Seven shootings in Broad Ripple.
No, make that seven more shootings in Broad Ripple. As the Indianapolis Star reminded us over the weekend, four people were shot on Broad Ripple Avenue eleven months ago.There’s really nothing new to be said about the now-chronic gun violence ripping at Indianapolis. A day after the Broad Ripple shootings, an Indianapolis cop, Perry Renn was killed in a gun fight on 34th Street by someone carrying an assault rifle.
But if there’s nothing new to be said about what seems to be the city’s new normal, there is certainly plenty to think about. Here’s a sampling of what went through my head while reading the Star’s weekend coverage, a story by John Tuohy and Tim Evans titled “Will 7 shootings bring changes to Broad Ripple?” on Sunday morning.
“Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said people carrying weapons are too quick to use them to settle minor skirmishes.”
So much for the NRA’s contention that more guns make us safer. But I’m sure that from now on some folks will make a point of packing when going to Broad Ripple for a night on the town.
“Rob Sabatini, who owns three bars on Broad Ripple Avenue, said friction in Broad Ripple is mostly caused by people who come to the area ‘and loiter in the street rather than going into the businesses.’”
Some people loiter. Some people hang out. Some are just pedestrians passing through. It’s a city, it’s a scene. If everyone who went to Broad Ripple dove straight into a bar or restaurant, the place would look like a ghost town.
“Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, said there were plenty of police officers on the strip.”
Which doesn’t seem to count for much when you have a population that’s young, armed, and drunk. I remember talking to Mayor Ballard before he was first elected. He was standing at the scene of a shooting at 38th and Meridian and said he was going to get the criminals off our streets…
“’There are larger societal issues about why this occurs,’ Lotter said.”
So I guess we shouldn’t hold it against Ballard that things seem worse, not better. It’s society’s fault! What a relief.
“Officials have attributed the increase in homicides to a number of reasons, including a rising use of heroin, a huge number of people leaving jails and prisons, a high poverty rate and too many households with no strong authority figures.”
That’s right: All of these things are happening at once. Seems like a pretty combustible mixture. So what do we do? Add guns and stir. But wait, I forgot: Guns make us safer!
Apparently there is now talk about closing Broad Ripple Avenue to cars on certain nights, making the street a kind of pedestrian Mall of Inebriation. This way people with weapons will be less likely to bump into one another.
And maybe bars will start requiring patrons to check their guns at the door.
It’s been a year of anniversaries. Muhammad Ali (when he was Cassius Clay) knocking down Sonny Liston. The Beatles invading America. Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.
And Freedom Summer.
What came to be known as Freedom Summer was actually a program called the Mississippi Summer Project. It’s also a documentary by Stanley Nelson that’s been running on PBS. Nelson’s film is stirring in many ways. It’s an important piece of American social history that, in looking back, is also a cautionary tale about a vein in our politics that keeps on throbbing.As Nelson’s film reminds, less than seven percent of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote in 1964, even though they accounted for roughly half of the state’s population.
Efforts by local civil rights workers to register more blacks to vote were met by organized intimidation and violence. The tactics used were so extreme, and so blatant, it was as if Mississippi had turned itself into another country, a country dedicated to the preservation of white racial supremacy.
Freedom Summer brought 700 white northern college students into Mississippi for 10 weeks to help register people to vote and conduct summer classes in African American history and culture. Most of all, it was hoped these students would act as shields, that their presence would, in effect, shame white racists into letting people have the rights they were owed under the Constitution.
Instead, Mississippi acted as if it were under a state of siege. In April, the Ku Klux Klan staged a mass burning of 61 crosses in towns across the state. Civil Rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were murdered. Other Freedom Summer volunteers were terrorized.
It is now easy to see the Mississippi white establishment’s behavior in 1964 as a hateful overreach. They not only tarnished the state’s reputation throughout the rest of the country, sentencing it to seemingly permanent socio-economic backwater status; they also lost the power they were so intent on keeping — today, a majority of Mississippi’s elected officials are African American.
But what is just as easy to overlook is the role that a strident belief in states’ rights played in encouraging many Mississippi whites to pursue their self-destructive path. Like their Confederate forebears, they considered the Constitution and Bill of Rights provisional documents they could choose to ignore.
Black Mississippians worried that the northern students who volunteered for Freedom Summer were in for a shock; that nothing could prepare them for how different Mississippi really was from the rest of the country. If you see this film, you can understand their fears.
You might also be reminded of our latest crop of politicians — those who make states’ rights a reason to deny some of us health care benefits, a decent wage, or the chance to marry someone we love. Freedom Summer leaves you wondering how it is states’ rights wound up being just another way for some people to holler, “No!”Click here see Freedom Summer.
What a weekend it wasn't.
Over a break when many gay couples should have been celebrating their finally having the chance to declare their love and commitment for one another through marriage, the State of Indiana chose to blow a loud and particularly acrid raspberry.
As we all know by now, U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that Indiana's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional on Wednesday, June 25. This was news gay couples had been waiting for, in some cases, for decades.
My friends Van Kirby and Dan Detrick have been together for over 40 years. I helped Van write his memoir, On the Table By the Window: The Journey of a Gay Dad In Indiana, about fighting for, and winning, custody of his four kids. That court battle took place in 1976. Today Van and Dan are great grandparents.
On Thursday night, the day after Judge Young's ruling, I spoke to Van on the phone. He sounded elated and exhausted. That morning he and Dan had gotten up at 5 a.m., looked at one another, and decided to go down to City Hall to complete the circle of their lives together.
Van had told me he didn't want to get married unless it could be in Indiana. He considers this his place; it's where he came of age, created a successful business, and found Dan, his soulmate.
Van and Dan are a true partnership. They've shared victories and defeats, cared for each other in sickness and in health. Their relationship doesn't need to be sanctioned by the state; its validity speaks for itself.
In fact, you could say that, by their example, Van and Dan bring more to the meaning of marriage in the State of Indiana than the State of Indiana brings to them.
They were fifth in the line that formed in front of County Clerk Beth White on June 26. There were jokes about the suddenly outdated rigamarole regarding who was supposed to be "husband" and whom the "wife." In a few minutes the deed was done. Van and Dan were as hitched as any other married couple in this woebegone state.
Even then, Van couldn't help feeling somewhat dubious about the whole thing. He said it felt a little like they were being served crumbs from Indiana's table. There'd been no time to anticipate the kind of celebration most marriages inspire. Better to get married quickly, before Indiana bared its teeth.
Sure enough, Indiana bit. On Friday night, Attorney General Greg Zoeller did Gov. Mike Pence's bidding and got a stay from a Court of Appeals in Chicago. Van and Dan may have lived together for over 40 years, but their Indiana marriage lasted less than 48 hours.
This has been proclaimed as being good news by those who say marriage must be defended, who claim that Indiana's sanction of Van and Dan's relationship somehow infringes on their religious freedom.
But for everybody else, the State's reaction looks and smells like bigotry. It stinks.
The real world supposedly exists outside the campus bubble. It's filled with strangers of different ages, backgrounds, expectations and demands. If the real world can be a place of great opportunity, it can also be unforgiving. There is no grading on a curve.
Most college students are all too aware of the differences between the real world and the lives they lead. That's what makes the growing push among some students for trigger warnings in classrooms so troubling.
Trigger warnings, according to the Urban Dictionary, are intended, "to alert people when an internet post, book, article, picture, video, audio clip, or some other media could potentially cause extremely negative reactions (such as post-traumatic flashbacks or self-harm) due to its content."
At the University of California, Santa Barbara, students recently passed a resolution that trigger warnings be posted for classes using materials dealing with "rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-injurious behavior, suicide, graphic violence, pornography, kidnapping, and graphic descriptions of gore."
The resolution was proposed by a student, who was herself a victim of sexual violence. She said a movie depicting rape, screened by a teacher without advance warning in one of her classes, caused her to have a post-traumatic stress reaction.
Her proposal was intended to protect other students.
Across the country, a Rutgers student, Philip Wythe, echoed this desire, writing in his college newspaper that trigger warnings can help make the classroom a "safe space."
At first blush it is easy to dismiss the call for trigger warnings as yet another PC campus indulgence. A misguided attempt to keep the real world at bay.
But that world keeps crowding in - and it's twisted. As reported in Not Alone, the first White House Task Force report on sexual violence on American college campuses, one of every five collegiate women has been the victim of sexual assault. In most cases, the perpetrators are men these women already know. Too often,these crimes go unpunished.
Now combine this slice of campus life with that laundry list assembled by the students at UC Santa Barbara, the one ending with "graphic violence, pornography, kidnapping, and graphic descriptions of gore."
In other words, the primetime cable menu for any night of the week.
Sexualized violence is our version of the ol' soft shoe: it's what we call entertainment. Given the casual ubiquity of this stuff, it's no wonder, first, that the number of victims reported among us keeps growing and, second, that more and more of us (and not just college students) will go for a safe place wherever we can find it.
Trigger warnings, of course, are no solution for the deep cultural dysfunction that ails us. They're like a white flag hoisted by students who have already felt enough of the real world to know it needs fixing.
But Gov. Mike Pence's knee-jerk response to the EPA's proposal to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 16 years was all too predictable. Rather than leadership, Pence let out a howl for things as they are.
That's because the EPA regs represent a major step toward weaning the country off coal, and Indiana is addicted to the sooty stuff. Only West Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming use more coal than we do. Indiana relies on coal for 84 percent of its energy needs.
Now we've known something like this was coming for some time. Over the past three years the EPA has enacted a Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and a Cross-State Air Pollution rule. Given the ever-mounting evidence regarding the threat of climate change, and the role fossil fuels like coal play in contributing to that threat, you'd think Indiana would have gotten its rear in gear and started taking steps to diversify its energy portfolio in a cleaner, more sustainable direction.
But that would have taken leadership.
Indiana could have been making headlines by enacting policies and procedures aimed at making our air quality among the best in the land. Instead, our governor is looking for legal means to circumvent the new regulations - and perpetuate Indiana's "good enough" air quality, which ranks in the bottom tier of states. Gov. Pence seems to think that by digging in his heels, he can will the smokestack chugging days of the 1950's back into existence. He thinks that cheap energy will trump environmental responsibility when it comes to economic development. What he fails to realize is that this kind of retrograde posturing sets Indiana apart in a way that's likely to hurt rather than help the state's future development.
It doesn't have to be like this. Earth Charter Indiana and its youth program, Youth Power Indiana, have initiated a legal process, a Petition for Rulemaking, aimed at getting the state's Environmental Rules Board to enact a climate action plan for Indiana. Thirty-four states, including Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky have already adopted similar guidelines.
The plan the petition calls for would aggressively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; pursue long-term solutions, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy resources to prevent further degradation of the atmosphere while creating quality local jobs; and help Hoosiers adapt to and prepare for climate change impacts.
Rosemary Spalding, a former IDEM executive and president of the ECI board, says, "I understand the need for a coordinated statewide effort and the importance of basing regulatory decisions on sound scientific principles, accurate data and information... to effectively address climate change in Indiana." Spalding believes the Environmental Rules Board has the authority to make an effective Climate Action Plan a reality in this state. With the governor's support, this plan could represent a major step toward making Indiana a model climate citizen, for a change, rather than a recalcitrant outlier. And that would be a kind of leadership Indiana could really use.
Click here if you would like to read and/or sign the Earth Charter Indiana petition.