Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cities and Towns

Many cities in the Northeast of the United State have lost their vitality and status as the centers of life within their respective metropolitan areas. Many are mere shadows of their former selves. Previously safe, booming neighborhoods have become infected with drugs and violence while the wealth has left.

This started in the 1960’s with the race riots. And now few are willing to fund the massive effort needed to bring these places back from the brink.

The possessors of wealth have fled to the suburbs on the interstate. They enjoy the abundance of space in the suburbs where everyone has a two garage, a front yard and a backyard. This is the life worth living. But to travel around these places one must own a car because public transportation is virtually nonexistent.

They certainly do not possess a downtown in the traditional sense. Rather, most have been organized around the highway that runs through the town where in the endless strip malls you can find almost anything under the sun. Of course, these goods were manufactured hundreds, if not thousands of miles away by people from nearly a wholly different culture and society making an inhuman wage.

No American would work for so little so manufacturing jobs have been leaving U.S. shores for nearly thirty years. Even the mills that moved from the North to the South where production were cheaper are starting to leave now. And many people are too afraid to walk the streets near the former factories for fear of getting mugged.

Furthermore, the cities in the United States have fallen apart because there are few jobs that an individual can get without a Bachelor’s degree. In the early 20th century, the poor could get work in a factory, join the union, and live a comfortable lifestyle. That is where all the White ethnics that are now in the middle and upper classes started.

But now many Black and Hispanics cannot do so because that shoe factory that everyone used to work at is in China or some other miserable country.

The car also has severely hurt the American city. Prior to its rise, a city could only be as large as person could walk on foot or horse. Thus, the core of many European cities are extremely small. But now it’s possible to get in a car and zip across town.

So suburbs spread over many miles became very popular. But what’s wrong with these suburbs? The cars pollute the air when they spend 20 minutes traveling just to accomplish simples errands. Not to mention problems of congestion.

But if you have a town where everyone is forced to drive then inevitably the roads will always be congested. It will grow to be intolerable until one of two things happen. You either accept it or became the master of back roads. Back roads are extremely convenient and often quite charming; as long as they stay back roads and not main roads.

There’s also the feeling of keeping up with the Joneses that still exists in many towns. People become envious of their neighbors when they get a new car or redo the front of the house. This sort of feeling can divide a previously harmonious community.

Infringement of property lines can also lead problems between neighbors. Often, an old tree that is well-liked can start to droop and grow roots on a neighbor’s property. Sometimes when you have a homeowner who has never owned land before or is very territorial, they will threaten to call up city government and complain. And so more problems arise.