Storytime, boys and girls and non-binary friends, so settle in.
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, so college in Baltimore was the perfect choice for this 17-year-old Mets fan. Diversity? Arts scene? Music scene? Baseball? Proximity to easy travel everywhere? Liberal politics? Shopping? Mutual hatred of the Yankees? I mean, it was a no-brainer. Fast-forward *cough* *cough* years, and after a few moves, I landed happily in Rep. Elijah Cummings' district MD-7 for the last 23 years and counting.
It surprises exactly no one who has been to Baltimore, least of all me, that we are a city with intense emotion and pride.
It surprises exactly no one, least of all me, that Baltimore's reaction to Orange Little Fingers' racist, Nazi-like attack on Rep. Cummings and West Baltimore was swift, filled with intense emotion and pride.
The range of communities from which scathing condemnations sprang was wide, from politicians to artists, citizens of Rep. Cummings' district to tourists, journalists to businesspeople. People of all stripes called out the staggering hypocrisy and racism intended to kill (let's be honest, okay?) on social media, traditional media and I hope, at their kitchen tables.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board wrote a scathing, brutal takedown yesterday, turning Trump's Nazi terminology on its head in a way that exposed and destroyed him like a sh*t-seeking missile. I mean, the title alone makes you say "DAMN, BALTIMORE."
In "Better To Have A Few Rats Than To Be One," the editors wrote,
In pointing to the 7th, the president wasn’t hoping his supporters would recognize landmarks like Johns Hopkins Hospital, perhaps the nation’s leading medical center. He wasn’t conjuring images of the U.S. Social Security Administration, where they write the checks that so many retired and disabled Americans depend upon. It wasn’t about the beauty of the Inner Harbor or the proud history of Fort McHenry. And it surely wasn’t about the economic standing of a district where the median income is actually above the national average. No, he was returning to an old standby of attacking an African American lawmaker from a majority black district on the most emotional and bigoted of arguments. It was only surprising that there wasn’t room for a few classic phrases like “you people” or “welfare queens” or “crime-ridden ghettos” or a suggestion that the congressman “go back” to where he came from
Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.
That's right. My city's largest newspaper called the president "vermin." Apologies to vermin everywhere, as they--unlike the occupant of the White House-- don't make a conscious effort to do harm.
In the video clip above, cinematic genius, consummate gentleman, and certified mensch John Waters called in to the AM Joy show for some words about this continuing outrage coursing through our national bloodstream, currently clotting in Baltimore. Catch the shade he cast over traditional media, and the love he showed small-town and small-time art publications. And the shout-out to the importance of Bohemia.
WATERS: I was amazed when the story broke MSNBC didn't call me, The New York Times didn't call me, The Baltimore Sun didn't call me, Art News called me. That was a new leader in fast breaking headlines. You know, I wrote a statement that basically said to him, "Give me the rats and roaches of Baltimore any day over the lies and racism of your Washington, Mr. Trump. Come on over to that neighborhood and see if you have the nerve to say it in person." And I lived in that neighborhood in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Mr. Cummings' district which, for 17 years — I made "Hairspray" when I lived there. And, you know, I never had to slightest bit of trouble. I was probably one of the only white people around in my neighborhood. I never had any trouble. People were lovely to me. And rats and roaches, you know, Baltimore, we work with what we got and we make it better. I use that in "Hairspray." Rikki Lake kicked a rat off her shoe when she was doing a love scene, she wore roaches on her dress. We inspire artists and Baltimore still has a Bohemia and that's very important too.
Now, many, MANY have pointed out that West Baltimore is only a small part of Rep. Cummings' district. That is indeed true - it speaks to the misconception that:
- a Black Congressional rep automatically represents only economically disadvantaged, struggling, crime-ridden parts of a city.
- only Black people inhabit economically disadvantaged, struggling, crime-ridden parts of a city.
- white people would not vote for a Black man to represent them in Congress.
Those are rampant misconceptions of which we should disabuse people for sure.
However. HOWEVER. The people who DO live in those disadvantaged, struggling, crime-ridden parts of the city are entitled to dignity, education, services, health-care, regard, humanity, access to the vote. I door-knocked for the 2018 election in some of my district's poorest neighborhoods. Guess who owned those properties?
Pro-publica and The New York Times did an expose on "JK2" — Kushner's real estate company buying up hundreds of thousands of housing units in Baltimore in the last 2 decades, including in Rep. Cummings' district, dontchyaknow. These neighborhoods have been dubbed "Kushnerville," and are known for his company's cruel practices and housing violations unchecked.
The Huffington Post ran with this yesterday, reminding Cheetolini that Baltimore County would LOOOOOVE to get rid of his son-in-law because of the horrible violations he commits as a landlord, keeping our residents from living in humane conditions. Sounds familiar. Runs in the family, it seems, wanting to deny Black and brown people humanity and humane living conditions, no?
Let's also not discount our Republican governor, allegedly moderate, confoundingly popular Larry Hogan. His WEAK-ass response to this was complete Twitter silence, no television appearances, no support for Rep. Cummings, and today, only a one-sentence statement issued by his spokesperson, and ONLY to journalists who inquired:
"Baltimore City is truly the very heart of our state, and more attacks between politicians aren't going to get us anywhere."
Sh*t, dude. If you're gonna stay quiet, other people are gonna talk for you. And boy, are they. Mostly in the form of, "Um...YOU are a huge part of why Baltimore City has problems, Gov..."
On July 3, Hogan announced that he was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars from Baltimore city to make up for the state's budget shortfall.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that he would not release $245 million the legislature put into the state budget for various projects — including school construction, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and summer jobs for Baltimore youth.
Though the General Assembly approved a balanced budget as required by the Maryland Constitution, Hogan argued the state shouldn’t fund the legislature’s priorities because of a possible $960 million shortfall next year.
He is balancing the budget on the backs of Baltimore City residents. That $245 million is 25% of the budget shortfall. Let's do some math.
That means Gov. Larry Hogan, Republican, is holding 10 percent of the population accountable for 25 percent of the budget shortfall. And he is doing it by withholding money for their schools, symphonies, and jobs programs.
So, let's not pretend Rep. Elijah Cummings and Democrats are to blame for the problems of Baltimore City.
And as NBC News' John Harwood points out, that glass house of Trump's is looking rather ...dirty and vermin-infested itself.