Richmond - Worse Than Death

Not long ago I saw the movie “The Hours” on DVD. At one point Nicole Kidman playing Virginia Wolfe says:

“This is my right; it is the right of every human being. I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the Capital, that is my choice. The meanest patient, yes, even the very lowest is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity. I wish, for your sake, Leonard, I could be happy in this quietness. [pause] But if it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death”.

Although she was referring to a city in England, she might as well have been voicing my sentiments for Richmond, Virginia. For with this city’s proud history and heritage, its large population, and its economy, it suffers dreadfully in its offerings of any real semblance of a quality of life.

This is primarily due to two intractable and pernicious and pervasive problems: the failure to integrate black and white communities, and the suffocating conservatism.

And next year Virginia and Richmond is to host the world as it celebrates 400 years of history since the founding of the first permanent English colony at Jamestown. Well I can trace my heritage back to Jamestown and to an Englishman there who survived Indian raids. And I grew up in Richmond and attended the University of Richmond and worked at the local DuPont plant. I remember as a ten year old riding my bike across the Lee Bridge to go swim at the YMCA and browse the shelves of the Public Library on Franklin and explore the dusty natural history museum that was just east of the Capitol.

That was in the fifties, those were better times – Richmond has declined since, decade by decade – not in population, but in quality of life. And I imagine it will never recover or never approach its potential until it wrestles with the glaring fundamental issues – intractable social segregation and stifling soul sucking conservatism.


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