Halfway through writing today's post, I did the digital equivalent of ripping the paper from the platen of an IBM Selectric, wadding it up and making a three-point shot into the wire wastebasket. (That's so much more dramatic than pressing CTRL-N these days.)
For the third time in a month, this middle-aged white boy has been affected by crime. I won't go into the personal details, and no, I've not suffered any bodily harm. But I'm even more upset that I, like many other Indy residents, seem so desensitized to the crime happening here until it happens to me. I'm ashamed that I've had blinders on while touting the wonderful and glorious things happening in this great city and nitpicking about tweaks we could make to the art scene.
So does that mean I start patrolling my neighborhood in a distrustful, paranoid attempt to stand my ground? Do I flee to a gated community and barricade myself under the illusion of safety? Or do I contribute the madness by giving Don's Guns my business?
What the hell can I do?
For once, I don't have the easy answers to dispense in a pithy manner. But I do know this: We in Indianapolis are facing a real crime problem, and when you have a problem, you think creatively to solve it. Some first steps should involve examining the source of this crime: gangs, drugs, poverty, loss of purpose or inclusion.
In May, Indianapolis Star columnist Erika D. Smith praised Mayor Ballard for his willingness to meet with gang leaders. She wrote, "Increasingly, gang members say they want out. ... They joined gangs as kids for money. To get respect. To be celebrities in their chronically poor, mostly black, urban core neighborhoods. That was then. Now they want to get a real job, an education, a good job, a big house, a nice car, a family. Heck, just a life that doesn't involve constantly looking over one's shoulder."
So how might the arts community help tackle this?
Right after the election of Mayor Greg Ballard in 2007, the Indianapolis arts community feared budget cuts in the wake of his election promises to beef up public safety enforcement. As a result, the next year's grant application for local arts orgs included the following advocacy question: "What programs and/or services does your organization offer to assist efforts at crime prevention and public safety?"
No, the answer doesn't involve donning superhero capes and masks and fighting crime armed with palettes and brushes.
Or could it?
I suggest that artists and arts organization ask themselves this question again. The answers will vary as greatly as the ways artists express themselves. Those answers might involve fighting urban blight by bringing art shows and performances into nontraditional spaces and out of the established Cultural Districts. They might come in the form of neighborhood beautification. Then they might involve supporting after-school arts programs or people at Arts for Learning who tirelessly work to support dwindling arts programs.
Finally, our disparate disciplines might think about banding together with a unified voice, advocacy and activism, standing up to say, "Enough is enough!"
Still I remain a little skeptical that these tiny steps can help remedy a large problem such as this. Can it be as simple as inspiring, mentoring and supporting those who might otherwise resort to crime? At a minimum, it takes at least one person to question the status quo, two people to brainstorm and three people to form a movement.
So all right then, who's with me?