Grow Up Boston!

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a rant. After an experience yesterday with a woman on the street, in tears because of how she was treated by this ‘city on a hill’ I wrote this. It may sound harsh but I mean every word of it!

Grow Up Boston!

Every day I walk your streets, ride your buses and subways, go to your stores. Every day I am a part of the fabric, a thread in the tapestry that is Boston. Every day I work in your buildings, shop in your stores, interact with your homeless.

I am a part of you and you in turn have become a part of me.

And in so many ways I love you. You have so much potential, so much personality, so much fun.

But Boston — I’m tired. I’m tired of having immigrants come up to me on the street, complete strangers, and cry. I’m tired of the Boston stink-eye, I’m tired of the general meanness. I’m tired of crowded subways where the blind and lame are regularly jostled, pushed, and frowned upon. I’m tired of your arrogance.

Boston — you need to grow up. You need to realize — it’s not all about you.

Did you hear that? It’s not all about you.

Public Gardens and View of Newbury Street through a store window

When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon the nation wept for you, the world cried. There was support from around the globe, from the young and old, the small town and the big city. When you have a tragedy the world weeps with you, but you don’t weep with the world. Ever. Because, like a toddler, so egocentric in her development, you only think about yourself.

You boast so much: history, beauty, an ocean, a river, world-famous educational institutions, great food, amazing medical facilities, and more grey cells than we could count. You are Boston Strong with sports teams, and stamina, and guts. But you also boast grumpy people, arrogance, intolerance made more galling because it’s by those who consider themselves so tolerant.

You are creating a culture that despises the old, the feeble, the blind, the refugee, the immigrant. A culture that sits back and does nothing when a disabled, man in a wheelchair falls down and is mocked by a group of high school students. You cater so well to the student, to the ‘twenty something’ yet you have made them so all-important that they fail to understand the bigger picture of life and they are mean right along with you. You are creating a culture of ‘me first’ and ‘no one else matters.’ A culture where no one is given the benefit of the doubt. A culture where immigrants cry to total strangers on street corners, so lonely and attacked they feel.

“I’ve lived other places” they say “Nowhere is it so mean!” There’s always an excuse for why they’re mean — it’s morning, it’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s hot. Well it’s rainy and hot in other places too and they aren’t like this.” “I’m so lonely I could weep.” “I’ve lived here 12 years and still I wonder — will I ever belong? Will I ever feel like people are okay with me?” These are real words Boston, spoken by real people who live in your city and walk on your streets.

You have a hard heart Boston and it needs to soften. You are immature and you need to grow up.

You are so proud of your achievements — first in the nation to have health care access, first to have gay marriage. You are so proud, but you forget the basics — like kindness, honor, respect, and compassion.

Will you stay a toddler forever? Proud of your baby steps but never realizing there are other steps to take, a bigger world to learn, or will you grow up to be the adult, the adult who makes a difference in the world?

Will you ever, can you ever really be the proverbial “city on the hill?”

Tomorrow I will again walk your streets and love your beauty. And I will hope again that someday you will see the other side, the side that we who are ‘other’ see.

13 thoughts on “Grow Up Boston!

  1. Well said, Marilyn! I have to admit I was surprised when I returned to the US after 10 years living and working in Baku, Azerbaijan. I was completely welcomed there and made a very nice life while I was there. I was sad to leave many friends who had become like family.

    When I returned, instead of going home to Houston, I thought my skills were better matched to Washington DC. I spent nearly 8 years feeling like I had stepped into another planet- experiencing just what you describe.

    I chalked this up to being a post-911 America. Everyone on guard, on edge and eyeing everything “foreign” with suspicion. Even when that “foreign” person is an American coming home after a decade abroad. Because I had been in Muslim Azerbaijan, I was viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

    Maybe Boston has reasons as you say for behaving inhospitably, or maybe like NY, it is the way our big cities are becoming. People are hurried, pressured and have no room or time to decompress.

    Maybe as Jeremy noted, maybe we need to take a step back and really ask what kind of society we want to be. We need those asking the questions to be leading to better answers before we get to Jeremy’s eventual outcome.

    I hope you can make a difference in just one person by having this conversation.


    1. Thanks Julie – even as I thought about it today I need to think of displaying those characteristics with those I perceive as mean and intolerant. A difficult task!


  2. I resonate! I lived for 10 years in Asia, and have been back to my native MA for 8 years. I live in the suburbs. It’s been a struggle to acclimate, and find genuine community. Locals, including the Church here, need to learn to welcome the “World at Our Doorstep”.


    1. Oh – I so get this. We moved to the suburbs after 10 years overseas. It was probably the deepest hardest adjustment of my life. Contact me and let’s have coffee…


  3. Dear Marilyn –
    That was a good post and worth reading. Thank you.
    It isn’t my goal to write a long comment on each of your blog posts :-) but I care a lot about this issue: how America treats new immigrants, including the people who did not follow the correct process to get here (a.k.a. illegal immigrants).
    I hope your readers won’t mind if I add a quick explanation:
    In the spring of 2010, my soon-to-be wife and I went on a tourist trip to Rome. It was awesome. Since I am a history buff – and Rome has so many layers of history – I wanted to learn about the Roman civilization. It lasted for about a thousand years – from around 500BC to around 500AD – and then it continued even longer with its capitol in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul. Our country is just a “young pup” by comparison. Anyway, to learn about it; I started listening to an audio podcast called the History of Rome, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It had a 15 minute episode every week for 2-3 years, and I listened to all of them. It was a really great – and free – education about this fascinating period of human history.
    The Roman civilization had its high points and its low points. But what I noticed – and this is easier when you are looking at what happens over decades and centuries, instead of day-to-day events – is that Rome’s fate was completely tied to how it welcomed outsiders. When it worked to tolerantly bring in new people at its borders, the civilization prospered for years/decades. But when the Romans took the “Rome is for the Romans” attitude, things went downhill dramatically. This happened time after time.
    Rome finally fell after their thousand-year run specifically because they were too focused on keeping out the “illegal immigrants”: Germanic tribes-people, who were moving in from the North. They completely failed to stop the people from coming in; but their efforts did have the lasting effect of preventing the newly-arriveds from feeling like they were “Romans”. These intolerant Romans crippled the thing they said they were trying to protect; though it took a few decades.
    We need to treat immigrants well, and welcome them – including the “Germanic tribes” at our Southern border, who are coming in no matter what we might do to try and stop them – because it is what is best for the U.S.A. It is in our self-interest. It is the patriotic thing to do; because we care about what happens in the future in this country.


    1. This is such a welcome perspective and comment. I had no idea of this history. And interestingly of course it reflects well the commands to the Israelites so long ago on how they were to treat the “aliens” and foreigners among them. I think what I also appreciate about your comment is that mine is based on an emotional response, while yours adds to the conversation by looking at a historical period in time and goes from there. So thank you. I want to look up that podcast.


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