My son was totally perplexed, as close to anxiety as a fourteen year old boy can get.
Nervous and clearly overdue on the assignment, he barged into the kitchen and blurted out, “Mom, I’m supposed to write a paper for history class about how government and society are connected in everyday life; I don’t even know what that means. There are all these smart kids in my class, and I don’t know what to write. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow.”
“Really, Ben? Really?” I took a deep breath, set down what I was doing, which meant we’d all eat late that night, and sighed. Gathering up what mom skills I had left that late in the day, I feigned patience and moseyed over to my keys. “Let’s go for a drive through our own community and think a bit. Ok?”
So we took a drive down 6th street.
Pulling out of the cracked and disjointed driveway, the car bounced out into the street, where the general theme of disrepair continued: a closed down funeral home, grass growing up through the middle of the pavement, a wheelchair-bound grandma, two children, an aunt and a mother enjoying the day together on sagging, leaning porch. We took a left turn onto the street most people avoid and encountered two or three roaming dogs, pot holes so large they threaten to crack axles, a couple of grey-haired, out of work men puttering in their yards: more families trying to make-do…and yet, piles of shoes and warm blankets left out on the curb for homeless people who often wander through our little neighborhood.
Turning right again, we merged back onto 6th, only at this point, the wheels began to glide as if rolling across silky glass: the smoothed surface of a freshly paved road. Bustling shops appeared- a trendy restaurant, coffee shops with fancy snacks, hipster craft stores, and a yoga studio boasting the Hebrew name for G-d, “I AM.”
This display of festive twinkle lights, newly painted window signs, and careful policing seems like heaven after driving through the cracked cement neighborhood roads. But what is missing? Where is the sense of community? Where are the clothes left for homeless? What of the aged veterans who used to frequent the park across the street? They have all been replaced by upper middle-class women in expensive tights, doing acro-yoga in the park for $50/hour.
As City Council continues to pay for the roads and upkeep in this area- where one of the council members owns a prominent business, the neighborhoods where children try to ride bikes and skateboards remain in disrepair. Those children are completely unaware that as “hopeful industry” makes its way east, hoping to connect itself with TU, the homes around them will be purchased, updated, and flipped for real estate profit. Their rent will rise. They will have to move, away from their community school, away from neighbors who share vegetables and loan each other tools, far from the bodega and the Mexican bakery, leaving behind the community that was.
So where is government in all this?
Ben gets it.
“It’s just like Columbus and Andrew Jackson all over again, isn’t it, Mom? The government in Tulsa is helping all those money people take over, no matter who is already there.”
“Yes, Ben. You ready to write your paper?”