Driving west along Alewife Brook Parkway recently, through an area called The Alewife - a swath of road and shopping centers where Cambridge, Arlington, and Watertown, MA seem to overlap - I was struck by a crazy thought.
There's this bridge, just before the Alewife Train station on the "red line." And on one side of this bridge there are three very large, block rectangular apartment buildings. Many people who depend upon some form of government subsidy live in these buildings.
On the other side, built much more recently, are a set of buildings housing luxury condominiums. I guess you can assume many of the residents who live here earn more than the median income for the Boston area.
The two developments literally face each other across the bridge.
And I was just thinking that these folk may share something important that they themselves are not self-consciously aware of.
On one side the residents live in constant fear of losing their Section 8 Housing vouchers. On the other side, the people live in constant fear of their businesses going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Both have the economy and government social policies to blame, in part, for their troubles; what economist Paul Krugman, in his columns for the NY Times and a 2003 book, refers to as "The Great Unraveling."
Wouldn't it be remarkable if some enterprising activists brought these two sets of residents together to discuss their similarities? And to start breaking down those artificial barriers such as race and class that divide people?
There's precedent in the work of the Boston-based "Dialogues On Ethnic and Racial Diversity" project. And other groups I'm sure. With the Federal (and to some degree the State) government running amok, the economy much more an enemy than a friend these days, and the environment at a crucial tipping point, isn't it time to set aside petty social constructs and start seeing other citizens as colleagues and collaborators rather than some distant people living on the other side of the bridge?