Saturday, May 02, 2009
The picture above was taken from Cardozo High School, looking out over Washington, DC, this evening. The view is much cooler than what my camera phone captured.
Up the hill, you can see layer upon layer of the individual, quirky row houses that define the city, while to the east the new convention center, a (largely successful) attempt at economic rejuvenation via corporate blahhh, pops up out of the skyline. To the west, the Washington Monument rises---state power and glory. The dome of congress, to the east again, brings up images of urban decay from a decade ago: power lines, a lone smokestack and broken roofs with the old dome rising behind them, like a "decline of the West" reverse of the old-versus-new snapshots people love to take of Shanghai skyscrapers rising from quaint lanes.
It seems like an enormous challenge to create a community out of all this, one that pulls off an opportunity structure dynamic enough to invite the input (and challenges) of new demographic groups, that generates enough wealth to feel like it has some momentum, and that moves toward the end point of absolute equality without losing vernacular beauty.
A couple articles over the past few weeks highlight the difficulties of keeping all these plates spinning. The NY Times has a depressing piece on the betrayals of India's traditional Communist Party in West Bengal in its pursuit of growth. And an article by The New Yorker compares the competing visions of egalitarianism born out of Smyrna, Tennessee's Nissan plant, on the one hand, with its "team" feel and management eating in the company cafeteria, and the UAW-negotiated labor relations that built Detroit, on the other.