Baltimore Reflection

When I woke up this morning, I found myself trying to sort out the sequence of events that led to the riots last night in Baltimore. How did we get here? Who are we to blame? How do we fix this? In situations like this we often look for a villain. Who is at fault for the justice system shortcomings resulting another headline about a black man murdered by a police officer without justice? Who should be held accountable for the destruction of Baltimore neighborhoods?

Protests that started off as peaceful outcries for answers in the death of Freddie Gray shifted to images of anarchy. What we saw last night was the culmination of frustration, hopelessness and pain not necessarily over the loss of Freddie Grey but over a system of governing that is failing both the community and the justice system.

A few bad apples have spoiled the image of men and women who put their lives on the line to “protect and serve” the community but we cannot point the finger at the police alone. The failure I see in the police system is the systems inability to weed out the individuals who have tarnished the image of a profession that was once held sacred. Systemic corruption and lack of leadership has led to an abuse of power by individuals in authority resulting in mistrust and fear of the people who are trained to protect us from our fears.

On the flip side we also have the community to blame. On a night that should have been marked by candle light vigils in memory of Freddie Gray, members of the community were setting the streets of Baltimore ablaze. Masked as an outcry for justice, a few opportunists took advantage of the atmosphere and robbed the Grey family of the spot needed to bring justice for their lost loved one. As with the police system, a few bad apples have tainted the efforts of community leaders; feeding into all the negative images of black communities. The media perpetuates these negative images as cover stories for likes on social media and newspaper sales but we must keep in mind these are not the images of people seeking justice.

One image from last night I hope people do not forget is the image of leaders and protesters, not looters, standing in between the police and the crowds. These are the individuals the media should focus on as these are the images of what I believe is the solution.


Our communities, not just the black community, is suffering from a deficit in leadership. Young leaders go to college, equip themselves with the best education and abandon the neighbors they grew up in. Speaking from personal experience, I remember the leaders who helped raise me in the community and reinforce the lessons my parents taught me in the household. Those were the people who symbolically stood in the gap between me and poor choices on occasion. Those individuals were also elected officials who came to visit us in middle and high school during lunch on occasion outside of election season.

One of the solutions to the anarchy last night is more authentic leadership in our communities nationwide. Last night we saw a culmination a perfect storm: the abuse of power by a few bad police officers, youth angry by a system and not wanting to be the next Freddie Gray story mixed with leaders who have the understanding of how to fix a system by standing in the gap ignoring the two elements coming together.

My biggest fear is there are too many perfect storm scenarios waiting to explode across America and like other protests that have gotten out of hand, the events of last night will also be a forgotten thought by the leaders who are equipped to address it. The state of communities like Baltimore across the nation is too fragile to be ignored. We need leaders willing to stand in the gap like the ones we saw last night. Teach the youth how the system works and apply legal action to the justice system so that it works for the community again and honors the police who do their jobs effective. We need less talk by community leaders and more action. While we procrastinate on stepping up to the plate of leadership, more perfect storms of frustration are brewing in Jacksonville, Chicago, Los Angles, Milwaukee, Atlanta, etc. We need to take the steps to move our communities from frustration and anger to hope and action. Until we start teaching the youth that the system will not work unless we citizens educate ourselves, exercise our right to vote and hold elected officials accountable to doing the jobs we elect them to do we will continue seeing more outbursts of riots like we did last night.

Also, let us not forget the message that is being overshadowed by the events of last night. Freddy Grey, may he rest in peace, your life matters as do all black lives and every human life. Let us also be patient while the system works its course, demand transparency during the process, remain vigilant towards any misconduct during the process and take appropriate action to avoid more loss of life through the abuse of power in the justice system.

We Hereby Resolve…

Republican district conventions were held across Georgia today. This cycle is the first time I’ve ever participated in this process, and it was a rather eye-opening experience for me.

The various speakers were pretty much what I expected.

The elections were uneventful.

And then there were the resolutions. Oh, the resolutions.

I understand the importance of expressing our shared belief and affirming our common principles, however, today’s brush with the resolution process has left me wary of the entire concept. Nearly every resolution from both the committee and the floor was a neatly wrapped bundle of hate and anger. I get it, there are problems in our government, but don’t y’all realize that no productive conversation ever began with, “this policy is brainwashing inspired by Satan”?

Here’s the thing: every angry issue has a positive solution. It is possible to offer opposition to an issue by presenting a good idea to fix it. For instance, compare these two (completely absurd) mock resolutions:

“WHEREAS comic sans is a worthless typeface.
WHEREAS the use of comic sans makes any document appear to have been created by a toddler with a marker.
WHEREAS it is generally agreed that no serious individual would ever use comic sans.
We hereby resolve to instruct the Georgia General Assembly to consider removing the typeface ‘comic sans’ from all computers designated for use by government officials.”


“WHEREAS Garamond is an aesthetically pleasing typeface.
WHEREAS the nature of the conservative is to conserve resources.
WHEREAS when printed Garamond uses less ink than other typefaces.
We hereby resolve to instruct the Georgia General Assembly to consider using Garamond as its exclusive typeface for all official government documents.”

So, at the end of the day, both resolutions express the desire to remove the possibility of comic sans being used by the Georgia State Government. One shouts into the wind how horrible everything is, and the other positively supports shared principles.

Now why does this matter? Our resolutions are the very public statements of our shared belief as a party. When the world only sees the first type of resolution, we become the people who are always complaining but have no solutions. If we want to be perceived as people who have some answers (or at least ideas) to solve the problems we’re facing, then we need to use our collective voice to advance those ideas.


Happy Tax Day?

photoByPurpleslogI started trying to write about taxation and the role of government. At least five different posts have begun and been scrapped. Each one of these has devolved into, “y’all…people…why?!?!”

First, I tried to understand and process logical arguments for a system of progressive taxation. I was seriously looking at playing devil’s advocate, but when I encountered a serious argument that progressive taxation encouraged people to earn more money because, “more overall income is necessary to reach one’s ultimate income goals if a higher proportion is paid in tax.” Following the rules of logic, this argument actually makes sense in a really depressing, Machiavellian way. It also ignores human nature. As an example, Average Joe gets a raise at work. He runs home to tell the family and celebration ensues. The next payday comes and to Average Joe’s dismay the amount on the check is smaller than the previous one (spoiler alert: the raise pushed him up into the next tax bracket). If the above premise is true, then Average Joe would react with a, “golly gee, I guess I just need to work harder so I can get another raise.” Can we take a poll of how many people believe this would be Average Joe’s reaction?

Next, I approached the argument by attempting to justify the legitimate roles of government. After itemizing those things that rightfully should be governmental functions I realized that it’s only a tiny fraction of the things that our taxes pay for. In lieu of having to argue Every. Single. Government. Agency. I decided to shift to a different topic.

Then I looked at what entities have the power to tax. We pay taxes to the Federal government, the State government, local governments. With the exception of a handful of purely Federal programs (like Social Security, for instance) most of what we pay to the Federal government is sent right back to the states for them to manage the actual department. As an example: muh roads! Roads are built by states. Even the Federal Highway System. The Federal government doesn’t award contracts to repave a highway. However, the Federal government gets my dollar, trims that bad boy down (paying various Federal officials wages and departments operating expenses), and then sends an adorable little fraction of my dollar back to the State of Georgia so that we can maintain and build roads. There are many other redundancies throughout the government services layers, too many for a little blog post discussing tax day.

So where did this all wind up? It seems trite to add another voice to the chorus that we’re paying too much in taxes and there has to be a better way, and yet, those are very applicable choruses. It’s better, perhaps, to take a step back and look at the reasons we aren’t having real discussions about the psychological impact of taxation methodology, or the proper role of government, or duplicative services and departments. Without even broaching the subject of philosophical differences on the role of government, we need some agreement, outside of the rhetoric, that our bureaucracy is not serving the needs of the people. Once we reach that agreement, we have to start modernizing the government services we need, create a more efficient means of delivering them, and eliminate everything else.

Raging Against the Machine

The AJC has recently reported that there is a “feud” going on in the state Senate chambers.  Jim Galloway wrote about the emailed newsletter following the adjournment of the General Assembly from Senator Bill Heath, in which Senator Heath describes Chicago style tactics happening under the Gold Dome.  Feel free to read it in its entirety.  Despite the fact that I am a HUGE fan of Mr. Galloway’s work, I will respectfully disagree that this is a feud, yet congratulate the AJC on the sensational headline choice.

Like Mr. Galloway, I watched as the Senator rose in opposition both to Floor Leader Miller and the Lt. Governor, yet my recollection of the evening’s events were a bit less sensational.  It should be said, I’m a big fan of Senator Heath, Floor Leader Miller AND our Lt. Governor.  Each gentleman is easy to like, the Lt. Governor and Floor Leader have self-depreciating senses of humor, and none of them are camera hogs- sort of a rarity in the Senate.  I got to know Senator Heath a bit when I served as a Senate Aide in 2010.  He has a quiet, stern, yet warm way about him.  He’s as straight as an arrow, and he is not a rabble rouser.  His policy stances and mine could probably not be farther apart, yet I respect the man immensely and it was for all of these reasons his raging against the Senate political machine that evening was eye opening.

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