"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer. She weeps bitterly in the night and her tears are on her cheeks; She has none to comfort her among all her lovers. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies." Lamentations 1:1-2
We traveled east on Lincoln Highway, crossing Brandywine creek and heading into town. My eyes were met with decay and dirt. A block of shops in the town center were replaced by a gaping dirt patch. Across the street, folk were sitting idly outside of a laundromat. Further on, my eyes met the crumbling bronzework on the steeple of the church that was once First Baptist. As we continued, there was a growing "Bizarro-World" feel to things. The buildings were, for the most part, the same. Yet, they were occupied with other activities. Gibney's, Teti's, Sante's were all still "there", but were occupied by different businesses.
Stirling Street offered the next bit of shock. I alluded to the fact in a previous post that everything seems smaller than the way it appears in Memory; the 800th block of Stirling ST is no exception. Looking end to end at strip of pavement well less than 1,000 feet, it was stunning to apprehend the fact that the first 8 years of my life was played out on such a small stage. But for all the change and entropy, there sat Holly and Ginger Chenger out on their front porch. It was for a moment, like stepping back into a late spring afternoon in 1970.
* * * *
Since returning home, the city has experienced another tragedy as two young men, mired in thuggery and hip-hop culture, had their showdown at Sixth and Lincoln Hwy. In the end game, a 16 year-old lay mortally wounded and a 23 year-old effectively ended his life.
So what's the future hold for Coatesville? Is she doomed to become Pennsylvania's Camden, or Chester County's Beruit? Is she resigned to end her death spin into the ground as a burnt out carcass of what she once was? I don't believe that this is the foregone conclusion. But what's to be done? Coatesville is in dire need of Divine intervention, and must set out on a path of repentance, reconstitution, revitalization, and revival.
I call every Priest, Pastor, Rabbi, and Evangelist between the Checker and Caln bridges to call a solemn convocation. Every person of faith must gather in tears, fasting and ashes, to repent and intercede for their beloved city. Until the hand of providence moves on behalf of Coatesville, she'll remain mired in fatal inertia.
Coatesville must reconstitute as a community. Recalling her history as a station on the underground railroad, she must embrace a post-racial view where divisions are cast aside and a emergent sense of unity is fostered. The city must become a "hyphen-free" zone where the citizens apprehend the truth that regardless of race or ethnicity, they're all citizens of the same city; they stand and fall together. Once this worldview is embraced, they can begin to aggressively take on crime, and blight.
The citizens need to vote out any city leader who has failed in their promises to bring about change. Too, in opposition to Barry Soetoro's Freudian slip, these individuals aren't there to "rule", they've been placed in office to represent their constituents. These leaders should be pushed and required to create a climate where business and industry can once again thrive. As the local economy stabilizes and expands, unemployment rates will dive, deficits will evaporate and quality of life will swing upward.
Municipal and cultural revival will be the end result. This is hard and it will be hard. Yet, its attainable for a community that rises up to say that "We ARE Coatesville, and we're through with the status quo of the past 35 years."