MoPac and Genocide

Sometimes the authors of letters to the Austin Chronicle editor can be rather wacky. Other times, they make sense. Reading the “Postmarks” section in the copy published today, I found myself wanting to comment on a few of the issues discussed. (This has been a regular thing for me — ideas for new blog posts float into my head as I’m reading, especially when intellectually masturbating with Roland Barthes’ Mythologies (new translation)).

The first letter understandably complained about adding tolled express lanes to MoPac. While the author’s argument seems a little convoluted, I would simply note that the Texas Department of Transportation recently “found” $2 billion. If, as the agency has stated, that money will go to relieving congestion in metropolitan areas, it should take over the project (which is not supposed to cost anywhere near the amount TxDoT found). Problem solved.

In the second letter, the author describes the gentrification of East Austin as “cultural genocide.” Strong words there.

No one is forced to completely abandon his or her culture — no matter the neighborhood in which one lives. Cultures — and their attendant practices, teachings, family structures, et cetera — cross international borders in the minds, bodies and souls of those immigrating to Europe and the United States every day. Similar cultural migrations have occurred throughout history. Admittedly, some of these, often forced, migrations destroyed and degraded some cultures — but I believe more cultures survived than were completely wiped from Earth.

Further, the increase in property taxes that is one of the likeliest catalysts for driving people out of East Austin affects all ethnicities, nationalities and races. Essentially all the working poor — low SES individuals and families — who live there. Of course, prices for their land must be high enough for people to sell their East Austin properties.

While the disruption caused by “gentrification” to some — apparently homogenous to the author of the letter — neighborhoods may not be ideal (or even something with which I necessarily agree), I am not aware of any recent mass graves. Then again, I like a mixture of people, which is why I live in Northeast Central Austin. But “genocide” does not apply here.

Watch your language. It’s powerful stuff.

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