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Dispatch from War-Torn Baltimore | The Nation

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Dispatch from War-Torn Baltimore

I live in Baltimore, Maryland.

At the moment, that is slightly more dangerous than being an American soldier in Afghanistan.

In Afganhistan, just over eighty US soldiers have been killed so far this year. In Baltimore, we're up to 215 murders in 2007.

Mostly though, no one pays it any mind. No mucky-muck politicians from nearby Washington, DC (45 minutes away) don flak jackets for well-publicized tours of our dangerous streets. No presidential candidates bemoan the casualties in emotional speeches. No national experts are dispatched with a hue and cry of horror at the crisis to assess its origins and offer solutions. We don't even get a fancy name for the wars waged on our streets, like "Operation Enduring Freedom."

Why is that?

Oh, yeah! That's because it's mostly just black kids killing each other here.

Even locally the complacency here is astounding. Are city pols marshaling everything they've got behind efforts to end the violence? Are citizens of Baltimore demanding new leadership to tackle this problem from all angles?

Apparently not. This week our sitting democratic mayor and city council president both won the primaries--and in a town that is 80 percent registered Democrats and hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1963 that's tantamount to victory. A mere 28 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls.

Given the crisis in Baltimore's schools (where only 34 percent of students graduate) and the casualties in our streets--both massively complex problems that Baltimore shares with a slew of aging rust-belt cities across the country, including Detroit whose higher murder rate bumps us down to second in the nation--it was somewhat disheartening to discover today that the first order of business for Baltimore's victorious candidates was to vote in a handsome tax break for a new Legg Mason building.

But hey, that's business-as-usual in B'more, where marginally competent local pols will continue bumbling along in their feeble efforts to stanch the bloodshed in our apparently covert campaign, Operation Enduring Violence.

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