Several years ago while talking with some friends, I commented that almost all of the buildings in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing project had been torn down. The near-north property had become too valuable for the often-dangerous housing project to continue. One friend sympathetically asked aloud, “Where will those poor people go?” My thought was that perhaps they could move to the comfortable, 86% white suburb in which she resides. To be fair, my friend’s statement was completely well intentioned. But it is this type of sympathy that has lulled us into believing that we are doing the right thing. It is the same type of thinking that convinces us shopping at Whole Foods fulfills our responsibility to the environment. It is the same thinking that, as if somnambulating, we condoned a war in Iraq based on the fictitious construction of weapons of mass destruction.
I will be honest, I am glad Cabrini Green is gone. High-rise housing projects were another utopian failure. Residents were geographically at risk of falling prey to the many ne’er-do-wells that took advantage of the architecture and segregation. But I don’t want the diversity of my neighborhood to change and I welcome mixed-income, subsidized housing developments that appear more successful, for both residents and the community.
Once upon a time, identity politics gave voice to the underserved and disenfranchised of this country. But over the last twenty years, perhaps even longer, identity has been rendered a marketing implement that sedates every constituency into the belief that they either are or are not getting what they need. So, while the economy remains in the pisser, feminist artists contest the kitchen as a site of male repression, the Courts are tied-up with same sex marriage, and PETA is protesting the use of a chimp in a car advertisement; a malicious, bigoted, loosely organized and increasingly powerful group is capitalizing on the fears of individuals in this country. Should they achieve their goal in November’s mid-tem elections, we will see any hope for equal rights for EVERY American go up in smoke. We will be left with a white, so-called christian government where legalized handguns do the dirty work, corporations rape the land and the middle class, and the Texas Book Board mandates what is taught in public schools. When do we progressives begin to look at the good of the whole, rather than the good of the identity?
In this twilight of the American era, I wish the legacy we pass on to history reflected the angels of our better nature. Sadly, I see us returning to the 17th century and the puritanical thinking that sought to destroy anything unfamiliar, progressive and open-minded.