry!
Please HBO, OH, PLEASE, DON’T LET ME DIE!

 

I deserve more time to prove to you my mettle and my worth.
There are many small improvements, tiny symbols of rebirth,

There are many large improvements to this city by the sea.
Tell HBO to take another giant chance on me!

 

(I wrote this poem as a plea to Chris Albrecht, CEO of HBO, from Baltimore to keep The Wire beyond season three. I hope it helps.)

Maureen E. DeValia
Lansdowne, PA.

 

No Imagination Required

Hmmm. Another male obsessed with slicing up women (“Stranger Than Fiction,” Dec. 22, 2004). But Morgan Rosenberg seems not to know that not only is there nothing new or liberating about the rape-and-kill phenomenon. Indeed, the sad slasher tale has been heard so many times before.

The “difficult truth” is that little independence of thought is required to write what Rosenberg writes. What he writes merely reflects what males are encouraged to think: that to be men they must buy into the lie. The lie is the old church doctrine of delusion—sex is evil, nature and women are threats, therefore project this evil onto the other sex, the other race, then butcher the minds and bodies of the enemy in self-defense.

The inquisitor, the witch burner, the death-squad torturer, the lynch mobber, the priest-pedophile, the common rapist, the pornographer, all are of the same small mind of the scapegoater, the feverish, small mind that is so evident today in the highest offices of the land.

And so, the monumental challenge for these folks, including the Morgan Rosenbergs of the world, is to examine the roots of their delusion (and it is not “controversial,” because killing of women and killer porn have been normalized over hundreds of years and are everywhere). The challenge is to face and to heal one’s fear and hatred of one’s sexual self, and the vulnerable mortal body, and to use one’s short time on Earth to become a human being.

Linda Toast
Baltimore

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