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I enjoyed your article on the gentrification of Columbia Heights (“Gentrification and Its Discontents,” 2/4) so much that I cut out the front cover and framed it. As a nonrich person in his 50s who has been in on the gentrification of neighborhoods all my life, I’d never seen anything that told the story better than that cartoon. It is not just the story of gentrification as a demographic phenomenon, but the story of urban life in America going back to the middle of the 19th century. If the “yuppies” are supplanted by “immigrants” in the urban legends, it becomes the history of city life.
The characters in the cartoon were rendered with wonderful understanding. Not only the wonderful character of the “gentrifier,” but the three s***s on the street. I am going to use the preferred police slang for such people, because it is the only one that delineates the “us” from the “them.” I will exempt the hooker from obloquy, because I have known several professional ladies, and were it not for government’s demented persecution rather than regulation of them, their particular problems would not exist.
I can already hear the howls of protest from the people like the imbecile who was upset by the dispossession of the 5-pound rat, and to them I will tender my bona fides as an extreme liberal with the fact that if asked under oath by that other group of s***s, “Are you now or have you ever been…?” I can answer a proud and positive “Yes, since my 24th birthday!” But there is more to the history of inner-city life than race or financial status; it is whether you are a good person or a bad one, and it is the bad ones who have turned our inner cities into the hellholes that many of them have become. And amazingly, it is not even the bad ones who are as responsible for the continued disintegration of such places; it is the steadfast protecting of them by just such persons as the guy with the rat, and the municipal authorities who through a sense of political correctness permit them to continue to commit their depredations against the good people in the neighborhoods.
In New York City, when Rudolph Giuliani became mayor, there was an almost audible sigh of relief from the populace, because he told the police commissioner to have the police enforce the law! The city within six months had a visual, virtual, and palpable improvement in its quality of life. As I once told a “gangsta” on Yahoo’s incomprehensible Gang Chat Room, “Gang activity is not a social issue—it is a military one.” This entire issue—the lack of citizen security—is a failure of government on every level to deal with people who militantly refuse to acknowledge that other people have the right to conduct their lives in their own space and on the public thoroughfares. A longtime watcher of the TV program Cops can see that police officers when hamstrung by political constraints will develop an almost paternalistic relationship with felons in their areas and through repeated interactions with them allow them to stay in place and continually depredate their neighborhoods through an almost demented desire to ensure their “rights.”
This outpouring from me was prompted by two events that occurred yesterday within two hours of each other. In view of my recent induction into the ranks of the disabled, due to a botched eye operation that left me substantially blind, I was forced to apply for food stamps at the D.C. Department of Human Services office at 9th and H Streets NE. On finishing up, I went back to the bus stop at the corner and was waiting for the bus when two obvious s***s came by and decided to wait with me. I say obvious because even with my limited visual acuity I am still able to discern that to be wearing only a T-shirt when it is snowing out sends a message. There was also the fact that even though there were five other people there, I, the only white, found it suspicious that one of them positioned himself in front of me, while the other circled the shelter and approached from the side. Making himself look as innocuous as possible, he inched up closer and for no reason other than ill got up next to me. I am a Vietnam combat veteran, I have lived in crummy inner-city neighborhoods much of my life, and I am 6-foot-3 and weigh 260 pounds. I was not dressed well, and I cannot imagine what these two fools were thinking was going to happen. What they were blissfully unaware of is that I had opened and was holding in my fist a 6-inch hunting knife and had made up my mind that at the moment this clown laid his hands on me, I was going to kill him, and if his friend in front of him did anything but flee, I was going to kill him as well. Just as the scene was reaching its denouement, the bus arrived. I turned to the one next to me and gave him a large smile. He and his buddy then walked away and crossed the street.
The other event was that Virginia residents were going to be able to buy all the guns they wanted to, dozens a week if they like. A truly demented action by citizens of a civilized society, but was it any more so than what was going on under that bus shelter? If the citizens of this city had the same rights as those 3 miles away in Virginia, would the s***s here dare to undertake the things they do? I think not. Until governments establish a policy of banishment for crimes committed in their confines, nothing will improve, as people with 16-page rap sheets attest. There are many places with nearly zero population that could be used for dumping grounds for the detritus of society where they could be cared for and supervised. You commit a felony, you get to live in northern North Dakota, where we have a nice city set up for you. It actually worked for the Russians with Siberia—nobody ever sent there actually committed a crime in Moscow during his banishment, just as not one single instance of recidivism was ever recorded in a case where capital punishment was imposed. As is instanced in the bizarre case of the actor Robert Blake, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime!”