City rats carry disease, farm rats are wholesome and All-American

There is an ethical principle that I try to enforce in all my classes, whether on urbanism or on planning: do not badmouth places.

People live in those places, and I don’t offing care whether you like a place or whether it meets your standards of cleanliness, crime-freeness, precious aestheticism, or activity preferences. Your opinion of a place doesn’t fecking matter to anybody but you, and as a result, you can keep that opinion to your damn self.

Imagine a plumber coming into your house to fix something, looking around, and saying “What a craphole.” You wouldn’t hire that plumber again. Well, planners are professionals, and planners that run around badmouthing places (like Los Angeles, one of their favorite targets), can and should shut it. Yeah, there are tons of things that should be different about Los Angeles. But there are also things that should be different about New York or London or any of the other places that tend to pass the racist, classist, ableist, ageist, etc standards people carry around in their minds for what is “clean” and what is “desirable.”

For those of my students and colleagues who have wondered about this rule of mine, Donald Trump this week has illustrated just how graceless and indecent badmouthing places is, let alone how utterly racist.

To wit: rural areas have terrible addiction and poverty problems, too. Every farm has rats, unless the farm has poisoned everything in sight. It’s absolutely true that Los Angeles needs to help make places where people without shelter safer for them and the people surrounding them. But there’s plenty of concentrated poverty and meth mouth in rural America, too.

We don’t give up on any of these place or any of these people, nor do we follow our presidents’ terrible example and treat them with contempt. I’m sick to death of people saying “he’s just telling the truth.” Bullshit. It is possible to face problems with love and compassion instead of contempt. Every place and every person in each place deserves that.