A Message to Maryland’s Refugee-Resistant Governor Hogan

Governor Larry Hogan,

My name is Dave K., and I am a Maryland resident. More specifically, I am a Baltimore City resident, and have been since 2006. I am also a registered voter, although in the interest of full disclosure, I did not vote for you. Don’t worry, I’m not writing you to complain about how the other team should have won. They didn’t. You did. Excelsior to you, I suppose.

I am, however, writing in response to your recent statements about barring Syrian refugees from Maryland for “safety reasons,” which you thankfully lack the authority to carry out. This is on the heels of your decision to exclude Baltimore City from the extensive road and bridge projects planned for the rest of Maryland, your killing of the city’s proposed Red Line, and a handful of other issues that haven’t endeared you to Baltimore City. It’s tempting to look at the past few months as backhanded retribution for the unrest associated with Freddie Gray’s death, but sadly, they fall in neat ideological order with your general tenure as governor thus far.

I’ll spare you the lecture about how fishy your anti-refugee reasoning is, and that you’ve been prioritizing suburbs and rural areas (full of conservative/wealthy people) over urban areas, and that you’ve been callously raising prices/fees on services associated with lower income people. You already know all that, and my guess is that you don’t care. Which, honestly, is fine. You’re a grown man and I’m in no position to tell you how many karmic cigarette burns your soul can endure.

I will say this, though: when Baltimoreans were looking to their city and state leaders for support during a pretty scary time (the aforementioned civil unrest), what they saw wasn’t pretty. You seemed more interested in passive-aggressively sniping at Mayor Rawlings-Blake than doing anything useful, and your one major contribution to helping the city was calling in the National Guard, which was unnecessary and expensive. I’d say it was suspiciously expensive, given how often past governors have complained about not having enough money to run the state properly.

In the end, you and the Mayor were totally outclassed by the Nation of Islam, a loose alliance of street gangs, a handful of city delegates, and another handful of very dedicated community leaders, all of whom displayed better and more consistent leadership than the highest offices in the city and state. Were I a paranoid man, I’d think that the miscommunication between your office and the mayor’s office was part of some greater plan to let rumor leave us scared and vulnerable for further police state tactics.

The more likely explanation is that you are caught between your duties as a government official and the vanity of your own ambition, an unwillingness to inconvenience business interests or tourism, and an indifference to the poor and vulnerable.

If that’s true, one wonders what Baltimore looks like through the eyes of Larry Hogan. Is it a broken city full of angry poor people, freaks, and post-industrial rot? Is it a mine from which resources can be extracted, and which can be shuttered and left behind upon total depletion? Is it where you go to watch the Orioles and eat Old Bay hot dogs? What vision do you have for this city, exactly?

For that matter, what specific “public safety” concerns have hardened your heart against Syrian refugees? Is it the usual, vague, “terror alert” pearl-clutching that Republicans engage in whenever they’re trying to distract people, or are you worried about something else? Because right now, as you make a group of already-suffering people feel unwelcome in a country that was founded on doing the exact opposite, it looks like you’re using “public safety” as a dogwhistle for racism against Middle Eastern people. What it doesn’t look like, and this is a troubling pattern with your office, is leadership.

To be fair, leadership is hard. It requires very specific skills that few people have, and that even fewer can execute on this scale. The impact of what you do as governor will be felt far beyond your tenure, and younger people use moments like these to decide whether or not civic engagement is worth their time. What they decide, based on what they observe now, is what they will teach their children. Does that matter to you? It probably should, because it’s not like you or whatever beliefs you’ve cobbled together are immune from the apathy (or rage) of the commons. This is assuming that you ran for office for humanitarian reasons, of course.

I feel like I’m beginning to ramble, so I’ll close this letter by suggesting that you really think about your vision for the state of Maryland, and whether or not it’s worth kicking so many people—the refugees in whose faces you’re spitting, the residents of Baltimore City, and basically anyone who wasn’t a direct contributor to the Hogan campaign—when they’re down. Now that you’ve survived a vicious form of cancer, you can choose not to become one yourself.

Good luck.

Dave K.

*This post ("and not just broken, shattered") originally appeared on Dave K.'s blog - Banners of Death

*Photo by Nate Pesce

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