Image Credit: above: encampment of homeless people in Seattle, Washington, Jan. 23, 2017 (David A. Barnes / Alamy Stock Photo)

Is Seattle Dying?

Not long ago, I found myself sitting one sunny Friday afternoon in the Unity Museum in Seattle, notebook in hand, as a group of fresh-faced college undergraduates participated in a debate over whether or not their city is dying. The general conclusion of the affair and the grim message of the students was that it is indeed.

We live in the worst of times and in the worst of all possible places, speaker after speaker told us. Among the Emerald City’s chief problems, according to these young scholars, is inequality. But there was also a lot of talk about personal unhappiness pervasive at all levels of Seattle society. I’d like to tell you that the young men and women in the room offered some sort of unified solution, but instead they ranged between complaints on subjects as diverse as cellphone reception, Ticketmaster fees, on-campus parking, global warming, and something conversely called the “Seattle Freeze,” which I’m told is the apparent disinclination of the city’s residents to befriend strangers. One plump young woman wearing a spectacularly ripped pair of fishnet stockings got up to announce that we were all enslaved by a fascist America, with ever-diminishing rights of self-expression, and that police repression here in Seattle was just the most obvious sign of that. When she finished, there was tremendous applause.

As I listened to the well-fed young people in front of me I gazed...

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