Yesterday, the new commissioner of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department made a speech introducing himself. He talked at length about his goals and vision, but he also spoke about his childhood in Kensington, “the old neighborhood next to the park”. His loyalty to Kensington was one of the cornerstones of the speech, and the audience seemed to really latch on to it.
But why did he mention Kensington? Why not Philadelphia or Pennsylvania or even America in general? I think the answer is rooted in American history. Because we’re a country built and populated by immigrants, we don’t have a single identity. Europeans do have national identities. London residents aren’t Paddington-ers or Regents Park-ers; they’re British. Parisians aren’t from the 20th arrondisement; they’re French.
But Americans are from neighborhoods. We live in Little Italy, SoHo, or the Village. We may wave the Flag, but our allegiances are clear- we’re with the old neighborhood.
Photo of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park by david55king