Whatever it my reveal about my character I must admit that the expression “No good deed goes unpunished” is one of my favorites. In general I have an overdeveloped sense of right and wrong (Although I am fully capable of rationalizing away my own bad behavior!). I think my website, this blog, and its associated podcast are all symptomatic of this tendency.
Cities get their share of abuse in this country, and then some, I would say. In the past I have compared it to bullying and I think the idea is really quite solid. As a teacher I have spent dozens of hours in anti-bullying training sessions and I have done fair amount of research on my own. Most bullies don’t think that they are bullies and believe that their aggressive behavior is justified because the target is in need of correction. Read the comments under any story, good or bad, about Springfield or Holyoke on the region’s website of record, masslive.com, and what you get is a litany of venom and vituperation directed at the urban core with accompanying justifications.
What, surprisingly, grates at times is the fact that cities get no credit whatsoever for the way in which they tend to not just take “one” for the team, but the way in which they take nearly an infinite number “for the team”. Some tiny news items jumped out at me this week and stimulated some conversations regarding this with my spouse.
This headline from a local TV station about a home for four people suffering from “brain damage” which is sparking debate in Springfield’s wealthiest suburb was noticed by each of us:
On the other hand, the opening of this much larger group home (with a potentially somewhat less endearing clientele) in a neighborhood which already has a high concentration of such homes in the city got this treatment (Notice that the article is tagged to and makes mention of many interested parties from other communities, but the residence will be in Springfield):
Apart from this particular case, I know of three group homes in my neighborhood, and a fourth under development, which do and will house many more people and involve, should I say, somewhat more sensitive, volatile, and even criminal behaviors. Along with that there are countless providers of services for the homeless and other agencies which deal with drug and alcohol rehabilitation and the like. Other neighborhoods in the city have more than their fair share of “homes” as well. The state has made it difficult for any community to block the establishment of these institutions, but they end up disproportionately in struggling urban communities anyway because of our stock of enormous, underpriced, homes.
As I have said before, being an urbanist and really “getting” what it means to live in a city means avoiding the nimby instinct almost completely, although in this case there is something to be said for balance and proportion. On the other hand the arrival of many of these establishments has meant that many historic and stately, otherwise abandoned buildings have been rehabilitated and preserved. Whatever the case may be it would cheer my heart, just once, to hear a suburbanite thank the city and its inhabitants for providing places for the vulnerable, the weak, and the wayward to improve their lot. I won’t hold my breath.