What Happened To Baltimore?

What Happened To Baltimore?

RIP to the man who gave his life for the city.

On November 15, 2017, Detective Sean Suitor of the Baltimore City Police Department was shot in the head while investigating a homicide.

The following day Detective Suitor passed away leaving behind his wife and five children. The shooting of a police officer is quite possibly one of the absolute worst crimes that anyone can commit. Detective Suitor was a retired Navy Officer and highly respected 18-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.

Baltimore, this deplorable act of violence underscores the issues in our city. Not only was this murder the murder of an innocent man, let alone a cop, but it also marked the 309th murder in the city of Baltimore this year.

When one ride down the streets of the City of Baltimore, they may notice that the benches proudly read "Baltimore The Greatest City in America". But Baltimore does 309 murders in 11 and a half months scream "Greatest City in America". No, it doesn't. That statistic is disgraceful. The city benches in Baltimore shouldn't be bragging about being great but instead should be warning its citizens to watch their damn backs. Because if they don't they might get shot.

According to Forbes, Baltimore is the seventh most dangerous city in America. For most of American history, Baltimore was a great town.

One of the oldest cities in America, Baltimore was once one of America's largest cities, the defender of the capital during the War of 1812, a steel center, and even at one point the US capitol. But during the 20th century and the start of the 21st century Baltimore has degraded into a shell of its former self. Empty houses line the streets, Heroin is an epidemic, crime is out of control, and the government can't seem to do anything about it.

Speaking of the government, where has the Baltimore city government been during this spiral into nothing. I guess they have been trying to help, but ultimately they have done nothing. Whether it was Martin O'Malley, the corrupt Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings Blake who couldn't heal the city after the Baltimore riots, or the current mayor Catherine Pugh, the city leadership has done nothing to control the downward spiral of our beloved city.

So, maybe it's time for a change. Maybe it's time to switch the government up a little in the city.

Obviously, the party that's run the city for decades can't fix the city, so maybe it's time for another party to step up. Maybe, the city should continue to step up its fight on crime and start punishing criminals more harshly, or maybe the city should implement policies that have seen results in other violent cities. Sure these are just suggestions, but anything is better than the current direction the city is heading in.

Either way, right now Baltimore is a sad sight to see. And if anything is going to change the first thing that needs to be done is to start protecting the cities police officers. How about instead of blaming the men and women who protect our city like we did in 2015 we start supporting them unless they really do something illegal. Police officers are the only people out on streets protecting the good citizens of the city, so maybe it's time the city stops turning it's back on them.

But before any of that, the city has to catch the criminal who felt that it was okay to kill a detective.

Baltimore, we have a problem, and recent events prove that we need to change.

And to the family and friends of Detective Suitor, you are in the prayers of many of those citizens he sought to protect. And to the five children, he's left behind, I hope they grow up knowing their dad was a hero.

R.I.P Detective Suitor, and thank you for your service.

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Your Empty Thoughts And Prayers Will Not End Gun Violence

Enough is enough.

On Valentine's Day, I came home from school to find seven news alerts on my phone. Parkland, Florida. School shooting. 17 dead. I stopped reading because the words eventually became blurred, and I was overcome by this horrible wave of sadness. I went to school the next day and heard brief conversations like:

"So sad, what happened."

"I know."

Social media has been filled with "thoughts and prayers" after the mass shooting news broke. Some came from terrified parents. Some came from kids who were afraid to go to school. Some came from politicians who get funding from the NRA. And I thought to myself, well, I've heard it all before. After Sandy Hook, after Orlando Pulse, after Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, after Las Vegas — the list goes on and on. After a certain period of time, offering "thoughts and prayers" has become some sort of robotic American ritual. Americans express their sympathies, debate about guns and eventually stop until another tragedy occurs again. We all sound like broken records, stuck on repeat.

SEE ALSO: As A Georgia Northview High School Student, I Feared For Our Lives When A Shooter Threatened To Attack

Your "thoughts and prayers" are meaningless without action. The traumatized families and victims of the Florida school shooting don't need your empty condolences. All of us need gun control to prevent this from happening again. Nobody needs to own guns except the U.S. military because self-defense gun use is rare. The Second Amendment should not outweigh the lives of innocent people because it was written by the Founding Fathers (227 years ago!) to protect the right of militias to own guns, not individual liberties.

GOP, it's time for you to accept that our country has evolved. It's atrocious that young people are constantly being hunted because of outdated gun laws. It's atrocious that a 19-year-old passed the background check to legally purchase the AR-15 — a commonly used weapon in mass shootingsdespite having a history of mental illness. You all have blood on your hands. How many more children must not make it home before you start doing your job?

Shame on you, FBI. You should've taken action after you were notified about Nikolas Cruz expressing his desire to become a school shooter in a YouTube comment. His digital footprint revealed his ties to white supremacists, obsession with violence and homophobia. The red flags were all there, and you shouldn't have overlooked them.

American adults, you have let us down by doing nothing. You have failed to loudly advocate for gun control. Why does it take a tragedy to ask for change?

We should not become accustomed to living in fear. We should not have to practice active shooter drills. What is this world we're living in?

SEE ALSO: Parkland, Florida's Mass Shooting Taught Me To Expect Catastrophes

Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jamie Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang did not die in vain.

Instead of sending your "thoughts and prayers," I encourage you to demand action because anyone can make a difference. If you're old enough to vote, please support pro-gun control candidates. Donate to gun control organizations like the Brady Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety and The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Contact your senators and representatives. Sign a petition. Use social media to raise public awareness on senseless gun violence. And on March 14, please participate in the national school walkout at 10 a.m. to peacefully protest congressional inaction on gun laws. We are the voices of change.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube | NJ

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More Than Thoughts and Prayers: Important Conversations in the Wake of a Tragedy

This is most definitely the time to talk about politics.

Four conversations we can have in the wake of yet another mass shooting, because thoughts and prayers alone do not and will never do enough. And also because, once again, silence is violence.

1. Gun Control

Let’s start with the obvious conversation. When our Bill of Rights was written, the reality of this country—and the reality of guns—was much different. We had just declared our independence from an unfair and oppressive government, it was the 1700s, and we hunted for the majority of our food. Naturally, people were apprehensive of authority, and needed a way to feel secure should the need to once again fight for independence and freedom arise. With the lack of technology and fast emergency response systems, people needed a way to secure themselves should they be attacked. And since it was more common to spot a wild animal on the corner than a grocery store, obviously a means to get a hold of dinner was necessary. Further, guns during this time period could realistically only fire one or two bullets per minute, not dozens in only a few seconds. I do believe that the Second Amendment is an inherent part of American citizens’ rights, but I also believe that laws and their interpretations must change with the times. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting a personal means of protecting themselves against a potentially rogue government or a nighttime burglar, or still enjoying the sport of obtaining one’s own food in the woods, but an assault rifle is hardly a necessity for those activities. Additionally, background checks are just common sense. If a background check can be required to be hired for a job, surely one can be required before purchasing a weapon capable of taking a life. Anyone who thinks routine background checks are a means of taking guns away from people is missing the common sense. If you’re a law-abiding citizen with no record of violence—which presumably the vast majority of people making this argument are—no one is coming for your guns. And yes, highly-motivated criminals will still find means to get their hands on weapons, but making it harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them will no doubt reduce the number of unqualified gun owners. Consider applying the same concept we apply to owning a car to owning a gun; training is needed, knowledge and skill tests are required, insurance is obtained, and inspections take place at certain intervals. I’ve never heard anyone complain about it being too hard to get a driver’s license or a car to the point where they feel like their rights and freedoms are being infringed on, and it’s made for safer roads with less unqualified drivers. We can’t keep pretending that we live in a government “by the people, for the people” while our representatives are being bribed by the NRA, and are subsequently putting personal profits over constituents’ lives. At the end of the day, someone’s right to bear arms cannot trump someone else’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

2. Mental Health

There’s been a loud narrative in the past several years that attributes tragic shootings to the mental health of the shooter, rather than the prevalence and access of guns in the US. While I disagree with this, having a conversation about mental health is definitely necessary, especially because of the irony present in this situation. The same people—particularly the politicians—that claim mental illness is to blame for mass shootings are the same ones pushing for cuts to funding and access of health insurance/care. The reality is that we need more funding and coverage for mental health care, and we also need to start talking about it in a way that doesn’t stigmatize it. By only bringing it up in the media when it’s seemingly connected to a mass shooting, it only further stigmatizes mental illness. About 20% of adults in the US live with at least one mental illness, yet 20% of American adults aren’t running into schools or malls or offices with guns, taking away others’ futures. The vast majority of people who suffer from mental illnesses are nonviolent individuals. Mental illness does not equal instability; it’s not something to be ashamed of or swept under the rug. Having positive conversations about it is important in helping people get help, but also in taking pride in being who they are, including the piece of them that is their mental illness. The fact that someone’s brain functions differently than others’ shouldn’t mean that they lose a constitutional right just because politicians are conflating mental illness with violence.

3. Toxic Masculinity

I read an article the other day (which you can find over here at Harper’s Baazar) that analyzes in depth—with supporting evidence—the links between gender and the specific type of violence that are mass shootings. Our culture socializes men to believe they are entitled to an array of certain things, most especially women/women’s bodies. This is exacerbated by our idolization of men with guns (i.e. Indiana Jones, James Bond, action heroes in general), and their subsequent ability to “get the girl,” but also just about anything else they desire. In far too many mass shootings, it is discovered that the perpetrator felt like they were entitled to something they weren’t being given. In many cases, loss of a job has led a disgruntled employee to become violent; in others, it has been a rejection from a women, or an inability to find a girlfriend. Particular incidents that stand out are those of Elliot Rodger, the UCSB shooter who said in a video he made before the shooting, “You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime because I don't know what you don't see in me, I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. I will punish all of you for it;” and of Christopher Harper-Mercer, the shooter at an Oregon community college, who vented online about dying “friendless, girlfriendless, and a virgin.” Additionally, mass shooters tend to have a history of violence against women, including Nikolas Cruz who on Wednesday took up arms inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He was allegedly abusive to his ex-girlfriend, including stalking her, harassing her, and threatening to kill her. Cruz had been expelled from the school for fighting with her new boyfriend. Clearly, there is a pattern, one that is underpinned by our society’s toxic ideas of masculinity. “Manliness” is too often associated with power, dominance, and stoicism. We don’t teach men healthy ways to express their emotions, so they’re bottled up until they explode in a violent fashion. We don’t teach men that there is more to power than wielding a destructive weapon or sexual domination, that power can also be found in vulnerability and in respect. This leads to men feeling like they have failed to achieve true manhood, and also to feel that they are lacking the basic entitlements that they are taught to believe come with their gender. This isn’t an attack on me—-this is a call-out of society. Until all of us have these conversations, entitlement and violent outbursts will remain consequences of socialized toxic masculinity.

4. Love and Nonviolence

Another article I stumbled upon recently (here on Reader’s Digest) talks about one teacher’s solution to helping young students long before they become the types of people who could potentially commit mass shootings. Ever since Columbine, she has taken great care to analyze the social dynamics of her classroom to discover who’s being bullied, who’s doing the bullying, who’s popular among their classmates, and who remains invisible. She constantly works to make sure that each and every one of her young students are receiving not only the education they need, but the love, care, and social interaction they need as well. Feeling isolated, rejected, and ultimately lacking a sense of belonging—especially as a child, adolescent, or young adult—can manifest in some people in dangerous ways, but often times the starting point of this process is out of their control. By working to bring people back into the fold and allowing them to establish a supportive community, and carve out a place for themselves within it, those people are given the chance to find a sense of belonging that is so central to personal identity. By cultivating environments that foster love, support, and validation, a chain reaction is created that cauterizes violence at its root. It shot, humanizing people can make all the difference in the world. These central ideas of love and nonviolence actually fall under the broader umbrella of peace studies, in which I took a course in last semester. We did a whole section on love and nonviolence, and one of our assignments was to listen to this podcast, which discusses how loving and nonviolent approaches to situations of terror—including with gunmen and suspected terrorists—can have unfathomably positive results. If we all applied a little bit of love and nonviolence on a personal scale to our everyday lives, we might create a society in which less people feel dehumanized, bullied, or ignored, and less prone to violence in the future.

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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