Archives for posts with tag: NY Times article

NY Times’ Kassie Bracken shows us how Broderick Hunter is trying to keep a sense of community and safety on Carrie Street in Detroit.

Living in Detroit calls for a fine balance between fear and hope.  And it seems that to find that balance means more and more for Detroiters to take initiative and responsibility.

keeping up Carrie Street

keeping up Carrie Street


“What you’re seeing in that moment,” he said in an interview last week, “is not a human being.”Sean O'Callaghan

This is the thing I’ve thought much about for several years.  But not quite in above quote’s context.

Sean O’Callaghan’s observation was made watching scenes of this month’s terrorist attack in a Nairobi mall.  Gunmen in the mall.  Shooting people.  But what they see, if Mr. O’Callaghan is correct, are not humans.  He shares this insight from his own experience as an Irish Republican Army gunman in the 1970s.  As a killer.

“A culture of authority and obedience that supplants individual moral responsibility with loyalty to a larger mission helps loosen the moral inhibition against murder, social psychologists say. So does a routinization of violence, as well as injustice or economic hardship that allows the killer to see himself as the true victim.”

Let me take a short leap here.

When I see drivers on crowded city roads during rush hour, I am not so certain that they are seeing humans so much as objects, and obstructions.

There.  I believe you are now seeing what I mean.

The idea I’ve been playing with is that technology creates distance, and that the result is a diminishing of others’ human identity.  Sure, technology can create closeness.   Social media.  Sure.

“But perhaps the most important ingredient is the dehumanization of the victims, said David Livingstone Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of New England and author of ‘Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others.'”


Technology has brought much benefit, and it isn’t going so far to say well-being, to humans and humanity.  But put a human in a tank on a WWII battlefield, peering through a slit or a periscope at figures scuttling across the land.  A young person seated at a control desk directing from a great distance a drone over a dark land far away.  A driver seated in an automobile surrounded by hundreds of other autos in which other drivers are obscured by the tinted glass.

It may be that the great challenge for humans in an increasingly urbanized world is distance.  The paradox is that as we more densely populate the places of this world, the great cities, that we find ourselves distanced via technology.  And in the case of the Kenyan terrorists, IRA of the 1970s, Germany of the 1930s?  Increasing degrees of efficient hatred have been brought about by technological advance.

This is a type of distance made possible by technology.  Perhaps even as reaction to increasing density.  My question:  how do we then serve in this world which God so loves?

One of the big theological concepts is that of reconciliation.  Things made right between others and persons brought together.  This theological impulse runs counter to hatred.

On the crowded city street during rush hour.  I need to change lanes.  Traffic is bumper to bumper and very slow.  I turn my head.  Make eye contact.  Smile.  A friendly wave.  I become human.  I merge.  Another wave of the hand.  Of gratitude.  I have become human.  And so has the other.

So then, how do we work reconciliation in this Urban Millennium?

Catching up on my reading.  Here’s Monica Davies’ NY Times article on the ideas being talked about of what Detroit could becomeBig Dreams but Little Consensus

urban future 4It wasn’t long ago that people were guessing an end to public libraries.  My observation:  not true.  I’ve seen beautiful, efficient new libraries where I’ve lived.  Arlington Heights.  Oak Park.  Farmington Hills.  Chicago, the exception.

Now there’s a new book I want to pick up.  Perhaps at a library in my six week old hometown, St Louis.  Perhaps I’ll need to again request a library to order it.

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times writes in an op-ed piece of Bruce Katz’ and Jennifer Bradley’s new book The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy”.urban future 2

Katz and Bradley say that the time has now come where local governments are the place to address challenges and opportunities, that federal and state governments are now essentially frozen because of “hyperpartisanship”.  Cities no longer are considered ‘children’ to the federal/state ‘adult’.  Cities now lead the way in “experimenting, taking risks, making hard choices.”

One exception is noted: Detroit.  Why?  “an extreme case … a perfect storm”.  Read more in I Want To Be A Mayor.

And check out the readers’ comments following Friedman’s column. As always NY Times readers offer up a range of educated perspectives.urban future 7

Charlie LeDuff is a reporter for Detroit’s WJBK.  Read his invitation “So come visit Detroit, my fellow Americans. Come take a look at your future.”  It expresses so much of what many of us think and feel.

future Detroit

…the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor
students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from
grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing.a long walk

Kenyon Sivels sent the link to this NY Times article on the alarming current trend of disparity of education for the affluent and the poor reported by Jason DeParle.

Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share
of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to
Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the
gap is 45 points.

Kenyon is a cadet at our College for Officer Training in Chicago.  In a few months he’ll be ‘on the field’ as we say in the Salvation Army.  Working with families, children, communities.  Doing the most good in the name of Jesus with those for who God shows a preference.  emanuel and brizard

While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.

It’s not the affluent.  There are forces, perks, networks, systems, powers in the world which favor particular individuals, families, groups, nations.  The poor are not among them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

I remember seeing boys in a meeting on the west side of Chicago making presentations on what they would be when they grew up.  Businessmen.  Professionals.  I think it was a Martin Luther King Day observance.  Hopeful.  Eager.  With that school yardforward-leaning kind of energy that says ‘I’m going somewhere and it’s a place not anything like where I am now’.  On the west side.  Trouble in the streets.  In the schools.  In my home.  Too many dead-end people around reminding me of where I will be if I’m not eager at school.

“It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that a low-income student, no matter how intrinsically bright, moves up the socioeconomic ladder,” said Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford. “What we’re talking about is a threat to the American dream.”

Many, most of those boys, grew up, bit by bit losing that forward-leaning look, the brightness of eye.  Hope.

I am praying for Kenyon, his fellow cadets, my fellow Salvation Army officers, our friends of this Army in this American land.  That we do the most good we can for those who have come to expect the least.

Just in time for Christmas, New York Times Jonathan Mahler reviewed Mark Binelli’s new book Detroit City Is the Place to Be.Binelli book Detroit City Is the Place to Be cover

Mahler’s review has me wanting to read the Binelli book.

I want to find out if one of two young men he mentions, the one educated at Harvard, is who I think he is, who with his family attended Sunday worship with us at the Salvation Army’s Detroit Temple Corps when this century was new.

And I want to read Binelli’s take on “who sticks around and tries to make things work again? And what sorts of newcomers are drawn to the place for similar reasons?”

The two young men?  “They missed Detroit.”

Ben Mathis-Lilley’s Slate review observes that Binelli’s book has no new insight as to Detroit’s solution.  What you are going to find out is “something about what kind of person sticks it out in a city going nowhere.”

Talking about Detroit’s “ruin porn”, my favorite purveyor is Lowell Boileau.  His Fabulous Ruins of Detroit Tour, c’est magnifique. Boston Blvd

Many of the houses and apartment buildings I recognize from the city’s west side Boston-Edison neighborhood, around Nardin Park, and off of Grand River.

But if you go there now you may not find them in the condition photos show.  Or at all.

I really like this.  Check out the NY Times article from last April on Mitzvah Tanks which I meant to post much sooner.

Mission is not ‘Oh, Sunday morning come visit our corps … church …’.  Mission is to go, and to give (John 3:16-17).  The Hasidic Jewish community in NYC engages in mission by putting their synagogues on wheels on the streets.  To conquer the world with light, goodness, kindness (Yishai Eliefja).

So what is Sunday morning for?  For those engaged in mission.  Not engaged in mission?  Why come on Sunday?  Really.

Check this Wikipedia understanding of the term ‘mitzvah’.

Is mission taking place from your place of worship?  What is your corps/church doing to tip the scales in your neighborhood?

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