Monday, November 17, 2014

I can't get behind all this fronting

In Baltimore, the Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has heard the concerns voiced by interstate travelers who crawl through our town on I-95, the clogged artery that runs through the BoWash Corridor.  And the voices of train travelers zipping through town on Amtrak's Casey Jones Express get added to the cry, which is that Baltimore is not such a good-looking town from the interstate or from the train tracks.

I'm not much of a traveler, but if I were, I would enjoy seeing everything about a town.  Yes, the mansions and plush lawns where the fat cats live are nice to see, but so are the factories where the shoes and hamburgers and beer and paper cups are made. It's all part of this crazy little thing we call life, and if it bothers you so much to be down by Baltimore's Harbor Tunnel and see a couple thousand foreign cars just off the boat, ready to be taken to dealers, in giant parking lots near the docks, well, how about just looking at the road ahead of you for a change of view?

For the passengers, there is always the possibility that I hear Herhonner and the city bigwigs are thinking of.  They want to plant some hollyhocks and maybe slap a coat of paint over the gritty industrial neighborhoods that people from Newark, NJ, are forced to see on their way to Miami.

There is also this.  Ever heard of a Potemkin Village?  Let's go back to 1787 in Russia's gritty Southern Ukraine and Crimea section. The Russian Empress, Catherine II, was traveling to the region just after a lot of destruction had been done there by warfare. A man named Gregory Potemkin was romantically involved with Catherine II. For several reasons, not least of which was that he was romantically involved with the Empress, Potemkin became governor of the region. How about that?  

Well, old Gregory was supposed to rebuild the region after around the Dnieper River and get people to move there - sort of like a modern Economic Development officer would do.  But instead of actually getting people to move there and having them build houses and factories and Subway sandwhich shops, Potemkin, who was nobody's fool but Catherine's, set up fake little mobile villages on the banks of the River.  As Catherine, accompanied by her court and ambassadors, journeyed to seek help with another war coming up, they saw the phony villages and villagers.  And then, at night, while the Empress slept, Potemkin and his men moved the false-front houses a little farther downriver and took the same "villagers" along, so that when Her Empressness sailed past, she would see them again and again and again, day after day after day. 

To this day, some people set up Potemkin Villages in their own minds, putting up a front to fool others while an empty hollow shell resides inside. But for a lot of people, that fronting is all that matters.  

Isn't that a pity?

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