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aphorisnt's picture

Why is Camden "America's most desperate town?" And of they are so desperate just what are they desperate for? In his Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbi expounds much on the horrors of Camden–the crime, the violence, the drugs, the remaining half of the police force that cannot seem to manage a city that seems more like a war zone if Taibbi's article is to be taken at face value. However, in all the stories–of scars and injuries, of people scraping by and trying to their best make ends meet when jobs are few and far between and grocery stores non-existent, and the people who tried to fight tooth and nail against the cement factory and other sources of environmental pollution that seemed anxious to subjugate the city beneath a slew of toxic chemicals–I hear no desperation. The anecdotes of life in Camden reveal to me something far stronger and more powerful than desperation, I hear and see a fierce tenacity in the fighting spirit of each Camdenite, a powerful love for a town the rest of the world had all but written off years ago. My experiece with Camden must have been a fluke or special circumstance following the affirmations of Taibbi. Yes, I saw the dilapadated structures and pot-holes streets and the building of the water treatment facility on every horizon, but the people I met exuded far more hope than desperation. The folks from the Center for Environmental Transformation had so many positive things to say about the people and the city, and that positivity is reeflected in the work they do to better Camden's environment. I saw far more gardens and parks than the drug dealors Taibbi swears are omnipresent in every parkinglot and on street corner. And don't even get me started on the kids and teens working in the Center's greenhouse, organizing equipment and building shelves for seed trays or seeding herbs and produce to eat and sell in the warmer months. Even Taibbi himself references a hopepful individual, food cart opperator and Camden little league creator Bryn Morton. Taibbi describes Morton as a "fortysomething community leader of sorts" who grew up in Camden and now works to make the community a better place for especially  the children and young people who occupy the city's row houses today. However, instead of describing how Morton created "'Islands' of Refuge" in Camden, the story told by NPR about Morton's community work, Taibbi chooses to tell how Morton had been robbed the previous day as if that is the story worth telling about this man. I believe Taibbi came into Camden knowing full well what kind of story he wanted to tell, one about corruption and crime and the destruction of an American town, and actively sought out the stories and interviews that could best portray that. When he arrived on-site and undoubtedly found a different environment and little to none of the desperation he conjures out of the air, he did whatever he could in his article to minimize the positive change and growth evident in the community. Maybe I'm biased in my opinions and my experience, having only been to Camden in the context of working with the Center for Environmental Transformation alongside youths and organizers actively working to improve Camden, but I simply cannot believe that Camden is the city Taibbi makes it out to be.