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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

March 3, 2010

BOOKSHELF: IN THE SHADOW OF POWER


Periodically,
someone tries to tell a story about Washington DC that the rest of the country is not anxious to hear. About a place, as Leni and Philip Stern pointed out in "Oh Say Can You See" in the 1960s, which had an aquarium but also homes with no running water. Or Constance McLaughlin Green's history of black Washington, Secret City. Or, in 1974, Captive Capital, in which I described Washington as a place where "the American dream and the American tragedy passed each other on the street and do not speak."

In 2002 a Venezuelan photographer Kiki Arnal visited the city and was shocked by what he found. He recalled, "I was reminded of the marginal barrios back in my home country." He decided to tell the story of the other Washington, a city that has the nation's highest infant mortality, teenage pregnancy and AIDS infection rates, and where 16 percent of local children live in extreme poverty. "With a population of roughly 570,000 people, the District of Columbia is, by world standards, a small city," Arnal writes. "Its manageable size would seem to indicate that Washington could fulfill expectations naturally associated with a city of its global stature, to take care of its people. The disparity that I saw compelled me to spend the next few years documenting Washington, D.C., in order to draw attention to the realities of the city."

This book, with an introduction by Ralph Nader, tells what he found. It is great photography but it is not a pretty picture. - just a necessary one that belongs on a nearby table of everyone who presumes to speak or write about the capital city. - Sam Smith


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