By Theodore R. Malloch
March 28, 2023
(Views expressed by guest commentators may not reflect the views of OAN or its affiliates.)
To discover what an American is supposed to sound like, all you have to do is watch any Hollywood movie made in the 1930s and set in any large American city. The city you’re hearing is Philadelphia. I was born there.
But my point is that my Philadelphia is the one that doesn’t exist anymore, the Philadelphia of manners, enunciation, tradition, and a belief that arts and culture are contained between the Schuylkill and the Delaware, concentrating especially around the Walnut Street Theatre and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with after-parties at the venerable Philadelphia Club.
And yet the reason that the American accent of the 20th and 21st centuries vary so greatly from the British accent that fostered it is that, mingled among those Main Line Philadelphians with a direct line back to London were equally ancient blood lines going back to Stockholm, Berlin, Dublin, Helsinki, Cardiff and Amsterdam. Philadelphia was the original immigrant city, thanks to William Penn, whose views on tolerance attracted not just fellow Quakers but Mennonites, Pietists, Anglicans, Catholics and Jews who would have been ostracized anywhere else. Before the term “melting pot” had even been coined, Philadelphia had already patented the concept.
That why it was called the “City of Brotherly Love.”
As I came of age in the Philadelphia of the 1960’s, many people my age were dropping out and dropping acid, trying to create new dreams and hallucinations, in a rebellion against everything the culture of my forefathers stood for. I experienced very little of that, but later I saw the fruit of it: a coming age of entitlement and overly pampered children who were sometimes decadent and often high before they turned of age, never understanding the work ethic in either word or deed except as something to be lampooned.
Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” was a song that could be taken several ways, but I always thought of it as a memorial written for a city that was passing away. For those of us who had grown up there, that song was part of the ethos of the soul of the city, the sort of anthem that said true freedom is something to be found in a hard-working community, whatever Philadelphia neighborhood you were from, black or white, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, from the Brook to B&O, from the Speedboys to Germantown. We all knew what that meant.
Back then Philadelphia was America’s third largest city, an industrial center, a center of culture, and, of course, the caretaker of the country’s most cherished historical sites. But my first year in high school was full of the racial problems that were besieging the country at that time, and it started a slow decline that in some ways never got corrected. The city that had welcomed all races, all religions and all creeds was about to be torn apart by its own diversity and violence.
The year was 1968, and after Martin Luther King’s assassination the wheels were coming off in cities all across the country. Political upheaval, race riots, a culture at odds with itself or, perhaps, a culture not sure that it was a culture anymore, created challenges to all authority, any authority, and then the inevitable striking back at what looked like anarchy. The world was full of hate and distrust, and nowhere was this more apparent than Philadelphia, where the mosaic of history had set side-by-side every race and every nationality. My parents eventually feared the inner city that had nurtured us, and we fled for the lily-white suburbs, the aforementioned affluent Main Line.
In truth, my Philadelphia had come and gone by 1970, the year I graduated high school at an all-white suburban palace. I had the same things I’d had in the city—First Honor Roll on my report card, letters on my jacket in three sports—but Philadelphia, at the eastern end of the Main Line, seemed far, far away. It had become an unsafe place, crime-ridden, racially charged, sexually permissive, infested with drugs, divided according to class and economics, and just plain dirty. Far from being any city of brotherly love, it was a city at hate with itself.
That was fifty years ago and what I sensed then has come fully to fruition.
All American cities, not just Philadelphia, have become places of hate. They are dirty, infested, drug havens, rift with violent crime, poverty, homelessness, racial animosity and disrespect for culture, manners, faith and family. They are all run, and have been for many decades, by politicians from one political party, Democrats. They are machines of corruption and frankly, places to avoid.
The only real question for any thoughtful, alive person today is: why are you staying in any American city? Regardless of race, gender, faith or economic station, isn’t it time to pack up and leave? Droves of Americans have already done so, what is holding you back?
Heck, what are you waiting for? Get out before it is too late!
Ted Roosevelt Malloch is CEO of Roosevelt Global Fiduciary LLC. He served as Research Professor for the Spiritual Capital Initiative at Yale University, Senior Fellow Said Business School, Oxford University and Professor of Governance and Leadership at Henley Business School where he co-led the Director’s Forum. His most recent books concern the nature of virtuous enterprise, the practices of practical wisdom and “virtuous business,” the pursuit of happiness, the virtue of generosity and the virtue of thrift. His latest book is Common Sense Business, co-authored with Whitney MacMillan, former Chairman and CEO of Cargill, the world’s largest privately held company. He has served on the executive board of the World Economic Forum (DAVOS); has held an ambassadorial level position at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; worked in the US State Department and Senate; did capital markets at Salomon Brothers on Wall Street, and has sat on a number of corporate, mutual fund, and not-for-profit boards. He was very active in the Trump campaign of 2016. Ted earned his Ph.D. in international political economy from the University of Toronto and took his B.A. from Gordon College and an M.Litt. from the University of Aberdeen on a St. Andrews Fellowship.