Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Philadelphia Problem

In Rittenhouse park with Hannah, before I knew what the word "fashion" meant

Being from Pennsylvania has never been something I’m particularly proud of. I always saw it as a waste land of sorts: two cities with filthy streets and filthier politics bridged by corn fields and hunting rifle racism. But recently I’ve become the opposite of a fair weather fan; my city is in trouble, and I kind of feel obligated to say something about it.

My friend Samantha sent me an article a few days ago chronicling the various issues Philly is currently grappling with, and how they affect blue collar neighborhoods, particularly situated in pockets of North Philly.

The realities are stark, shocking, pained: gun deaths have sky rocketed, drugs continue to serve as a lucrative market, and murder rates are higher than they’ve been in years. And as Democratic contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton attempt to court Pennsylvania’s voting block, they seem to be ignoring the cries from citizens concerned about the declining quality of life in Philadelphia.

Obama and Clinton spent so much time attempting to galvanize central Pennsylvania that Philadelphia’s problems fell on deaf ears; it is a glaring example of the amount of effort candidates will put in when they understand that they will reap the benefits. Addressing Philadelphia’s issues wouldn’t help them score the harder to reach central PA vote. They assumed they had Philly, a notoriously democratic city, in their back pocket, and so any issues the city may have had went ignored.

My father lives in the suburbs in a community sheltered from the aggressive violence that has recently pervaded Philadelphia. Since the age of 12 I grew up there, unaware of the rage that was bubbling beneath the surface of the city I lived so close to.

When my parents divorced when I was 14, my mother moved to Germantown, a relatively nice part of Philadelphia; but it was still Philadelphia, and on the way between houses I’d still spy hunched over African American women in head-wraps pushing carts full of recycling cans, and gaunt men leering suspiciously at children in the park.

This primary has really put in context for me what it means to be from Pennsylvania. It is a state that is so frequently ignored in the national debate, and considering I live in New York now, that reality has become desperately obvious. I’m annoyed at my fellow Pennsylvanians that they chose Hillz over Obamz, but I do hope that whoever ends up winning the nomination will focus at least some of their concerted efforts on the growing Philadelphia Problem.

-Jess

3 comments:

Hannah said...

Lol -- love my Floé bag.

Matt said...

I hear you jess. I go to Drexel, and while it's gotten better recently, you still need to watch your back at night. It seems like Drexel and UPenn's solution is to buy up everything in the area and just push all the locals further west. Obviously, that won't work in the long run, but I really don't have any other ideas.

samantha neugebauer said...

I've been behind on your blog...but I'm glad you've included this. We are going to make Philadelphia proud someday...if we're not already.