A Lifetime of Plastic Poverty

titleshout_polluted beach_Fabien Monteil

by R. Adams

“Broken glass syndrome is contagious,” the developers, the greedy ones ‘tell you.’

“Wait, hold up,” the blamed boys of 26B are quick to correct.  “They sell you, not tell you.”

The lawmakers say, “If we invest in just one property, fix just one window, the neighborhood will follow suit.”               

But the broken glass and all the pollution are only symptoms of a fast spreading and fatal disease.             “Fixing a window is like stuffing tissue up a bloody nose,” Jamal from 26B tells anyone that would listen. “You might stop the bleeding…for a minute, but that’s not what’s causing the blood.”  

Nobody hears him and the fines for pollution go up – double – then tripled.  A task force is created to prevent the onslaught of graffiti.  A crackdown against code violations forces the few remaining property owners to decide between bankruptcy and selling to “out of town” investors for bargain rates.


If their homes and stores weren’t enough, a new ordinance passes, making their outdated hunkers of rides illegal to drive on the city’s roads.  “All their vehicles have do is past emissions.”

“But this ride is running fine, and I can’t afford the repairs.  And I damn sure can’t afford a new ride.”

“Then you must not care about the environment?”  


The judge, a distinguished lady in the eyes of the community, grills Jamal for his crimes.  “Did you not deface the storefront? Huh? Did you not flipped over the trash cans aligned across the streets? Did you not throw rocks through the windows?”

Jamal says, “I did,” almost with pride.

“Well…well I don’t know why anyone would destroy the place he lives in, his own neighborhood.”

 “Because it’s not my neighborhood,” he interrupts the Judge.  The gavel slams, but Jamal keeps speaking to the reluctant audience.  “We live in this neighborhood for now…until you move us like we are the dust you need to sweep under the couch before the guest arrive.”

“Enough,” the judge yells.

It’s a myth that you can end pollution by eradicating glutenous greed and/or outlandish laziness.  “You need to end poverty,” Jamal says while cleaning the same streets he trashed as part of his mandated community service. “You need to end discrimination.” 

The new residences and store owners of a neighborhood he used to call home watch as he picks up a plastic bottle tossed aside in the street.  “You can’t keep dangling what I don’t have in front of me and then think I won't do something about.”  He grabs a handful of used plastic straws bundled up against the street curb. “If I can’t have what you have, then I’m going to destroy it.”

The now retired cop, who arrested Jamal and others from 26B, has seen this played out for over 25 years. 

Like Jamal, he tried telling the truth to deaf ears.

“If you kick a person out of his house and then don’t let him in, he has no choice but break in.”