Uncontrolled and unabated crime and violence threaten to undermine the very dreams of Newark’s children. It also brings into question the priorities of Newark’s residents and in particular, Newark’s leadership class…elected and unelected.
How any community can sustain the level and intensity of crime and violence that has visited Newark over the past dozen years without a serious collective call to develop a comprehensive response across the deep chasms of Newark’s social, cultural and political stratifications is mind boggling. Even though survival is the issue confronting the community, maintaining the territorial prerogatives of division remains the most powerful motivator of behavior. It is no wonder that we have sunk to such a level of internal and external expectation.
Newark’s leaders seem unwilling to collaborate beyond their respective silos. This clearly represents a “Go Out of Business” strategy that has nearly run its course. The city is moving further and further away from being a community and settling into the crass balkanization of entrenched neighborhoods terrorized by subcultures of fear. And the intelligentsia is standoffish offering rationalization and historical mis-perspective.
There is a deep crisis in Newark, which is clearly economic. Everyone sees it and the ideas for dealing with it are few and dull. A full response will not be possible until a recognition that the social and cultural diseases of the city must also be treated sets in. Attacking any singular problem area in Newark alone, is not sufficient…indeed, it could be harmful. A comprehensive approach requires an enlightened view and a willingness to collaborate notwithstanding our individual convictions of superiority. To do otherwise is to continue failing.
Newark is failing. There are no ifs ands or buts about it. Newark is a dangerous city where institutions are generally sub-par and communication among potential key actors is badly stymied by paralysis of intent. Leaders, elected and unelected, lack the courage to make themselves vulnerable to the ideas and company of one another and thus routinely squander their best opportunities for success.
A diplomatic breakthrough lead by non-elected leaders is the best hope for our city. Elected leaders operate against an extraordinary backdrop of self-interest breeding suspicion into nearly everything they advocate. This is not fair, but it is the reality. Therefore non-elected leaders must summon the courage to risk the wrath of elected leaders and support the strong steps that must be taken to confront the issues that are crippling our stability and threatening our survival.
We are daily confronted with matters of life and death. The peril we all face can be no more literal. Unsafe streets, inadequate schools, weak institutions and general disregard for the future are descriptive of the situation and climate in our city today. It is only a matter of time before it all caves in on us and consumes whatever remains of civility. Unless we immediately and dramatically reverse course Newark will enter a phase of demise that will be irreversible.
There is time for change, but just barely. Time to choose another direction. At question is our desire and ability—also our courage. And perhaps the issue of courage is the most compelling of all. Do leaders have the courage to confront our own failure head on? Or is our inability to work with one another so hinged to old hatreds and animosity that we would rather become extinct than lock arms for our own survival? These are serious questions.
We have no good reason to believe that we can ride out the current systemic devolution gripping our community and rely on the next generation to be our safety net. We have not prepared them adequately. Whether or not they will successfully fend for themselves in an open question. Their ability to lift those around them is more than doubtful. We are in an “all hands on deck” moment. Our differences must become opportunities and not impediments. We must see organization and unity as methodologies for strengthening and growth. Anything less leans against the shallow haze that separates success from futility.
We have been condemned by our behavior and our failures. Indeed we have been condemned by our refusal to succeed. Our actions and inactions have led our community to the brink of the abyss and our own children stand ready to topple us toward the deep. They are our executioners. It is them that we have failed to educate and prepare who care nothing for our weak meanderings. They would kill us as soon as look at us. And we bread them and watched them grow crooked as we “minded our business.”
All hands on deck means that none of us can cling to superciliousness. Survival requires humbling ourselves to the concept of equal worth. The only validation that is truly worthwhile is that given by a neighbor offering an earnest hand in the work that must be done but cannot be done alone. Social and political statuses are meaningless in the face of the monster that has come to consume us all. If we embrace equality, courage, neighborliness and hard work, our good intentions will net us more than good luck.
I was once told and now live by the adage: “Those that you don’t let die won’t let you live.” Sometimes the things that we fight to hold on to, i.e. relationships, associations, leadership etc. are the very things that work hardest against our interest. Sometimes we must simply let them die. In particular, history reveals that our community is a victim of bad habits and bad leadership…we must simply let them die.