Listen to closely to the lyrics of PJ Harvey’s new single, “Community of Hope,” and you can hear why DC politicians aren’t proud about the public face of their housing project, with one even calling her the Piers Morgan of music. I’m sure civic leaders had higher hopes than one sit-down restaurant when they tore down the old high-rise housing project, the namesake of Harvey’s new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.
Two absolute truths are at war here. No one wants to live in a “shithole” even if it’s a better shithole than the last shithole. And, no one outside of a shithole is allowed to call a shithole a shithole. It’s the same in Cleveland as it is in DC. Too often us urbanites focus solely on the positives of our towns and do our best to push the ugly sights and sounds to the backs of our minds. How often to you, personally, think about Glenville, or the Stockyards without being prompted by a particularly violent crime? How dare you, mister list maker, point out our lead poisoning, our under-nourished, under-educated, and under-employed population when you don’t live here in Cleveland. How often do you think about the “Community of Hope,” where the savior is not Jesus Christ, but the promise of a new Wal-Mart. The shithole is not the problem, here. It’s the short memories of the better off and the defensiveness of leaders who know the truth about urban renewal projects. PJ Harvey’s sweet, swinging melody and carefree strumming should ensure at least three minutes of thought. That’s a start.