For the inaugural issue of Weld, we asked dozens of people from throughout the community — young and not-so-young; male and female; black, white, Hispanic and Asian; Christian, Muslim, Jewish and agnostic; students, professionals, artists and more — to each give us one idea for making Birmingham better. This is one of those ideas. You can read more here.
Mike Coppage • Director of Public Safety for Samford University
Except for four fun-filled years in the military, I guess you could say I have been a lifelong resident of the Birmingham area. In addition, having retired after serving the citizens of Birmingham as an employee for almost 30 years, I have had the unique opportunity to “peer behind the curtain” to see how magicians in the “Magic City” actually try to influence our perceptions of reality.
Now, in my book there are two types of “magicians.” There are the true magicians who are so accomplished at what they do that we are convinced they are truly performing magic. The others I classify as illusionists — they use smoke and mirrors and misdirection to divert our attention away from what is actually happening.
Unfortunately, we have had very few true magicians. These are the people who work hard for the public good without hope of glory, money or assuming a higher office.
Then we have the illusionists. Some are admittedly quite good. They divert our attention by appealing to our compassionate sides, by saying that what they are trying to do is help the children, the old folks, the poor folks or the business folks.
Some are really slick; others not so much. We are able to see through some of the smoke and figure out exactly what is going on. Others are so inept that we give big belly laughs when their trick falls apart right before our eyes.
The sad thing is that despite their poor performances, we continue to buy tickets to see the same old tricks time after time.
Consider the “Jefferson County Wing” of the federal prison where so many of our really bad illusionists now reside. Or watch the city council meeting where there are so many wannabe mayoral candidates bickering they can’t decide on where to eat lunch. And I want to pull my magic top hat way down over my eyes when I think about our Jefferson County Legislative Delegation.
Granted, there are a lot of hecklers out there who are quick to point out the shortcomings of these folks. All you have to do is look at the editorial page of the newspaper and see how vocal some of these astute observers are. Unfortunately, most of them don’t live in the city and probably moved because of the poor performance of some of the bad illusionists. But that is their right.
The sad thing is that they are content to sit out in the audience and throw tomatoes at the bad performers. They would not think about getting up off their backsides and offering solutions or, heaven forbid, actually get involved in real problem-solving.
But not all is gloom and doom. There are a few brave souls who have stepped forward to offer suggestions, if not solutions. These are the folks who dare to sweat it out rather than sit it out. But it is going to take a lot of sweat and a lot of practice before we can collectively step onto the stage and perform before an audience.
A lot of people talk about the missed opportunities that Birmingham has had. Perhaps there is an opportunity for you to do something good for the city.
It takes a lot of effort to learn how to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Read more Big Ideas to Make Birmingham Better here.