On Politics - Angst in America and Baltimore - Fletcher R. Hall

11/14/17

Angst is prevalent throughout America. It is found throughout the nation: in Washington, D.C., in large cities and small communities, and especially here in Baltimore City.

Angst is a feeling of deep anxiety or dread. It has many causes and manifestations and can be personal, generational, or even envelop a nation and its culture.

Terrorism has produced anxiety since the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. For most Americans,the memory of this attack haunts their thoughts, causing unease on a frequent basis. In addition to concerns about terrorism, there is the angst emanating from mass shootings that now plague the U.S. Here in Baltimore, the angst centers around crime and the record number of murders. While the motivations may differ, the underlying causes are injurious to all Americans.

The issues causing angst have rapidly become the issues most frequently appearing in national polls. Fear knows no racial, educational, nor economic bounds. Within the last months, terrorism, crime, mass killings, and even an attack on a U.S. senator have occurred. These desperate events garnered extensive media coverage, perhaps causing more anxiety than the incidents themselves. Polls now indicate that the view of the media is nearly as low as that of Congress.

The pervasiveness of angst over terrorism is most understandable. Americans have been killed and injured both at home and abroad by radical religious terrorists who have hijacked a peaceful religion, using it for their own political and radical purposes. The positive news concerning the battle against terror is the recent destruction of their political and geographical centers in the Middle East.

The ongoing efforts to eliminate the financial resources of these fanatics need to continue in a robust, effective manner. This source of angst may be ongoing, perhaps for generations. The Trump administration and the Congress must provide the resources necessary to win this ongoing threat to America.

Amidst the confusing, toxic political atmosphere, angst is prevalent in America. Partisan rancor has reached extremely high levels. Finger pointing seems to be the game of the day. Whether at the national, state, or local level, there is very little accountability. From the 2016 presidential election to the Democratic primary for governor of Maryland, the tendency to fight continues.

The angst here in Baltimore is primarily driven by crime, including a record-setting homicide rate. As distasteful as this may be, it is cornering the city’s media headlines and conversations.

Although tourism was reportedly up to about 25 million in 2016, according to Visit Baltimore, the recent incidents of crime in the Inner Harbor, historic neighborhoods, and communities in North Baltimore are detrimental to the overall city image. Angst abounds.

Juvenile crime and justice are the prominent aspects generating the city’s current negative images. Many crimes happening in Baltimore City involve young people of ages 15 to 18. Carjackings, robberies, and personal attacks that involve roving groups of teenagers are now media headlines, seen by local citizens and visitors alike. Why visit a city where these types of incidents threaten your plans and your personal safety?

The breakdown and ineffectiveness of the juvenile justice system in Baltimore City is frustrating to the police and another cause of angst among the citizenry. In addition to remediating the systemic causes of juvenile crime, there are steps that can be taken concerning the juvenile justice system. All citizens must be willing to say something if they see something. There must be trust and the political will to “do your part” as a resident. This responsibility, trust, and willingness to participate in crime reduction are absolutely necessary to curb dangerous incidents in the city.

Police can be trained and retrained to look for trigger point as they patrol their precincts. Allowing members of the police force to spend more time on the streets and in the neighborhoods would be helpful and has proven an effective strategy in other cities. Technology is another significant factor; however, visibility and personal interaction are key components of community policing. It is the responsibility of the local government to ensure enough police personnel are available. The time is overdue for both the state and local government to thoroughly review the current juvenile justice system in Maryland.

With all of the serious incidents being perpetrated by juveniles, it is time for prosecutors to charge teenagers with appropriate charges and prosecute these individuals to the fullest extend of the law. The revolving system of allowing repeaters back on the streets with no strong consequences for their actions must stop.

Treat adolescents as adults where that action is necessary and appropriate. A look at the laws concerning the ages of perpetrators and their actions is in order. The services of Juvenile Services Department should be reviewed and changes made where necessary. It is essential to exercise oversight over the judges, prosecutors, and other personnel involved in administering justice to juveniles. It is here that the initial bottleneck and lack of appropriate options occur.

The examination of these complex factors is a difficult task. They must be undertaken in the state legislature, the governor’s office, the mayor’s office, and the city council as appropriate. One of the greatest responsibilities of a government is to protect its citizens. Whether from terrorism or vandalism, protecting all of us should be of highest priority.

In our diverse and divided society, the moment has arrived to examine our values, beliefs, and system of justice as it applies to all ages.

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