Sunday, 2 May
Every Sunday morning I have a coffee or two in bed and watch so called major network news shows usually beginning with Meet the Press. This Sunday the entire programme was devoted to racial strife in Baltimore, Maryland. The panel was unusually well informed and articulate. They often spoke in complete sentences, knew some history and expressed thoughtful ideas, uninterrupted by other guests or by host Chuck Todd. So rather than switch channels, I stayed tuned to the end, hoping to see or hear something from my home town.
I was born and raised in Baltimore. Natives say “Ballmer” and it took years of living in Canada and constantly being recognized as a Yankee, before I mastered Bal-ti-more. “Merlun”, or Maryland was another challenge and I tried hard to avoid ever mentioning the state where “Ballmer” could be found.
I lived on Howard Park Avenue in west Baltimore, just a block and a half north of Liberty Heights Avenue and a few blocks from Gwynn Oak Junction, my perennial hang out. I attended P.S. 218, Garrison Junior High and was in my first year at Forest Park High, when we moved 30 miles further northwest to the farming community of Westminster. During my years in Baltmore, unless I trekked downtown to Baltimore’s dock area, I rarely saw a black person or a person of any colour other than white. This was during the 1950s when Baltimore’s population was 3/4 white. Today it’s 2/3 black. I thought it kinda neat that one of my best friends and his Father were the only Jews I knew. My love affair with golf began on Forest Park Golf Course, an easy walk from my house, where I caddied, played golf with a 7 iron and searched the rough for lost golf balls.
When news of the revolution in Baltimore hit the tube, placing its beginnings in west Baltimore, I was very interested in learning details. Druid Hill Park was frequently mentioned, a lovely space of greenery and play I’d visited, but I’d never heard of Sandtown, reported to be the epicenter of the disturbances. Interested to see if some of my old haunts might make the tele, I watched every channel that might devote extensive coverage to the affair, BBC, PBS, and the major US networks. Unfortunately, I recognized nothing.
The Meet the Press panel discussed poverty, poor education, father-less households, prejudice, police violence, incarceration rates, poor housing and poorer job opportunities – the usual shibboleths mentioned after every black uprising in the US. I wasn’t learning anything new. Baltimore and any city with a history of racial unrest, had faced the very same issues and no one, especially local, state and Federal politicians had acted upon any of them.
So, in the end, my attention was caught by the Meet the Press sponsors. Given the subject matter of this programme, I found their presence to be disturbingly ironic, spiteful and dismissive of the public’s intelligence. Each one declared itself champions of the working man, builders of secure futures and guardians of the environment: Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Koch Industries, Boeing, Locheed Grumman and Sea World.
Consider, these sponsors are all companies known to have destroyed the middle class, rocked the world’s economy, paid its employees unlivable wages, polluted our environment and raped the public trust and treasury by charging unconscionable prices for military hardware. All these companies, and many more, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to convince the public they are necessary and have kind hearts and good intentions. And yes, even Sea World spent millions to convince us that keeping whales penned up is a good thing.