Cities thrive because they are centers of human activity. Cities decay for the same reason — because they are centers of human activity. The difference between urban growth and shrinkage is the nature of the human activity. The quality of life their major cities offer is no longer sufficient that Americans are proud to call them “home.” Sadly, the outbreak of twin scourges of disease and anarchy is hastening the hollowing out of the nation’s population centers. It’s an ugly black eye for blue leadership, which is to say, the Democratic Party.
Like a bolt of lightning from a blue sky, the coronavirus stabbed the nation in the heart. In the course of four months, upwards of 112,000 citizens have died and nearly 2 million sickened by a plague unseen in the modern age. The most concentrated urbanized hubs have suffered the worst: New York, nearly 25,000 dead; nearby New Jersey, almost 12,000; Chicago, closing in on 4,000; Detroit, 2,500; Los Angeles, more than 2,000.
Trendy city-dwellers accept some nuisances for the convenience of proximity to employment and cultural facilities; one is reliance on public transportation. This spring, New York City’s subways went from dirty to deadly. A study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April found the city’s 660-mile subway system was “a major disseminator — if not the principal transmission vehicle — of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive epidemic that became evident throughout the city during March 2020.”
Researchers studying virus hot spots discovered they frequently coincided with the location of subway stations. The transit authority’s decision to discourage travel by cutting train schedules and the number of subway cars only served to force passengers into fewer cars, further worsening cheek-by-jowl conditions. The city’s subway lines, in effect, acted as intravenous tubes, mainlining COVID-19 into the heart of Manhattan.
As their government-imposed lockdown has loosened, residents of New York and dozens of other U.S. cities slowly returning to the streets in recent days have witnessed massive outbreaks of wilding — thousands of rioters looting some commercial district, burning others, and beating police officers attempting to preserve lives and property.
The death of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of city police officers lit a fuse leading to a powder keg of civic frustration worsened by the virus-induced economic collapse. Americans — blacks among them — watching their visions of success go up in smoke as their businesses burn down can only shake their heads in disbelief as city leaders enforce social-distancing and capacity restrictions in shops and churches while literally bowing before tightly packed mobs of protesters demanding retribution.
A hue and cry has echoed from coast to coast that black Americans are victims of racial “genocide,” but the statistical record says otherwise. According to a police shootings database maintained by The Washington Post, the number of unarmed blacks killed by police nationwide in 2019: nine; the number of unarmed whites: 30.
Bubbling out of the cauldron of agitation are new forms of thought that have no use for common sense. “Defund the police” is a slogan popping up on placards across the nation, promoting the notion that if communities had no police departments, there would be no violence. Shockingly, Democratic leaders of some cities are mulling hip proposals for shrinking or eliminating their police departments — among them New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Minneapolis.
The wealthy and politically connected will always have the resources allowing them to live and work behind secure walls protected by armed guards, but for everyday workers, the cop on the corner is their first and only line of defense.
The urban exodus was underway before the arrival of pestilence and violence. Metropolitan Chicago, the nation’s third-largest, recorded a net loss of residents in 2015. The No. 1 metro region, New York, began suffering similar population loss in 2017. And Los Angeles at No. 2 began shrinking in 2018. Exploding crime and tax rates, the bitter fruit of Democratic policies, are sending forlorn residents searching for greener pastures in red states that respect liberty and security.
As Americans ponder what has become of their gleaming metropolises that were once worthy of pride, millions are concluding that life is a bummer in the city. Turned off by the urban buzzkill, they are striking out for safer environs to call “home sweet home.”
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