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 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.
In David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, chapter one, Fleming emphasizes the cultural and geographical implications of the definition of the word ‘citizen’ as well as the difference between politics and political theory. Fleming begins with his discussion of the meaning of a citizen by outlining what it means, on paper of course, to be an American citizen. Fleming quotes the National Standards of Civics and Government, a government document created in 1994 stating that, “The identity of an american citizen is defined by shared political values and principles rather than by ethnicity, race, religion, class, language, gender or national origin”(20). Fleming takes this ideal and brings it into reality, with his argument that it is not political similarities and principles that are the driving forces of America’s citizens, it is much more so their background. The race, ethnicity, gender and age of a person plays a much larger role in who they are as a citizen and how they act, than do the collective founding principles of an American.
This being said, if the citizens political drive is less influenced by the founding principles of the country then it is more founded by their own individual background and culture. This act of individualization proves to negate the generalized definition of ‘the citizen’. Consequently, the citizen becomes less ‘the citizen’ and more ‘a citizen’, acting in a way that is less aligned with each other, and more aligned with their perspective background, therefore dividing a society that is supposedly founded on the same principle values. The question that arises from this division, is how a government is supposed to provide opportunity to a society in which its citizens vary so greatly, and, if the government is able to provide such provisions, will certain groups fall through the cracks?
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany, NY,
SUNY Press, 2009.