A report prepared by a combination of worldwide organizations listed Springfield as one of the most resilient cities* in the world placing it near the very top of that list out of over 2,000 cities. While I see the logic in the outcome it is odd to me that, on the map of the results at least, some readily available information is left unentered. It makes me wonder if, for example, unemployment in the metro area not being entered meant it registered as zero, that would certainly invalidate the results, but it seems almost unthinkable that anyone serious about formulating such a list would overlook such an obvious flaw.
*(The population is given as over 600,000 so it is clearly metro area data being used)
Not being at sea level, not having frequent and/or major earthquakes, not being prone to flood or drought, not having ever been the target of terrorism, not being at war, having a low homicide rate and having low unemployment could all be markers of resilience, but there is an interesting one which seems overlooked and a uniquely American problem: lack of affection.
How resilient is any community when nearly everyone in that community would willingly leave it for almost any reason, or even for no reason at all?
Just this week an acquaintance, someone I haven’t seen in 20 years, posted a photograph on Facebook showing a pressed board and plastic “house” being built in the middle of nowhere, literally in a desert, on a cul de sac with nothing but perhaps a few hundred similar “houses” anywhere in sight. No trees(see “desert”). No public space. Absolutely no means by which to satisfy any needs beyond, perhaps, water (see “desert”) without a motor vehicle. This after 30 or 40 years in a particular community in the northeast (not my hometown) with a Main Street and festivals and schools and parks and churches and all of the other accoutrements of civilization.
In exchange for this, a pod made of the cheapest materials put together with dubious quality workmanship in the middle of nowhere in a place with no track record of providing anything to anyone. Ever.
How unlovable must our places be to be so easily thrown over for almost literally nothing?
I thought of Toledo, the one in Spain, not Ohio, and thought of what it would take to make someone leave that place after just a decade let’s say. These are places which are hard to leave after being there for just a few hours but we can spend our whole lives in a community and leave on the promise of maintenance free living and easy access to the Circle K.
There’s that paradox as well that we have created this enormous swath of development which is not worthy of our affection or our loyalty, that enormous wasteland of Olive Gardens and Marshalls punctuated with left turn only lanes and “No U Turn” signs, but we have almost abandoned the places we’ve created which could almost approach a Toledo level of connection, but we’re almost never in those places, we only allow ourselves to be in those places briefly and to engage in certain specific and rare tasks; never just passing through, never as part of our routine.
These are spaces within just a few minutes walk of my house:
but which I see too infrequently and in which I almost never see a familiar face…unless we’ve been called there by and art festival, or a concert, or some other ephemeral “entertainment”. Never on the way to work, never to buy bread or pick up a package.
I’ll never understand why we insist on living and working and shopping in places so unworthy of our time and attention when there are places which could provide for our needs and fulfill our latent desire for community. How did we not see from the very beginning that the cost of drive through convenience was too high? I suppose we hoped that others would pay the premium necessary to retain the real places while we got the drive up-tilt up discount that America’s automobile slum provided, at least in the short run.
When I think of the lives of suburbanized people in suburbanized places what comes to my mind is this poem with the parking garage taking the place of the glass turret: