Here in the Eug' we're having a little issue. More than one downtown shop owner has complained of "street people" and teenagers peeing, defecating, and writing obscenities and racial slurs on their shops. The proposed solution? Greater "crackdown" on loitering teenagers and dirty old homeless people and the right to BAN certain people from the downtown area without conviction of a crime.
I'm only kind of torn on this. I really do agree that peeing and writing the n word on shop is threatening and totally inexcusable. But that doesn't mean that you can take away people's right to be in public spaces. If there are benches in front of the library, they're meant to be SAT ON. If there are tables in Kesey Square, they're meant for people to gather and enjoy the space.
What it comes down to is that the people with money and influence don't want to look at undesirables. The ability to banish people from downtown would really only apply to teens and homeless people. Can you imagine a downtown guard asking a group of greyheaded old ladies to move along from the benches in front of the library? Can you imagine a bunch of soccer moms with kids in tow being told they can't gather on the sidewalk while they give their toddlers organic Cherrios? It wouldn't happen.
Teens are threatening to respectable folk because those people know that they haven't given them the respect they deserve as human beings. They've been written off on account of their age, expected to make trouble, and what young person fighting for acknowledgment of their worth is going to want to smile and be sweet to people who make them feel like criminals?
My suggestion is not to be afraid. Carry your toddler into the library, right past the congregation of teens, and smile. Wish them a good afternoon. Compliment their mohawks. I don't care as long as you show respect. I feel that people on this side of success in their lives don't recognize their responsibility to be the bigger person, not in a "better than you" or "more right to be here" kind of way, but recognizing that some people have growing to do. Please realize that respect should be given unconditionally, no matter if the person is a shop owner, professor, homeless person, or teen.
Teens, prove them wrong. Prove your right to be in public spaces by resisting the urge to puff out your chest and claim your territory. That goes for everyone. Don't abuse your right to public spaces by claiming them as your own. Downtowns should be places for everyone who shows respect, and that involves sharing. You learned it in kindergarten. Can't we just share downtown?