If I come across as bitter in this blog entry then it might very well be that you’ve accurately interpreted my attitude toward formerly urbanite suburban dwellers, and all suburbanites.
In the end, there isn’t one problem facing most small cities in this country which couldn’t be solved by a substantial number of middle and upper middle class individuals and families, most of whom live in the suburbs, moving (back) in.
We could use any of them coming into the city, but it is only by former city folk that I feel betrayed. Being in my forties and from an old industrial city I can safely say that almost none of my fellow Classical High School graduates still live in the city. Many have moved from the northeast to the Sun Belt, and those who haven’t, live outside the city limits in one of Springfield’s suburbs.
It is mostly the cumulative impact of so many natives fleeing the city which has caused Springfield to decline I would argue. They may each individually point to various causes for their flight, but no one could argue that, had they not fled en masse, the city would still have suffered the decline that it has. That is why it irks me so much when suburbanites, with so many among their numbers being ex-urbanites, offer advice for creating a renaissance in the city: If you hadn’t left in the first place, the city wouldn’t need a “renaissance” now.
I want to ask them: “If we do exactly as you suggest, will you move back to the city?” When they say “no”, I would hope they might understand just why I might not take their position as seriously as they might like. (What I would want to say is “Shut the Hell up then!” But that doesn’t sound very rational.)
Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to have and voice an opinion, but if your past decisions extrapolated out are the cause of the malady you are opining upon, forgive me for being a bit skeptical. Of course, from a rational standpoint good advice is good advice, and good ideas are good ideas. That Hitler made trains run on time does not make punctual public transportation bad, but I’m still not sure I’d take his advice on perpetuating German democracy.
I am often amused (and outraged) to find that advice from suburbanites for cities is tinged with moral censure. Another letter to the editor from a resident of Springfield’s wealthiest suburb regarding a potential $800 million casino development contained a remark demonstrating “concern” for the loss of a “rescue mission” for the homeless. This from someone whose own community makes no provision for the homeless whatsoever. Meanwhile the community he rebukes and thinks should forego this nearly billion dollar investment, in part to preserve one shelter, would still have countless facilities to feed, house, clothe, and educate the homeless.
No job is too thankless for us to do. No sacrifice is too great for us to offer.
I have an idea. Instead of kibitzing from the shore, get on the ship. Instead of shrieking advice from the sidelines, get in the game.
From the inside, engaged in the struggle, you just might gain some perspective and a greater understanding of what’s really needed. In the end, it’s precisely your presence that has been missing all along.