Saturday, April 13, 2002

Them vs. us

Some people don't want to get along

        Some days I feel like I'm living in Jerusalem, not Cincinnati.

        Feuding factions threaten to divide the city.

        Extremists on all sides refuse to compromise.

        The ink on a newly-signed peace treaty isn't even allowed to dry before shameless rabble-rousers turn up the heat under the pot of ferment.

        They don't want peace. They want war.

        So went another week in the embattled city of Cincinnati. The home of the flying pigs has also become a stomping grounds for the pig-headed.

        We need someone to break through the stubbornness.

        Someone willing to take the first step.

        Someone with the courage to speak out and the authority to call for an end to the small-mindedness that's killing this town.

        We may have gotten just that this week. And the call came from an unlikely source, one of the combatants in the city's strife, Police Chief Tom Streicher.

        “It's time for some of the silliness to stop,” he told City Council.

        “It is time for some of the leaders in this city to stand up, stand tall and stop being factionalized.”

        Well said. I just hope the continuing uproar of divisiveness doesn't drown out his message of unity.

Checkered week

        This was a week of bitter exchanges, renewed calls for boycotts and repeated demands.

        This was a tense week that included controversial speeches and marches marking the one-year anniversaries of Timothy Thomas' death and the riots of 2001.

        This should have been a good week for peace. The final parties agreed to the negotiated settlement of the racial profiling lawsuit. The city had good reasons to look ahead, not live in the past.

        The collaborative agreement was negotiated in a courtroom, not in the streets.

        A reasoned process was developed to solve a serious problem, proving we are a system governed by laws, not mobs.

        The approval of the negotiated settlement should have been a cause for celebration. Maybe even the start of a cooling-off period.

        We didn't even have a “Kum Ba Ya” period where the settlement's negotiators sat around long enough to sing the old Nigerian folk song of togetherness.

        Every time another party approved the settlement, the rancor and negativity sank to new lows.

Voice of reason

        The week's turning point came on Wednesday.

        City Council was about to call for a full investigation into allegations protesters desecrated the police memorial during Sunday's march.

        Council was not acting on eye-witness accounts from police and city officials. They saw nothing illegal.

        Instead, council's actions were based in part on a ruckus being raised by talk radio.

        If that hyperventilated medium becomes Cincinnati's measure of truth, then we have truly become a city of lies, exaggerations, distortions and hate.

        Council's cries for an investigation were silenced by Chief Streicher's call to stop the silliness and defeat the forces of division.

        Those answering the chief's call must not be bogged down by old fears, past deeds and prejudices.

        They must build on the work that went into the collaborative agreement. Don't dwell on the past. Plan for the future.

        If we can't get beyond yesterday's slights, then we open ourselves up to be the next Jerusalem — a city doomed to cast stones for centuries.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail


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