Friday, August 10, 2007

The Future of American Cities? Welcome to the West Bank

A feature by Stephen Erlanger in today's NYTimes on Israel's infrastructure planning for its settlements around Jerusalem, provides a glimpse of how American cities may look if a global warming inspired return to central cities takes place without a significant reduction of governing through crime.

The Isreali's are constructing a new kind of divided highway. That used to mean traffic going in different directions is separate, it now means traffic of different ethnicities is separated. Israeli drivers will have all kinds of exit options on their side of the wall. Palestinians will be forced to stay on the road as it travels near East Jerusalem; despite the fact that it is a significant demographic and cultural hub for Palestinians. The political objections raised are being dismissed by Israeli planners with one word, "security."

The same word will be on the lips of future city planners as infrastructures are laid down for an eventual revitalization of abandoned central cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Baltimore. As Americans are compelled by high gas prices to return to central cities, their demand for security will likely take the form of an architecture of segregation designed to make sure that denizens of "high crime" districts cannot easily access the new posh neighborhoods around them. Americans are used to accomplishing this with vast distances by moving out to ex-urbs. As that strategy dies, a new one of close proximity plus enforced segregation may take root.

For those who value the cosmopolitan ethos and routine accessibility of cities, now is the time for total resistance to governing through crime.

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