In this chapter of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Fleming exposes the negative environmental underbelly of the American ideal that every man is responsible for the level of success they achieve in their lifetime. Fleming counters this in a way, noting the environmental advantages and disadvantages of those raised in drastically different environments. Fleming uses low and high income neighborhoods to further his claim. In this segment of the chapter, Fleming adds another layer to the idealistic idea of pure self-sufficiency equating to success. Fleming eludes to the fact that while the individual does act in accordance to their own free will, they are caged by their environment immensely, which limits many.
Fleming also addresses the separation between the person and their environment and how this separation has become further defined in the last few years. Fleming Supports stratification with, “We have therefore learned to treat our ties to the physical world as superficial” (185). In this, Fleming describes the weakened ties between one and their environment and how these weakened ties affect the behavior of an individual. Fleming goes on further this theory regarding behavioral pattern and environment, stating that behaviors no longer hinge on environments for many, and that the actions of an individual in many cases would not differ based on the “background” of their environment.
In section two, chapter six of David Fleming’s, City of Rhetoric, Fleming focuses on the concept of ‘New Urbanism”. Fleming describes the concept of mixed urbanism as the implementation of “socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods” (123). These socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods where introduced through the construction of townhouses with the intention of a mixed buyer market from different socioeconomic levels. Fleming also notes how the emergence of the “mixed-income urban village”(125), creating the first wave of movement towards the city since world war two.
Fleming analyzes a specific example of New Urbanism on the north side of Chicago within the public housing project, Cabrini Green. While this area had been known for its lower socioeconomic population and high level of unemployment, the creeping development of Cabrini Green’s surroundings prompted the city to initiate a project to redevelop the area in a safer, higher socioeconomic image. With the plans of redevelopment for the Cabrini Green, came the massive loss of low-income and public housing in order to make room for the middle-income housing. These forced gentrification and implementation of different socioeconomic housing levels into already low income areas, fleming states, forced many of the low-income residents out, hurting the lower socioeconomic class in the attempts to further bring classes together.
This photo shows the edge of Lafayette Square, where a group of students all sitting in black sat on the front steps of a private building. This group sat on the steps for about thirty minutes before they all got up at once and started walking in the direction of the White House. Whether this was a tour or a protest of some sort, I found the meeting place to be significant. Not only did they all meet directly across from the Square, but they sat and stayed in those positions for quite a while.
This photograph plays into many different aspects of Lafayette Square as a whole. Initially, I noticed the divide that the Square created in the geographical layout of the city. The Square serves to somewhat separate the political buildings from the more business oriented sector of the city. While this divide is not finite, it is definitely present. Another interesting thing I noticed about the park that can be found in the photograph is the amount of the park that is fenced off from the public. Many grass-covered areas or benches where fenced off from the general public, creating an environment where it would feel more natural to ‘walk through’ than to ‘linger’. This made the area seem less like that of a park and more like something to view.
The second monument in honor of the revolutionary, Lafayette, stands in the middle of the square, enclosed inside of a fenced off, grass circle. Visitors cannot get as close to this monument as they can to his other statue, which they can climb on and touch. Unlike, the first monument, this was put in place in in the 1900s, 1924 exactly. This statue stays in line with the Washington Monument, which is visible directly behind the statue in this photograph. The enclosed nature of the statue as well as the placement in the square and in accordance to the Washington Monument gives this statue a more centric, important and historic feel.
This statue, situated at the corner of the park, farthest from the White House and National Mall, depicts an image of Marquis de Lafayette, a key actor in both the American Revolutionary War as well as the French revolution of 1789. The respected revolutionary’s honorary statue was created in 1891. This was the first of two statues that would be created in his honor in Lafayette Square. This statue sits at the corner of the square, serving as somewhat of an entry mark to the park. It seemed the most natural way of walking in or out of the square involved passing by the large monument. The sculpture is also very hard to miss from the street in front of it. In passing, the first thing the eye is drawn to is the statue. This, matched with the powerful, stance of conquest that the statue of Lafayette displays, marks the square as seemingly more important or honorary than any other park or square.
This photograph taken at Lafayette Square, shows a group of of young girls seated on a bench. Next to this group of females is a black homeless male, laying horizontally on another bench, presumably trying to sleep. On one hand teenagers can be found looking to find a nice place to sip their starbucks lattes, where on the other, a man tries to find somewhere to sleep because he has no home of his own. This side-by-side imagery captured the spectrum of people that can be found in Lafayette square in very close proximity. This disparity was heightened with the fact that this space shares a city block with the White Hous
In part one, section three of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Fleming discusses the neighborhood community as a political tool. Fleming begins this section on the neighborhood by defining said space as, “A smaller democracy, where ordinary individuals can engage in person, in public judgement and decision making, where politics can be the everyday literal enactment of every citizen’s freedom and equality”(43). In this, Fleming adds a non-spacial piece to the definition of a neighborhood, defining it as a place where, on a small scale, the purest form of the democratic process is carried out. Fleming notes that the most civically active neighborhoods and communities are those that fall on the smaller side, population wise. Along with this purity and followed sense of political duty, Fleming states, is the common criticism of the politics done in these neighborhoods. This criticism being that smaller communities that practice their democratic rights through local politics tend to be very homogeneous in their political views.
Fleming introduces an interesting side effect of this homogeneity: the loss of true individual freedom in the democratic process. Fleming notes another side effect of political homogeneity, the lack of “ conflict needed for genuine political engagement” (48). To me, this lack of conflict negates some positive aspects of such an involved democracy, limiting the neighborhoods potential for diversity or progression.
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany, NY, SUNY Press, 2009.