Thursday, May 15, 2008


Americans — and Trentonians — have an ugly side to our history, much of which is now out in the open. While our history also includes many successes, the failures are part of us, too, and often, those failures are glossed over, after time has gone by. It may be hard to look at that and acknowledge, but it's productive to confront our complicated, disturbing past head on and openly, so we can learn as we go forward.

Demographics shift and populations change, and there are reminders of painful days all around Trenton, and maybe those reminders inspire today's residents to dismiss/discard/demolish the old, and build new: make a new history.

It's my hope that Trenton finds healing and prosperity again, but for now, mostly, we stagnate. Instead of creating a rich, new history, we settle for shoddy, quick fixes and the ostrich approach to challenges — we bury our heads and hope when we pop back up, the problems will be gone. Because of that, our future is as unclear as our past is complicated. We have major issues at hand, and while discussion and debate is good, it seems many of our current issues are deliberately prolonged or put aside. Maybe that's the stuff of trickery, so that we'll get caught up in our own lives, and forget the passion that surrounds our current issues? This problem is not unique to Trenton; it's happening everywhere. But it does seem Trenton's officials have become very good at dragging things out, too. We are, too, dependent on other governing bodies (namely, the state), which can also slow down our processes here, but we must figure out how to be self-sufficient without our hand extended to the state for aid, or else we will never see improvement.

It's clear there is a lack of desire to move forward; we're settling for the muck (and mosquitoes) of stagnancy. There are a lot of opinions, and the powers-that-be are dismissive of anything that comes from outside the inner circle, and because of this intolerance of any progressive or risky thinking, my bet is that we'll look back at this era and we'll have as many regrets and as much shame as we've had about other times in our history.

Instead of learning from our mistakes, and creating new, positive memories from our old painful reminders, we turn the other way. Disintegration abounds: families fall apart, people regularly die here in ways that are wholly unacceptable to practically everyone else in the world, infrastructure becomes irrelevant, political marginalization alienates large groups of people, and the monuments to our talents and perseverance crumble.

A proud future is attainable in Trenton, since this city, while broken, is also full of potential and raw energy. We must tap into that energy, and stop tolerating our current, broken system.

Raw potential?
The William Cook School, on Cuyler Avenue, near Walnut Avenue, just north of the new East Ward Police precinct.

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