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Baltimore needs more unity and nonpartisan collaboration

After a week of President Donald Trump leveling criticisms of Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the congressman said he would welcome the president to visit.

Baltimore is where our family chose to buy a home 18 years ago and raise our three sons. However, there are many issues, including continuous record setting crime and low performance in our own designated school zone, that directly impact how we live daily (“Elijah Cummings urges Trump to visit Baltimore, calls for end to ‘racist language’ by leaders,” Aug. 8). We have been personally affected by crime (a physical assault during a robbery and car theft). We often choose to shop or take our boys to nearby counties, which we rather not do, to not to put our personal safety at risk.

I am not trying to get accolades, but I currently volunteer in my own neighborhood by translating or interpreting for families who speak Spanish and tutor adults. I will continue to do so as long as these services are needed in our area. In the past, I alone have cleaned up alleys to assist in keeping our area clean and to prevent anyone from getting sick from the stench of garbage or from garbage going into the sewage system with dead rats, soiled diapers, dumped mattresses, trash overflowing in tree pits and trash that often will make me feel nauseated. To find it again, unkempt and unsanitary days later doesn’t stop me it cleaning it again. I do this as I work a job from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and also meet the ever-growing needs of my own household, otherwise I would clean the alleys more often. It would be wonderful to hear and get a helping hand from politicians, including those who call themselves “public servants,” to assist in resolving issues like this that affect families. They could offer training to citizens on how to collaborate in a bipartisan manner and strive to truly keep our city charming and have the highest standards for our schools. We could work together to have a direct and lasting impact in order to decrease, if not obliterate, grime and crime.

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Instead, politicians and other people talk a lot about what the issues are and get in a political boxing ring with each other. Their offense becomes spewing out words of discord and their defense bashing one another. My oldest son, when he 8 years old in 2014, said to me after seeing a divisive political TV advertisement, “Mom, shouldn’t people vote for the best candidate instead for the most popular?” Now he is age 13 and he understands that power, greed, popularity and divisiveness from both political parties, regardless of what they promise, is the norm.

Baltimore has been crying out for an S.O.S. for at least the last 20 years (I have lived in Maryland for 30 years). Many citizens have stepped up, which is wonderful. Many more are needed, which would be beneficial, and far more are intimately aware of what goes on in their unique neighborhoods. Politicians have been given a platform to influence and bring change. The platform has turned into a soap box where politicians point to themselves and say, “Look at me. Look how great I am. Look what I have done. I indeed deserve to be elected (or re-elected)”

It is time to work together rather than identifying with either a Democrat, Republican or Independent after our names and start picking up the tools to get to work for those who may or may not have voted for a particular politician and for those who have invested in this city. I know as our family’s daily mantra reiterates, “together means to get there we must start here.” We have real life and difficult challenges within our own home, however, fighting, arguing and bashing our neighbors will not be one of them. This requires a resolute mentality without the bias that not one party, person, idea or suggestion is someone else’s enemy.

“A house divided cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln said quoting the Bible, and this is true whether the house contains within it a family or a nation. Thirteen years ago, when our car was stolen (and I was 8 months pregnant), we called for assistance. I was shocked when the first two questions I was asked were, “Where are you from and do you speak English?” Yet another time not too long ago, a neighbor was launching fireworks outside. When I approached the person and advised that it is best not to do this because he could get hurt and we live in a residential neighborhood, he asked me if I was a racist. We are better than this, Baltimore. Together we can do great things. We can appreciate that first we are humans and we can learn that better starts with me.

I could have responded to both of these individuals with the same indifferent attitude, but didn’t. I could have told the police offer that I was an American citizen who speaks two languages and desires to learn two more. I could have told my neighbor that my best friend for the last 14 years lives one block away and is another race than mine.

Better starts with me.

Blanca Tapahuasco, Baltimore

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