Wednesday, May 15, 2013

City haters

A high school student in Newark NJ requested that he be permitted to leave school early, in the afternoon. For some reason permission was granted. He was shot & killed a block away in a targeted execution.  Police say they have "determined a motive."   Councilman Ras Baraka called it "crazy." Indeed. Crazy has become the norm in Newark.

But I'm  not writing about this particular murder.  Rather, I'm writing about the white people from the suburbs who always have plenty to say in the comments below the story. These people inevitably decry the lawlessness, the poverty, with barely-concealed racism. The only reasons they care at all are: 1. They correctly perceive that urban crime & poverty affect their taxes. 2. They fear the crime will suddenly overtake them. But statistics  do not bear this out. The crime stays where it is.  The menace of crime to these people is symbolic. What they really fear are the ideas that come from cities. They don't give a damn about the humanity. It would be refreshingly honest  if they  admitted it.

Of course, many suburbanites love cities. They commute to them, go to concerts, museums, the events & places & culture  not available in the suburbs.  They appreciate the physical safety of the suburbs. It's not purchased cheaply. But other people find nothing useful at all in or about  cities. They hate cities.  They choose to reside in the suburbs because they believe it will isolate them not only from the crime & poverty - which it generally does (altough there are increasing numbers of poor folks in suburbia struggling to maintain), but also from everything else that cities provide, mainly, a liberal spirit. Not only  political liberalism. In that sense, a political  conservative  residing in most American cities is like a liberal residing in the Bible Belt*; you're in the permanent minority, so get used to it. But urban culture & ideas have ways  of making themselves felt, & gaining acceptance, outside cities. An easy current example is marriage equality, which spread remarkably fast.

If indirectly paying the cost of crime in Newark makes you believe you're a victim in the safety of your suburban shelter, you're entitled to believe it & vent online.  But don't forget that the real victims of urban crime & poverty are the people directly affected by them.    What you really fear is something else.

* Christianity began as a dangerous idea from the cities. 

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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