Dorchester psyche is product of history

Oh for a deepwater harbor and we’d all live in Dorchester. Beginning in 1630, Dorchester has a long and symbiotic relationship with the little penninsula that started as Boston. Originally beginning at what is now called the Seaport District, the original name for that section of town is Dorchester Flats. Southie was originally Dorchester Heights and in fact it still was when Washington and a group slogged the cannons that Henry Knox hauled down from Fort Ticonderoga in 1776 from Dorchester Common across what is now Moakley Park to the Heights. Hence Evacuation Day on March 17th… To the south, Dorchester went as far as Wrentham. Towns like Milton, Stoughton, Sharon, Walpole, Foxboro Canton and Randolph all were established as churches were set up to serve the outlying Dorchester districts. Always a farming town with too much ledge, many of the original Dotites moved onto the Connecticut River Valley for better soil. Their move set up a familiar story in Dorchester’s history. Folks move here, get settled build up some wealth and move onto new pastures. It’s the American way.

The transitory nature of Dorchester affects many of our current residents thinking today. How many times have we heard the lament that a family is ‘moving to Milton.’ This creates  a fear that colors our decision making and it has certainly made it hard for Dot to prosper in spite of itself. Fights against UMass institutional expansion come to mind as one area where this fear has played out to our detriment. If we had a bigger stronger and richer institution then the whole town would be better off no?

The fact that folks move out for something ‘better’ has also helped to contribute to Dot’s inferiority complex. Even if the folks moving have trouble they always have to rationalize their move as a positive step. Hence those of us who don’t take that step may be viewed as losers…

Add to that what I call the Urban Fairy Tale. With more han half the folks living out in the suburbs now the ogres and bad folks who used to live in the forest can’t live there anymore. Instead they live in the abandoned and decayed city…

The funny fact is that Dorchester isn’t abandoned at all. When one family moves out it creates room for the next one. Today there are over 60 languages spoken in Dot. We have one of the most diverse ethnic mixes in America. Which leads to another problem. Despite our vast population, the divesity makes it harder to organize us as a group. Eveyone goes to their own church (temple or mosque), hangs with friends from where they were etc etc. While we may live next door to folks we don’t always party with them. Dot’s future is America’s for we need to figure out how to reach across our cultural boundaries and work together. For after all the last time I checked all my neighbors want the same thing I do….A safe place for their family, a nice home, good schools, handy location and good shopping. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, that’s all our bottom line.

So add a transitioning population, the fear and inferiority it engenders, and scores of ethnic enclaves and you can see why it is hard to generate the political voice required to overcome the 1,000 pound gorilla that is down town with it’s huge institutions and moneyed residents, or other neighborhoods that are more concentrated ethnically and remain more controlled when competing for services. So someone has to get left out and as a result we get the short end of the stick.

The Mayor’s Bike Program is only one example of same. Sharos on Talbot Ave versus a lane taken out under Mass Ave and painted bike boxes on Commonwealth Avenue is the most obvious illustration. Perhaps we’re giving too much play to the big picture, but dotrideblog has been watching this since 1984 and in fact was on the other side of it growing up out on the South Shore and it explains a lot about Dot and how things happen here.

dotbike as a group has been very sensitive to spanning our ethnic range. I’t’s hard though as many of our new residents come from places where the government wasn’t something that necessarily worked for you instead being something to be feared and avoided. Hardly the roots for a politically active populace. Just give me a job and leave me be and I’ll be happy. We’ve had our successes and the flickr site helps to reveal the fact that everyone is out there riding as much as the spandex clad inteligencia of what was once called New Town (Cambridge) of which we house our share as well. Only we house the guy who is cleaning your office or washing your dishes as well. With an above average adult bicycle accident rate and the highest among our children, there’s tons of clear evidence we’re out there. It’s just that we won’t show up at a meeting or thank someone for doing the obvious. Hence we get swept to the back and given easy half-done responses.

2 Responses to “Dorchester psyche is product of history”

  1. Thanks for sharing. You truly characterize Dorchester with pin point precision. I was born and raised in Dot but have moved to to Milton. My office is in Dorhcester and that is were I primarily sell homes. I hope that one day Dorchester will be unified. I think this change is on its way, as more and more owner occupants are moving to the Dorchester Neighborhoods.

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