Monday, December 16, 2019

Dump of a City

From David Harsanyi at The National Review:
One of the greatest accomplishments of the urban liberal do-gooder was cleaning up these cities. At some point in the early 1980s, citizens, not merely the wealthy but also the middle and working classes (in those days they could still afford to live in our big cities), got sick of wading through rubbish and began browbeating their neighbors into decency.

It still took decades to fix the litter problem — and, obviously, it would never be completely corrected — but the city streets were no longer complete dumps. Not Switzerland or Tokyo clean, for sure, but bearable. And though laws certainly helped with the cleaning up, it was a dramatic shift in social norms that really did the trick. Signs told people to curb their mutts. Signs told people to throw out their trash. PSAs began inundating the airwaves in the ’70s. How long could we ignore Iron Eyes Cody, the fake Indian in one of those PSAs imploring us to “keep America beautiful,” after he saw some savage throw trash from a speeding car? “People start pollution; people can stop it.” They could. Mostly by shaming those who trashed the city.
I bring up all this unpleasantness because it seems to me that many of the children and grandchildren of these heroic litter-fighters, people who haven’t had to step over broken bottles daily, are allowing our cities to backslide. I have no way of quantifying the relapse, but whenever I go back to my hometown it sure feels a bit more like the 1970s, and I don’t write those words nostalgically. “All of us have to deal with the filth that collects on the side of the road, making our community look uninviting and run down,” a spokesperson for one of the few current anti-litter campaigns in the city, Staten Island’s “Operation Clean Sweep,” recently complained. “The more litter we have on our streets, the more it becomes an accepted part of life.” (Read more.)

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