The Outstater

May 31, 2021

Cause and effect, chain of events
All of the chaos makes perfect sense
When you’re spinnin’ round
Things come undone
Welcome to Earth, third rock from the Sun — Joe Difie

THINKING ABOUT the political repercussions of an Indianapolis crime wave, a friend reminded me of a quite different catastrophe — the Chicago blizzard of 1978. My friend’s point was that such events contain absolutes that are resistant to even the most practiced political spin.

With the local weather stations having predicted two inches of snow, a blizzard with wind gusts of 39 miles per hour dumped 21 inches in a two-day period beginning Jan. 13. Five people died, one when a snowplow driver went berserk, hitting 34 cars and ramming a man.

To add insult to the storm’s injury, the Chicago Tribune printed a four-column aerial photo on its front page showing the first-day routes of the municipal plows, the very emblems of government rescue.

But in the Tribune’s photograph the plows are heading not for the traffic ways but for the homes of high city officials.

This arrogance and selfishness, as much as the storm itself, enraged a snow-bound citizenry. It voted out Mayor Michael Bilandic, successor to Richard Daley, in an ill-timed February Democratic primary, eventually installing an outsider and the city’s first woman mayor, Jane Byrne.

“Mayor Bilandic really didn’t handle it correctly,” Byrne told NPR years later. “He was saying everything’s fine, and people were going around like what does he mean everything’s fine? I can’t get my car out, I can’t, you know, go here, go there. I think it was more arrogance that irritated the people even more than the snow, and they were angry enough about the snow.”

Again, a crime wave is not a snow storm. City officials can’t control the weather. They can control crime. In fact, it is their duty.

Rick Snyder of the Indianapolis chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police predicts that this summer will be crime’s “perfect storm.” Homicides are already 40 percent above historic highs, the backlog of murder trials is approaching 200 and police recruitment is down at least 50 percent. Snyder frames the issue this way:

“Local politicians use the deaths of our neighbors, children and domestic-violence victims to call for more gun control but refuse to fix $500 bond-auto release for repeat convicted felons charged with criminal recklessness while armed. Why?”

Good question, for the law is specific on that point: “A person who recklessly, knowingly our intentionally performs an act that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person” has committed criminal recklessness, a felony if committed while armed with a deadly weapon.

The behavior is the thing, you see, not the gun. And the law does not exempt that behavior because of political, racial or ethnic identity.

Since neither Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett nor Council President Vop Osili can be trusted to talk frankly about such a delicate issue, we will have to do some reverse engineering to get an answer.

Hogsett and Oslie are skilled students in the school of Identity Politics. That is, when they look down at their city from the 25th floor they do not see individuals but rather groups, i.e., Meridian Street elites, Butler and I.U. intellectuals and, to the point of Officer Snyder’s question, a loyal but struggling black constituency. Progressive politics is a matter of keeping all that in balance.

This works well up to a point. The elite receives assurance of its moral superiority over the hated conservatives. The inner-city constituency, or at least its nominal leadership, is activated by the injustice of perceived systemic racism.

But at some point it all crashes into an absolute. In this case, it is the Indianapolis crime rate, now comparable per capita to Chicago. For the situation eventually reaches the point where something must actually be done, where action must replace posture, where arrests must be made, where prosecution must be pursued. It is there that the progressive’s political machinery grinds to a halt (can you spell “Portland?”).

Identity Politics as well as campaign finances will not allow anybody to tell the Meridian Street elite that it is not morally superior, indeed that its devotion to victimology is killing fatherless, errant youth and innocent bystanders, some of them children. And nobody will be able to tell the inner-city leadership that its thug wing must be held accountable for damage to life and property. 

Thus police will be prohibited from stopping and frisking for weaponry, prosecutors will be overwhelmed or dismissive, and those on the streets already charged for being armed and reckless will feel comfortable continuing to be armed and reckless.

A revolving door of mayhem, and no one at City Hall will say out loud what everyone knows to be true: Public safety has priority over political sensitivities. 

Keep your eyes on the snow plows. — tcl


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