By Contributor on May 10, 2013

Add them up: The Imperial Avenue atrocity of 11 women raped and murdered by Anthony Sowell, the gunning down of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams by out-of-control Cleveland police, and now the revelation that three young women have been held captive for years in a home on the city's near West Side right under our noses. And who knows how many other failures?

What does this tell us?

It tells us a version of what Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine reported about the recent police chase and gunning down with 137 bullets of two unarmed suspects, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

DeWine said that the police chase of some 62 police cars -- 59 without permission -- racing at very high speeds through the city streets of Cleveland to capture and kill two unarmed suspects was a "systemic failure" of command and communications. It was more than that.

It goes a lot farther, doesn't it?

The revelation that these three women were held captive, no matter what the circumstances get revealed, shows that the systemic failure goes far beyond the police force.

Who is paying attention? What is happening on Cleveland streets?

Who are on the streets of Cleveland with open eyes? Apparently not the Cleveland police. They're paid to do that job. Where are they -- at Progressive Field?

These tragedies are only a symptom of a systemic failure of a town and its leadership that has utterly avoided giving a damned about its ordinary citizens.

The failure is through and through the system with no hint that it is even going to be recognized.

The media can run as big headlines as it wishes and as many breaking stories as it likes to air but it doesn't go beneath the surface.

It can't or it won't.

I watched city government for a long, long time and up very close at city hall.

The problems of carelessness began before my time here -- from the disastrous and uncaring days of urban renewal that destroyed communities and ways of life to the glorification of sports teams that overshadowed our problems.

We care more about how many new restaurants there are in downtown than in how the rest of the city lives.

"To hell with the people." Our leaders shout it in so many ways. But who hears?

How could Sowell, the rapist and murderer, and Ariel Castro -- the alleged kidnapper and alleged rapist of the three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- quietly live on Cleveland streets for years without anyone knowing?

Why is there a police force?

Where were the mayors and other political leaders -- from George Voinovich, George Forbes, Jay Westbrook, now Frank Jackson and Martin Sweeney -- and what have they been doing? Our leaders.

They were more concerned about developers, building stadiums and arenas, attracting a gambling joint and doling out all kinds of subsidies but not paying attention obviously to where their citizens lived or how.

Crime stories and police have not been the focus at all of my attention through the years.

However, I have watched what the focus of this community's political, business and civic leaders has been. It has been far, far too much on what the Sam Millers, the Dick Jacobses, the Carneys, the Gunds and the Ratners have wanted. What business, developers and foundation leaders have said we need.

No one asked the ordinary people.

They have paid much less attention to the average Clevelander. The tragedies at Imperial Avenue and Seymour Avenue and in the street attest to this.

So does the poverty. The bad housing. The ill and dying children.

I don't know how Mayor Jackson, Safety Director Martin Flask and Police Chief Frank McGrath and the entire police force feel. They should feel deep, deep shame today.

They may have to swim in national attention now. I hope so. Because this town needs a drastic shaking up.

Roldo Bartimole has been reporting since 1959. He came to Cleveland in 1965 to report for the Plain Dealer where he worked twice in the 1960s, left for the Wall Street Journal in 1967. He started publishing his newsletter "Point of View" in 1968 and ended it in 2000. In 1991 he was awarded the Second Annual Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage in Washington, D.C. He received the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, Cleveland chapter, in 2002, and was named to the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame, 2004.

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This Halloween movie will scare anyone who cares about news.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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