Having just returned from sight-seeing in Philadelphia, I am struck by just how rinky-dink Richmond’s downtown area truly is. Both cities are historic, yet Philadelphia seems to fully embrace its past while focusing solidly on the future. It has it’s problems, I’m sure, but walking its streets you really get the sense that you are somewhere. Unfortunately, walking the downtown streets of Richmond makes one want to head back home to the suburbs.
Certainly, Philadelphia has an advantage. It lies North of the Mason-Dixon line, for one, so it has the economic advantage of having won the Civil War. It was also not burned to the ground during said war. It also enjoys the advantage of a major Federal historic park that draws millions of visitors each year. The Liberty Bell. Independence Hall. The Revolution lives there every day.
In Richmond, the focus is solidly on the Civil War, where things didn’t work out too well for the inhabitants of this city. The people who live here now should realize that pining away for a glory that never came is a daily defeat. They should realize that holding onto outdated notions of race is equally self-defeating. Running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, standing in the footsteps of a national romantic icon, one realizes how things are supposed to work. Everyone wants to stand there and experience that moment. Everyone with a common dream, just to rise up and bring triumph out of defeat. There is no longer a statue of Rocky on those steps. Instead, you experience it through your own human spirit. I guess Philadelphia is not the greatest place in the world, and it’s way bigger than my taste would enjoy, but at least it’s not about dead monuments to dead generals from dead wars.