About three hours ago I exited Philadelphia, and to the best of my knowledge, I'm still alive. Among with eating the requisite cheesesteak, seeing the Liberty Bell, and posing as Rocky on the steps of the art museum, I saw a bit of the rougher side of Philly. Still, everyone I met was friendly, even if they thought I was nuts. Much more so than the Bronx, Harlem, Paterson, East Hartford, or any other neck of the woods I've traversed, there were parts of Philly I went through that were not exactly places I'd like to raise my children. Which is a darn shame.
(pause while I mount soapbox...)
There is simply an appalling amount of poverty and violence in Philadelphia these days. While the downtown area is vibrant and full of great museums and historical sites, and while my hike today along the Schuylkill River was beautiful, much of Philadelphia is sheer urban blight. When I was living in Europe I was always amazed by the lack of such poverty- even in places like Poland which, if you'd listen to the economists (always a dangerous idea), have a much lower standard of living than we do.
I find it absolutely disgusting that many Americans would rather conveniently forget about Philadelphia (not to mention our nation's capital and a whole slew of other cities) than support the laws and, yes, taxes needed to put an end to this mess. Obviously I'm not so naive to think that throwing $ at the problem is going to make it go away. But more tax $ means better salaries for inner city teachers, better health care for children who lack insurance, and more cops on the streets. Meanwhile, the homicide rate in Philadelphia continues to go up while politicians kowtow to the gun lobby. In response, I guess many of us would simply plead that we are not our brother's keepers to those Americans who live in the ghettos in the city of brotherly love.
Off to see the Amish...