Thursday, July 20, 2006

Home-Grown Urban Terror Stalks Twenty-First Century American Renaissance Cities: 19% Of National Capital's Residents Live Below Poverty Line

"Last week, Washington, D.C.'s police chief, Charles Ramsey, declared a "crime emergency" after the city registered its 14th murder since July 1, and a spate of violent robberies around Washington's most famous monuments on the Mall. As well as the steep rise in homicides, robberies are up 14% and armed assaults 18%. ...

Twelve of the 14 murder victims so far this month were African-American males, shot dead in poor areas of the city rarely visited by tourists. The other two were an African-American woman and Alan Senitt, [a] Jewish activist.

Senitt, 27, had his throat slashed as he walked a female friend home from the cinema in the early hours of July 9. His friend was sexually assaulted. The Briton had been planning to spend the summer working for a Democratic presidential hopeful, the former governor of Virginia Mark Warner.

There was nothing to suggest it would be unsafe to walk his friend home. Georgetown, with its genteel rows of houses, tucked-away mansions and smart shops, is one of the richest neighbourhoods in Washington.

The suspects in Senitt's murder had set out that evening saying they wanted to cut someone, police said. Two adult males, a juvenile and a woman were arrested within hours of the killing, in bloodstained clothing and carrying Senitt's identification papers. The men are suspects in at least two previous such attacks.

Mr Ramsey's emergency declaration, announced shortly after Senitt's murder, led to the beefing up of patrols around national landmarks.

For those Washingtonians whose live in a clearly defined quadrant of the city that is mainly white and affluent, Senitt's killing exposed a vulnerability. But it was, say some, a warning that a city known to outsiders for its monuments and harbours has some of the cruellest inequality in America.

Last January, a veteran journalist from the New York Times, David Rosenbaum, was beaten by robbers as he took an after-dinner stroll around his own upper-class neighbourhood in Washington DC. His treatment by ambulance attendants and emergency room personnel, who left him on a gurney for an hour without medical care, exposed a callous and shambolic emergency system. Rosenbaum died from his injuries.

William Chambliss, a sociology professor at George Washington University, notes that crime rates, in Washington as in other American cities, are cyclical. A few years of declining incidents will be followed by a few years of increased crime. But he believes Senitt's murder is a product of other forces. Over the past 25 years, as the gulf between rich and poor has widened, the divisions between rich and poor, black and white, in Washington have grown more acute.

A property boom has turned the city into the third most expensive in America - good news for homeowners, but a blow to the 19% of Washingtonians living below the poverty line. (The national rate is 13%.)

In a city that is 60% black, African-American students have the lowest performance levels in the country; overall 37% of Washingtonians cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Four percent carry the HIV virus - a higher rate of infection than any other American city. Mr Chambliss argues that such divisions find an outlet in violent crime. "It creates an anger and a callousness towards those people who benefit from society," he says. "There is a parallel with terrorism where the upper-class white people become the enemy just as the western infidels become the enemy of Islam. I see this as a pattern that could be the beginning of a very serious change in crime, and where it is committed, and how it is committed."

For a city that is the custodian of America's heritage, the prospect of a migration in violent crime to the Mall or Georgetown is disturbing. Hours after Washington's police chief declared his determination to make the streets safe again, two groups of tourists were robbed at gunpoint near the Washington monument by men wearing dark clothes and ski masks." ...

Suzanne Goldenberg "Fear and loathing on DC's streets as summer crimewave reaches the elite: Widening gap between rich and poor blamed for rise in violence, with 14 murders in two weeks" The Guardian Unlimited (UK) July 20, 2006,,1824518,00.html

The Lincoln Memorial, The Nation's Capital, built 1915 - 1922.

"The Lincoln Memorial, on the extended axis of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a United States Presidential Memorial built for United States President Abraham Lincoln.

The building is in the form of a Greek Doric temple, and contains a large seated sculpture of Lincoln and inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln. The memorial has been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, during the rally at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Like the other monuments on the National Mall, including the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. The National Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It is open to the public from 8 a.m. until midnight all year, except December 25."

Text and photo credit: Wikipedia and With thanks.


Blogger Kyle Foley said...

good article bringing attention to the inequality in dc - i used to live in wheaton so i know what it's about, but it was your excellent article on babi yar that brought me to your blog. i'm in the process of trying to listen as much shost music as i can and i am pleased to say that i think the 13th symphony many very well be his best. the five minute section in the first movement of the seventh running from the tenth to the fifteenth minute might be one of shost's best moments, and the fourth movement of the 11th is also good but i am sincerely impressed by the 13th. the fifth movement of his piano trio is also very good. i'm tempted to try to learn russian just so that i can read babi yar in the original. hopefully i can pick it up in two weeks. i look forward to reading more of your blog of course. i'm at a public computer with a twenty minute time limit so it will be a while.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Kyle, thank you very much for your enthusiast comment. I really appreciate the feed-back.

I'm thrilled that you are enjoying your exploration of Shostakovich's music so much, and are studying so carefully the individual movements of the symphonies. I need to go relisten to the movements you cite!
Thank you.

Of course, I am happy that you responded so deeply to Babi Yar. I heard Rostropovich conduct it with men from a Washington area chorus, and I believe this powerful recording is available on Erato (or was). My first exposure to Shostokovich was actually his unusual (and non-heroic) Ninth Symphony, which I heard the Moscow Conservatory orchestra perform when my youth orchestra travelled to (West) Berlin. Then, in 1976 and 1977, I heard memorial concerts, for Shostakovich, played by the Juilliard SQ and violist John Graham -- the String Quartet #15 and the Viola Sonata (at Julliard and Columbia U.). I believe these were first American performances of each work.

You could start teaching yourself Russian by learning the alphabet and finding an exact literal transliteration and translation of Babi Yar. I recall following along this way. I also like the Vocabulearn tapes that drill words and phrases. Definitely learn by listening and repeating! Please also listen to Shostakovich's Michaelangelo Sonnets and the Sym. #14 which are also very powerful 20th c. vocal settings. (I too hope to learn Russian much better this coming year. My broken Polish is marginally better.)

Thanks again, and sorry I had to turn on my moderation function due to a wave of spam.

PS. Just last Friday, I finally learned the location of the village in Belarus where my mother's mother came from. It was near Pinsk, and completely destroyed.

9:46 AM  

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