The president of Miami Dade College, Eduardo J. Padron, composed a provocative editorial on what the magic power of imagination might do for Magic City. His idealistic essay appeared in the Miami Herald on March 14, 2005, under the rubric, Civil Society - Imagine a better Miami.
If only Miami's civic leaders would dare to dream the age-old dream of social justice and exercise their imaginations responsibly as individuals, Miami's disintegrating social body would be successfully integrated, wherefore all integers of the social body would enjoy their fair share of the good life.
Otherwise, Miami's present society is doomed: "A society that continues to grow an underclass will fail." Therefore the leaders of the organs of our corrupt corpus should pay heed to "the writing on the wall", and dream the dream of civil integrity.
To that end, Mr. Padron reported, "50 community leaders from every sector of enterprise in the county gathered on Feb. 16 at (Miami Dade College) to initiate Phase 1 of Imagine Miami." After considering why such magnificent projects as theirs had sputtered to unexpected ends in the past, they arrived at the conclusion that the socially irresponsible political and economic system is "not someone else's responsibility," but their very own.
Implicit in Mr. Padron's praise of American individualism at the "roots" of our civil society is that each and every one of us must chip in, perchance to dream the American dream of prosperity and happiness for all. If justice be prerequisite to the realization of that dream, then each and every person must not only follow the lead but must be a leader himself, for every human being worthy of life has a sense of justice.
Mr. Padron's thinking is coherent and his 500-word essay is well written, which in itself is remarkable today even among college presidents. Of course his idealism is traditional. He proceeds with what someone else said: "I once heard it said that if you take one step toward your dream, that dream will come a million miles to meet you."
All right, I am looking into my crystal ball. I see someone flying into Miami. He has a check for me in his tattered leather briefcase, for an odd amount after taxes: $1, 469,503. I ride the Metro to a restaurant. He hands me the check. I examine the check and see my full named spelled out: Pay to the Order of David Arthur Walters.
Now $1,469,503 is not very much money considering all that needs to be done. I envision investing half the money in three private ventures that I call 'My Three Memes.' I see a $5 million surplus generated from My Three Memes over the next five years, half of which I invest in imagined new charities.
As for the other half of the original sum of $1,469,503, I see myself providing person-to-person assistance to the desperate sort of people whom I have wanted to help before but did not have the means nor the knowledge to do so. I mean people who have fallen on bad luck, the kind of bad luck that everyone wants to hold the unfortunate person responsible for because they don't want to help them. Since South Florida is not famous for gracious Southern hospitality, I dream of calling my little program Gracious Southern Hospitality.
For instance, I wanted to help the woman who was shouting and screaming with rage and crying in despair as she trundled along Alton Road towards Lincoln Road Mall yesterday. She was struggling with two carts of luggage, pushing one ahead and pulling the other behind her. Her clothes were clean; her face was bright red. We've seen the scene before, starring a newcomer who is broke and has nowhere to go. As she approached the chic Lincoln Road Mall, relatively affluent people on both sides of the street stopped to shake their heads, make faces, chuckle and guffaw at her.
An old man with a cane was standing in front of the movie theater as she rounded the corner and sat down on a low wall at the entrance of the mall. He was not laughing at her, nor was I.
"What do you think is wrong with her?" I asked the old man.
"I think something happened to her. People do not know what they are laughing at. A man probably abandoned her, or beat her and she ran away," he said.
"She might have been robbed," I speculated. "I've met two men this week who were robbed of all their money, one at the bus station and one at the hospital, and now one is sleeping in a doorway downtown and the other is sleeping on the beach. I also met a woman from England who had been robbed of her money and diabetes medicine at Bayside; but her hotel extended credit and her husband is sending money. She said the poverty and crime she'd seen and experienced in Miami is a disgrace to the richest nation on Earth, and said she will not come back to Miami although she thinks it is a pretty city. But so many people are on the take in Miami, there are so many phonies and con men down here, I'm inclined to dismiss all stories. I gave that woman seven bucks, then thought I'd probably been conned. Still, sometimes I...."
"You never know what happened to people," the old fellow interjected. "When I was a boy in Hungary, a friend of the family who took a job with the Germans came and told us to get out of our homes within two hours or we would be shot. How incredible. We could not believe that was happening. They took us to Germany. When we got off the train, the young ones like me were told to stand on one side. The others, with all my family, were put on the other side. They went to the showers and were killed by the gas.""Oh, that is horrible. How long were you in the camp?"
"I was there a year."
"Lucky you got out alive."
"Maybe not considering what I went through."
"How did you get out?"
"The Americans came and got us out."
His wife arrived and hurried him into the theater.
The miserable newcomer sat with her luggage all around her, no longer shouting incoherently, but looking askance at the sky and bawling like a baby as tourists and residents strolled by, smiling and laughing at her distress.
Maybe her god will answer her prayers and the Americans will come and get her out of her predicament I thought. If only Christians were like their Jesus she would not be there for long, I thought.
I felt sorry not only for her, but felt sorry for myself as well, for not helping her. I felt an urge to approach her to see if I could do something. But what could I do? How would she fit into my tiny little room? Would I be able to deal with her personality? How would I feed her on my $ 4 per day food budget? If my luck does not turn around very soon, I shall be in her situation, although with much less baggage.
Is there not someone to help her? Traveller's Aid? St. Christopher? The Red Cross? The Battered Women People? The Cops? Well, I've talked to the Miami Beach cops, and they said such pathetic cases are not their problem, not until a crime is committed and they are called to the scene, but are rather the responsibility of Social Services, and since the people who work for Social Services are not doing their job, the blame is upon them. They will probably blame someone else.
Is anybody home? Where are the Americans?