Decay Preserves and America

Red, Decay Preserves has, amazingly, made me see the world around me differently and think about things differently—prominently, disvalued or ignored or semi-ignored parts of our world, (see your second bullet point above). But let’s face it, encouraging people to leap from reconsidering the esthetic value of a decaying building to revaluing parts of our world that we usually reject or that are simply distant on our radar, is an analogy that is stretchy as spandex and tenuous as cobwebs. I fear that at best Decay Preserves are irrelevant to the people in struggling cities and neighborhoods. At worst, they may be seen as expressing a flippant disregard for some very real, very serious struggles.
Those benefits in your list, which we have relied on in promoting DPs, seem to be about personal transformation. They may address a psychological need in our culture, but they don't address more materially compelling needs: providing jobs, nurturing neighborhoods, providing food, protecting the 99% from the economic forces that benefit the 1%. The Party People finale (which did not mention percentages, by the way) brought home to me with tremendous force the needs of those communities where staying afloat is a deep challenge.
Although most of the play deals with the problematic history of the Black Panthers and the Puerto Rican Young Lords, it ends with a hard look at the present and continuing devastation of neighborhoods, entire cities, and vast numbers of families by dynamics that America’s economies have repeatedly created since our earliest days as a nation: from speculation to monetary or interest-rate changes to fiscally driven overproduction in the late 1800s to the shutting down of entire American industries in the later mid-Twentieth Century to the real-estate and financial crash of 2008. My goodness, Red, can’t America do better than to repeatedly create vast wastelands where there were vital communities? Or to expect the people of those communities to thrive when our economics pulled the rug—jobs and opportunities—out from underneath them?
The last chant/song in the play raised this question for me in the most powerful way: Today's adult children of Panthers and Young Lords hammer out a rhythm with stamping feet and repeat a phrase, something like, “Family, Home, Food, Justice…Family, Home, Food, Justice.” In art, concrete particulars are almost always more powerful than abstracts. Ironically, though, the moments on stage that hit me the hardest have come when a story reaches a level of emotion that spreads out, like a subterranean sea, beneath and beyond the particulars of its subject. Somehow, that happened here. That abstract of those words slammed out a concrete and forceful demand: How do we help repair America where America is broken—where we are broken? And does Decay Preserves have any place in that work?

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