December 12, 2006


Conservatives' Vision of an America Without Cities (Jeremy Adam Smith, December 12, 2006, Public Eye)

Homelander ideologues of all stripes, from religious to libertarian to neoconservative, agree that cities, like governments, should be small enough to drown in the bathtub. Their hostility has deep cultural roots.

The homelander vision of the city starts with a story in Genesis 11:1-9. When God saw the first city of humankind and the tower its residents had built, He destroyed the tower and confused their language, "so that one will not understand the language of his companion" and "scattered them from there upon the face of the entire earth, and they ceased building the city."

Later in Genesis, God destroys the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah for gross immorality, which many Christians have interpreted as homosexuality. (Classical Jewish texts specify economic greed, not sexuality, as the cause of God's wrath.) Thus begins the Christian history of urban life.

Now let's skip ahead several thousand years, to the birth of the American Republic. "Enthusiasm for the American city has not been typical or predominant in our intellectual history," writes Morton and Lucia White in their 1962 study, Intellectuals Against the City. "Fear has been the more common reaction." Thomas Jefferson described "great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man"; Henry David Thoreau preferred his cabin in the woods to "the desperate city"; in 1907, the Rev. Josiah Strong called the modern city "a Menace to State and Nation."

This is not to say rural politics was (or is) always conservative, or even anti-urban. From the Sierra and Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, rural progressives built a great, creative tradition of civil disobedience, multiracial organizing, and cultural dissent. Yet in recent political history, that heritage was obscured by conservative organizing that promoted a race-based depiction of the city as "chaotic, ruined, and repellent, the exact inverse of the orderly domestic idyll of the suburbs," as Steve Macek writes in his recent book Urban Nightmares: The Media, the Right, and Moral Panic Over the City. In such a view, urban poverty is a natural byproduct of unnatural urban life; it is slack morals, not racism or capitalism, which create the urban underclass and its affluent liberal enablers.

Thus the solution to urban poverty and lawlessness is not welfare and economic development, which will "prolong the problems and perhaps make them worse," but instead law enforcement, religious evangelism, and market-driven ethnic cleansing.

Whereas the Left all but requires ghettos, where people can be easily atomized and left with no relationship to ought but the state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2006 8:44 AM

Just wondering if you've figured out yet just how large of concentration of people you need to support a baseball team and the public transportation to get them all to the ballpark.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 12, 2006 9:47 AM

Parks are all built next to train stops.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2006 10:05 AM

The article serves as an excellent example of the thinking of traitors to the American culture and of enemies of the American folk.

Note how much of the piece dwells upon homosexuality, which should have been at best tangential to the topic.

See also how the culture-traitor/folk enemy plays the race card, in the old, old so-called, self-proclaimed "progressive" gambit, all the while nurturing the racist assumption that deviance is a racial characteristis.

Your closing observation is most apt. The leftist does very much wish that civil society had a single neck to be grasped and strangled.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 12, 2006 10:50 AM

God, I love being attacked on this blog -- especially the part about being a "traitor." Keep 'em coming!

One point of fact: people in cities are far less atomized than elsewhere. The lonely crowd is largely a myth; in fact, cities have very high levels of social capital and civic activity when compared to suburbs or exurbs. It's also untrue that cities contain higher levels of the poor and/or welfare-dependent people; though such folks tend to be more concentrated in urban areas (where everything is more concentrated), in fact distribution is determined more by the economic health of a region than its level of urbanization. Poverty and social distress are less visible in the suburbs and country, but that doesn't mean the problems don't exist.

It's true that it's hard to buy a home in a city; the very success of cities drives prices through the roof, which exacerbates inequality. This is a problem that I will readily concede the left has failed to deal with. I'd gladly vote for a Republican mayor if she had an actual plan for improving ownership and reducing inequality in my city.

Ok, I await your snarky responses.

Posted by: Jeremy Adam Smith at December 13, 2006 2:12 PM

Exactly. A mayor who genuinely cared about the city residents would help them move to their own houses in the suburbs.

Posted by: oj at December 13, 2006 2:19 PM

But oj, then they wouldn't be at the mercy of the poverty pimps or the social services agencies. They'd be making their own way, paying taxes and becoming self-sufficient citizens of our great nation, and and ...... all the other simplistic stuff we learned in middle school.

Posted by: erp at December 13, 2006 4:06 PM