No More Politics as Usual

FRANK M. REID III

January 21, 1993|By FRANK M. REID III

As our nation reflects on the significance of the 1992 congressional and presidential elections one thing is clear. A strong message was sent from the electorate. By giving Ross Perot 19 percent of the vote, sending George Bush to an early retirement, electing the first baby-boomer president, sending large numbers of new members to Congress and increasing the number of women and minority groups in the Senate and House of Representatives, Americans said with their votes: ''Politics as usual is no longer acceptable.''

In an attempt to be true to this bipartisan mandate, President Clinton put together a list of cabinet appointments that has jolted the political establishment with its diversity and divergence from the Washington norm.

The national debt, the debilitated conditions of city and state infrastructures, rising health-care costs, fear of the drug culture and increased crime rates are the consequences of many years of corrosive and destructive ''politics as usual.'' Some of these conditions, if not all, seem to be stirring that same kind of hunger for change among Baltimore citizens.

For example, Councilman Lawrence Bell called recently for the resignation of Police Commissioner Edward Woods in six months if crime and violence is not substantially decreased. On the surface, this confrontational statement is a ''wake-up call'' for Baltimore and its politicians. If something is not done soon to arrest the rising tide of crime and death, a revival of community courage and confidence among its voters may let political leaders know that business as usual is no longer acceptable.

I hope Councilman Bell is serious about the crime issue and not using the 1992 death rate to further his own or someone else's political career. This would be politics as usual and would perhaps lead us to a more destructive dead-end where we might end up with a new police commissioner and the same old problems.

Political posturing and lavish rhetoric are difficult to digest when crime, death and destruction stalk our streets claiming more victims annually while the citizenry drowns in fear. The pimping of this problem would only lead to greater distrust of political leaders and the political system. The solution has to be larger than personal pet agendas and the struggle among competing African-American political cliques.

As an African-American male, I must admit that a bad taste is left in my mouth when three intelligent and politically powerful African-American men have a political shoot-out in a public arena. Perhaps the City Hall machine had become too accustomed to the protocol of an ingratiating silence, and Mr. vTC Bell's challenge was the only way to draw attention and action to this painful problem. Perhaps, he like others in the city, just got tired of being handled and manipulated by politically correct statements with little substance.

Yet, I can't help but believe that there was a better way that this could have been handled. Isn't there enough pain in our community for us to finally stop turning on each other and to start turning to each other?

In some very real ways all of us and all our institutions are guilty of contributing to the destructive nihilistic environment that has spread from the city to the suburbs. There is enough blame for everybody. Now what we need to decide is, will we continue to be part of the problem or are we going to participate in planning and programming that can give birth to solutions that will make 1993 a safer and more secure year for us all.

Dr. Frank M. Reid III is pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church.

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