"I met the man I call my dad,
When I was five years old.
He took my mom out to a movie,
And for once? I got to go.
A few months later? I remember
Lying there in bed,
I overheard him pop the question --
And I prayed that she'd say yes.
And all of a sudden?
It seemed so strange to me,
How we went from something's missing
To a family ...
Looking back? All I can say about,
All the things he did for me?
Is I hope I'm at least, half the dad ...
That he didn't have to be."
-- "He Didn't Have to Be" by Brad Paisley.
If you live in the greater KC area, you no doubt heard the tragic story yesterday afternoon, about how a car, driven by an 80 year old man, at a very high rate of speed, crashed into a power line, plowed into a Cadillac, which then plowed into a daycare center near 27th and Indiana, pinning three kids underneath, and damned near destroying said daycare center.
The outrage at first, focused on the driver. And that's understandable -- he's 80, possibly senile, probably shouldn't have the keys in the first place. After last year's tragic killing of a parishioner in her church's parking lot, because an 87 year old man shifted into D instead of R, it's a natural reaction.
And then comes the news today, that the 80 something year old gentleman yesterday wasn't flying through a residential street at excessive speeds because he was senile ... but because he was completely lucid and coherent.
He was fleeing a rolling shootout between the two cars next to him.
Kansas City ranks as the sixth deadliest city in America. Our homicides per capita are worse than Chicago, worse than Detroit, worse than Oakland, worse than New York, Los Angeles, Houston, or Dallas.
We're worse than the District, for Christ's sake.
12.2 homicides per 100,000 residents, as of this date in 2012.
As of today -- Wednesday, July 31, 2013 -- 82 KC residents have been murdered, compared to 56 at this date last year.
Meaning the 12.2 rate?
Is now 17.8.
And that 17.8 rate doesn't account, for those shot, who survive.
The sad truth, is that of those 82 homicides, virtually all of them occur within a twenty five mile square radius -- roughly from I-70 to Cleaver II Boulevard, from Troost to Prospect. And even more narrowed down, most homicides in this town occur between 18th and 36th, Troost to Prospect.
In the heart of our war zone? Is the daycare center that elderly gentleman, literally fleeing for his life, plowed into yesterday.
So let's address this, by stating a few inconvenient truths up front -- all obvious, but not necessarily "politically correct".
We're in this mess, because of three reasons:
(a) the residents in the urban core feel hopeless, defeated, and abandoned, because
(b) the "white flight" to the suburbs has left the remaining residents of the urban core feeling hopeless, defeated, and abandoned, because
(c) City Hall and the "powers that be", have done nothing to address the problems of the urban core.
We're also in this mess, because of three other reasons, that like it or not, must be mentioned:
(a) the residents in the urban core don't give a sh*t, by and large, about their plight, because
(b) they know they don't have to lift a finger to help themselves, because
(c) the Democrat run leadership of this community, will pay for their existence.
The second set of reasons, is far, far, far more damaging to what used to be a vibrant heart of the city, than the first set of reasons.
If you doubt me? See Detroit.
I don't live in the greatest area of town.
I live out by where Bannister Mall used to be. I've been out here for four years; I've been in South KC off of Bannister for six, dating back to what I (not so) affectionately refer to as "The Stubbs Experience"*. Personally? I have never once felt threatened, frightened, or scared for my existence. I don't fear jogging the trail near O'Hara on James A. Reed. I've never been so nervous that I couldn't enter Barnyard Liquors or the (fairly new) Cloud Nine liquor store at 10:30 for a bottle of something to get me through the second half of whatever mid-February NBA game TNT or ESPN had on. I've never been scared (when the damned thing was functional), to park my car in the parking lot, or to fill it up before the sun came up at the QuikTrip on 87th.
I feel so relatively comfortable around here, that I've walked to the B of A ATM at 5am to get some cash for whatever I needed that day ... and never once worried for my safety.
At an ATM. At 5am. In District 6. Across from an abandoned Gordman's, across from a virtually deserted strip mall that only boasts a Little Caesar's, a horrific Subway**, and some nail salon place that you couldn't pay me to enter.
There aren't a whole lot of white people out my way. You can count on about four fingers, the number of white people you'll see in an average trip to the Price Chopper, and the cashier, security guard, and manager are three of the four.
Most businesses fled here over the last decade. What hasn't left? Bannister Mall is a heaping pile of rocks, its parking lot now used as a gated parking lot for the park-and-ride folks who head downtown every day. It's so damned depressing to walk Hillcrest -- the strip mall to the west that used to house Best Buy and other assorted department chains, literally has zero tenants, and the entrance to the lot is barracaded by K-rails. To the east? The Wal-Mart sits abandoned, as of seven years ago. Circuit City is gone. Petsmart is gone. Every bar and restaurant is gone. Jesus -- even the strip club was tore to the ground.
When a strip club can't make it work? That ain't good.
And yet ... in six years out here? I've never once heard a gunshot. I've never once lived through a neighbor or a fellow area resident, being carried out underneath a sheet on the way to the county morgue.
And I've never once been the victim of a crime.
Hell, I'm typing this with my patio door wide open, since it's so decent of a night out ... and that door won't close, until I leave for work tomorrow. (Since we're approaching 90 again. Hallelujah! Maybe my Benadryl bill won't be pushing $40 this month, like July, when these "unseasonably cool conditions" made me congested like I haven't been since college ...)
(*: hypocrisy! A certain someone's lifestyle of choice for (at least) six years and counting ...)
(**: every time I go to that place, I get sick. And yet, I keep going back, because I love the Meatball Marinara that much. I'm telling you -- a footlong meatball, on the asiago bread thingy, toasted with provolone, onions, green peppers, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and a side of pickles ... mmm ... pickles ...)
Since the demise of "the worst purchase of my life", I take the same route in and home from work every day, and you get to know the people you ride with.
Since my place of employment is within sight of the Sprint Campus, there's a solid 5, 6, 7 people I see every day, either to, from, or both, who work at Sprint, and we've struck up many a friendly conversation over the last 18 some odd months. One guy, his name is Tim, looks like a reject from the 1960s. Long, stringy hair; beard that puts the Oak Ridge Boys to shame, but cool as hell, is a freaking genius (yup, IT dude), and the friendliest dude you could ever meet.
The route in, is always on time. The route home, is a crapshoot. For me, I don't care in the evening -- I have a ten minute walk home, or if we're delayed, I'll catch my connector, knock the trip down to 90 seconds, and be lazy. For Tim? He has to catch his connector at 75th and Prospect, to head to the Northland.
If he misses the 5:20 connection, or is sure to miss it due to delays? He gets off in Waldo every day at Wornall, and pays for a cab. Because "there isn't a chance in hell I'll risk a night trip through that part of town."
Meaning, the heart of KC's issues.
Another guy on my route, Jason, really nice dude. He also times his trips home.
He lives just north of the Plaza. It's faster for him, to take the Prospect route ... but like Tim, only if it's 5:20 or earlier.
If he has his doubts, he gets off at Ward Parkway, and catches the alternate Wornall route. "I'd rather risk the half mile walk, than risk two minutes on (a post 5:20pm) bus route".
In case you missed it lately, the Prospect route has seen a lady literally chuck gasoline on her fellow passengers and try to light them on fire ... and a gang fight gone ugly, resulting in three wounded riders.
At 11:30 ... in the morning.
At 31st ... and Prospect.
Right in the heart of KC's biggest crime area.
What I don't get is this.
We KNOW where the heart of this city's problems lie.
Why aren't we -- and by "we", I mean not just us citizens of this awesome community, but our elected leaders as well, standing up, and demanding the KCPD do what needs to be done, and saturate that twenty five square mile of rotted people and dreams, and bringing some peace, civility, and safety, to the area that needs it the most?
Where is the 3rd District representative Cindy Circo, demanding beefed up patrols, demanding that the police, whose mission last time I knew was to "preserve and protect", where is Ms. Circo demanding that the cops stand up for the 97% of the people in her district that are decent, good folks, just trying to get by, and survive the gang, drug, and crime zone, her district has become?
Or, perhaps a better question, is this ...
For any elected leader, especially the elected leader of the free world, of the greatest nation in the history of mankind, of the most prosperous, innovative, forward-thinking country the world has ever known (the last five years notwithstanding) ...
You always search for a legacy, in a second term.
In recent history? Every second termer has secured a legacy, but not all of them good:
* Mr. Bush's legacy, was the war on terror. (I'd argue he failed).
* Mr. Clinton's legacy, should have been the "dot com" boom of the mid to late 1990s, to say nothing of being the first President since Jimmy Carter to submit a budget with a surplus in it. Then Lewinsky happened.
* Mr. Reagan's legacy is the economic boom of the mid to late 1980s ... and what happened barely a year after his forced retirement, because of his agenda and policies -- the collapse of the Evil Empire. Solid.
* Mr. Nixon's legacy, is Watergate. Not something to aspire to.
* Mr. Johnson's legacy, is the Great Society ... (note: this assumes you count his fulfilling JFK's final year, as a first term, and I do) ... and Civil Rights. One was epic. The other has led to the collapse of the urban core we are paying dearly for today.
* Mr. Eisenhower's legacy was the interstate highway system. Rock solid.
* Mr. Truman's legacy, was saving the world from a third world war in forty years, by defending South Korea successfully, and standing the ChiComs and Soviets in the face, and calling their bluff. To say nothing of the bill that rebuilt Europe and Japan, the Marshall Plan. Epic.
* Mr. Roosevelt's legacy was defeating "tyranny in our time", defeating the Axis Powers and saving the world from Fascism, Imperialism, and Nazism.
Mr. Obama? If you want to secure your place in history amongst the giants of this country, the "issue of our time" is staring you right in the face. And no -- it's not equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, although your leadership on this issue (at least since Vice President Biden forced your hand last year) is commendable.
But Mr. Obama? Noone -- I would argue not then, not now, and possibly not ever -- is in a better position, to save this nation from it's greatest crisis.
It is not exactly a closely guarded state secret, to anyone who reads this site regularly, or who knows me personally, that I despise the fact, that Barack Obama is my President.
I am from the Clinton wing of the party. (AKA "the wing with a functioning brain".) I voted for Mr. Romney in 2012, voted for Mr. McCain in 2008. If he had nominated anyone other than sleazy ambulance chaser John "The Breck Girl" Edwards in 2004, I'd have voted for Mr. Kerry. (I swallowed hard and chose Mr. Bush ... and I regret it to this day. Mr. Kerry was the better choice, and would have done a better job. This is one of only two votes I've ever cast, that I've regretted, the other being for Mark Funkhouser for KC Mayor in 2007.)
I have never backed a candidate more than I did Mr. Gore in 2000, and my first vote ever cast for President was for Mr. Clinton, despite casting it in Johnson County, Kansas, the year Kansas' favorite son, Bob Dole, was running against Mr. Clinton.
But despite my personal (political) opinions of the President, I respect the man immensely. Mr. Obama restored a sense of dignity, honor, and integrity to the Oval Office that we haven't seen since January 20, 1993. Whatever I may think of his politics, he's a good, decent, honorable man. He's the perfect role model for the African-American community that dominates our urban cores, which are crumbling at a frightening pace.
Sometimes, and man, I hate to say what I'm about to, but it's how I truly feel about Mr. Obama -- sometimes, God acts in mysterious, amazing, "what the f*ck?!?!" ways.
Embrace your legacy.
There isn't any person alive more qualified, to reverse the decline of the urban core -- not just here in KC, but across our nation -- than Barack Hussein Obama.
Skip the crude jokes Senator Reid made, Senator Biden made, even the LA Times editorial that labeled him "Barack the Magic Negro" made.
What we have in this President, is an African-American man not embarrassed to be a loyal, dedicated husband. Not afraid, nor ashamed, to stand up for and defend his wife, and his daughters, and his beliefs about what they should have in terms of personal freedoms. (Note to those who don't know me: I am not pro-choice ... but I would not overturn Roe v Wade, as originally written by Justice Brennan. It is the most painful decision a person could ever make, and usually, there isn't a right or wrong decision; there's just a decision you have to live with. I'll leave it at that.)
What we have in this President, is someone that (correctly) the African-American community looks up to, and aspires to be. As well they should! We live in a nation, that when the President was born, his parents could not legally marry -- regardless of the fact his father was already married to another woman. (Inter-racial marriage was illegal fifty years ago.) Mr. Obama rose from a tough upbringing, overcame giving in to his inner demons, so to speak, in his college years, and emerged as a brilliant Constitutional lawyer, an engaged community organizer, a dynamic state and national Senator, and as the candidate who shattered the ultimate "glass ceiling" in American politics. The progress of the last seventy years, begun by Harry Truman integrating the armed forces, carried on by LBJ ramming JFK's Civil Rights legislation through the Senate, to the first President Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, through the Supreme Court (correctly, in my opinion) overturning DOMA last month, is remarkable to behold.
And Mr. Obama now has the chance to truly transform this nation, once and for all, for a greater good.
By simply encouraging African-American men ... to be him.
I will grant you, I grew up in a relatively affluent household, in the "Golden Ghetto" known as Johnson County, Kansas. When I was born, my folks owned a ranch off 72nd and Antioch. Then we moved across the street from Mid-America off 139th and Cottonwood for a few years, before winding up where my folks still are, in sight of Shawnee Mission Park, at the bottom of the hill on 79th Street. I have not wanted for anything in my existence, that I haven't chosen to want. I won life's lottery, so to speak.
Sadly, so many people left in the urban core, have done anything but. Look it -- we can debate all day whether the Great Society relegated a segment of our society into a permanent "underclass" role (I argue it did), but at least LBJ tried.
What have you done, Mr. President?
I believe Barack Obama holds in his hands, the future of this country -- not just as we know it, but what it should be.
Detroit? Tragic. Sad. But gives us, as Americans, a chance to say "no, we won't accept this!" In the words of my preferred candidate five years ago: "No Way. No How. No McCain!"
Mr. Obama can lead on our issues in the urban core. He can stand up, as Bill Cosby has so courageously* done, and say "the biggest problem (African-American men) face, is us". He can stand up, and say that he'd never tolerate his daughters being denied the basics of life, based on the color of their skin.
Or better yet, he can stand up, request a special address to the Congress, as he has done twice before, to address a "grave" issue of our time. Because violence in the urban core -- 99.99% of the time, "black on black" crime?
IS the "biggest problem of our time".
And it's the graves filling up with the victims, that needs to be addressed.
(*: you have to admire people willing to stand on the courage of their convictions, regardless. Especially when they're right, and everyone else is 100% wrong, no matter what the Reverend's Sharpton and Jackson of this world, have to say.)
82 dead. At a little over the midpoint of the year. In the city I call home.
A 1.7% chance, based on the homicide rate, that I could step outside on any given day, at any given moment, and be killed, simply because of where I live.
Sadly, we all know, if I lived about five miles to the north and east of where I live?
That number would be far closer to ... what, exactly? 15%? 20%? 30%?
The third dude I never fail to talk to on the ride in, is Andre. He's in culinary school, is working at the Cheesecake Factory on 119th, while putting himself through said culinary school. I see him damned near every morning, but never on the ride home, save for very rare occasions.
He's the friendliest dude on the ride in. He's one helluva guy. The only Royals game I've made all year? I went with him. (He takes the bus because his mom uses the car to get herself to work each day.) Me and Jason at one point, even convinced our fellow rider and friend Monica to give Andre a chance. (It didn't work out, sadly.)
He rides that Prospect line every morning to 75th Street, then catches the 175 out to where we all work.
Because he wants to get ahead. He wants something better. As does his mom.
As do 99.99% of the people trapped in the urban core.
What are we gonna do about it, Kansas City? Are we going to keep throwing wasted money on Power & Light, on streetcars that move two miles in ten minutes, on expanding the freeway arteries to the suburbs? Are we going to continue to pretend like nobody in that twenty five mile square that harbors 99.99% of the city's problems, doesn't exist to us?
Or, are we going to forget, that the original Gates, is barely north of the war zone at this point (12th and Brooklyn). Or forget that the original Arthur Bryant's, is on the perimeter of the war zone (18th and Brooklyn).
Or forget that when this city hit "major league" status, when MLB and the NFL moved here ... they played in the northwest quadrant of our city's war zone (22nd and Brooklyn)?
I hope Mr. Obama recognizes the opportunity he has, to truly transform this nation into what God intended it to be, through the words of Mr. Jefferson -- that ALL are created equal.
That ALL have certain unalienable rights.
Among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The thugs that incompetent KCMO cops, and an uncaring public, have allowed to take over twenty five square miles of our city?
Have to be dealt with.
@MayorSlyJames? @BarackObama? @VP Joe Biden?
What is your plan, to seize the opportunity history has given you, to not just build this nation from the "middle out", but from the "top down" and "bottom up", as well?
What is your plan, to address the greatest "evil in our time", and finally deal with the collapse of the urban core, and African-American family unit, over the last 50 years?
Seize your legacy.
Before Hillary does ...