On a recent weekday at Annunciation B.V.M. Church in Havertown, a Mass was celebrated to pray for and honor police officers — both those on the front lines and those who have fallen in the line of duty.
It was an emotional service, especially given the number of police who have been brutally slain in the last several years. The thought of a lonely and distraught spouse raising young children — including some unborn who never even glimpsed their father — was so heartbreaking as to be unthinkable.
The worst part is that there’s no rational way to explain, let alone overcome, the absolute senselessness of why these officers were slain.
Where is our country headed when cops are being killed with abandon?
While all innocent human life is sacred, there is something different about shooting a law enforcement officer. It breaks down the last barrier of respect, and it violates the code that most criminals follow – you don’t take shots at police. Period.
Like anything else in life, once that taboo is broken, all bets are off. In Philadelphia’s case, it is now obvious that cops are fair game. The breakdown of the city is virtually complete.
With civility and respect quickly becoming a faded memory, further imperiling our children’s future, people are increasingly asking what, if anything, can be done to reverse this deadly course.
The answer is simple. It’s just not easy:
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We have just witnessed the murder trial of cop-killers Eric Floyd and Levon Warner. Both owners of long rap sheets, they heinously gunned down Officer Stephen Liczbinski in 2008. These animals deserved the death penalty, plain and simple, but that doesn’t answer how you stop such an atrocity from occurring in the future.
If you’re looking to politicians for help, you’ll be blind before that happens.
Every time there’s another crime in the headlines, Mayor Michael Nutter spews the same monotonous babble that the violence epidemic will be curtailed.
But nothing has changed. In fact, despite all the resources put into fighting crime, it’s only getting worse.
Whether its flash mobs, citizens getting gunned down, brutal subway attacks — or cops in the crosshairs, it’s clear that respect for authority is non-existent, and no one is off-limits to the predators.
Philadelphia’s murder, violence and homeless rates are among the highest in the nation, and there’s absolutely nothing to indicate that the situation will improve anytime soon, if ever.
Three things have become readily apparent:
1) The way we did things in the past hasn’t worked.
2) What we’re doing now isn’t having an impact.
3) Unless a bold leader takes steps to institute true reform and eschew band-aid solutions to gaping wounds, the city — and the region — will continue its plummet into the abyss.
Here’s the part no one wants to admit. There is NO short-term solution.
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We can talk all day about fairy-tale feel-good "solutions" by invoking vague rhetoric: community partnerships, town watches, more police, and of course, the ultimate panacea, banning guns.
But since we’ve been hearing that for decades, ad nauseum, here’s a newsflash to our leaders: none of these things work. And they’re not going to, either, because they are tactics without the benefit of a strategy.
Enter school choice.
The dire situation in which we find ourselves boils down to our horrendously bad educational system, and, as a direct result, the lack of hope in our young people.
With no possibility of receiving a quality education, and the prospects for a decent job virtually nonexistent, many of our youth see the dream of a stable and prosperous life as nothing more than an illusion. Faith is lost.
At that point, when people feel they have nothing to live for, or to lose, they resort to risk-taking criminal activity. The end result is despair, fear, violence and murder.
Even though our public schools are in shambles, and many are deathtraps for student and teacher alike, most parents have no options.
When education is trumped by survival, everybody loses.
So why doesn’t the system change?
Greed to keep the status quo the way it is because it immensely benefits a narrow few. And greed to keep the truth out of sight, buried behind 30 second sound bites.
And the greediest offender of all? The teachers’ unions.
The unions are terrified of school choice because it would inject competition into our schools, and THAT will expose incompetence, and the masses will finally see that the system’s failure has nothing to do with a lack of money.
But since so many of our politicians, especially in Philadelphia, are in bed with these unions, school choice programs continue to be thwarted.
Without a doubt, the union leadership wields immense political power because it reaps millions in forced union dues, which are used for partisan political purposes. But how long can we — and our "leaders" — be held hostage to them?
Break the stranglehold of the unions, and you break the violence, both in our schools and our city.
When parents have a choice in their children’s education, schools that perform will attract more students and succeed, and those that continue with the status quo will lose students and fail. The free market system that has served us so well will have the same effect on our educational product.
For the first time in generations, school choice will allow our students to actually learn the skills necessary to succeed in life.
Because of a quality education, they will have hope for a better tomorrow, understanding that it is better to live in a stable environment than be part of a criminal world in which the lifespan is shorter than those in third-world nations.
Criminals today don’t fear the crossfire because they feel they have nothing to live for anyway. Until that mentality is changed, Philadelphians will continue to be held hostage, and more people — including children and police officers — will die.
But instead of action on choice, all we hear are empty promises.
To Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell, much of the state legislature and the union leadership who have perpetuated this senseless violence because of their deliberate failure to act, shame on you.
We can only hope that the next Governor and a new legislature will have the political will to do the right thing.
If not, how much more blood will be spilled?
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances. He can be reached at [email protected]