Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Future Crime Spots and Slums?

When I first graduated from college and had no money, my husband and I moved into a low-rent area just outside College Park, MD, one of the original suburbs of DC. I remember being weighed down with a sense of gloom that I had never felt before.

While the feeling was partially caused by the well-reported crimes that kept me from walking alone and made me watchful and wary, it had more to do with the terrifying ugliness of the area. To get to the Metro, I had to take an endless bus ride down an endless highway past rundown shopping plazas, all-you-can-eat restaurants, and pawn shops. I spent hours each day looking out windows at apartment complexes, weed-choked lots, bridge abutments, overflowing garbage cans. It made me feel empty and very alone. Even now, a quarter of a century later, I'm holding my breath as I recall living there. I can't remember the name of a single human being from that area, though we lived there for over a year.

We fled the area as soon as we were able. Perhaps the only people who ultimately stay in these aging No Places are those who cannot afford to flee to the tidier No Places being built farther out. And God only knows what damage is done to those people who have to face endless years of disconnection, alienation, and ugliness. Many of today's tidy suburban communities seem headed for the same fate, once the sidewalks begin to crack and the siding to peel. Instead of moving on to another burb, we somehow, for America's sake, need to find a way to bring beauty, connection, and care into what we've already created.
Photo courtesy of Grant Neufeld

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