We condemn buildings when they are deemed unfit for human habitation.
We condemn them when black mold creeps in, when the furnace doesn't work, when the plumbing can't yield clean water.
There are places where we don't let human beings live, because living there would hurt them.
These places, these condemned places, threaten the physical health of anyone who lives there.
And yet, physical health is only one dimension of human wellness.
To be truly well, human beings also need, for instance, strong relationships and human connection. Human connection is so important to our well being that solitary confinement is considered torture when it is used for longer than a few weeks. We are deeply social creatures; we are THE social creature, it's maybe the most important thing about us.
The hundreds of small, seemingly unimportant social interactions that I experience when I walk around in Downtown Owosso - those interaction provide tremendous value to me. They make me happier, they connect me to the place I live, they connect me to other people that live there with me - they make us a community.
I believe there are places in America that ought to be condemned on the grounds that their design promotes an unacceptable level of loneliness in its residents. I believe they should be condemned because their design so fundamentally limits the formation of community among the people that live there.
Water and food and safe, warm housing are basic human rights. So too, I believe, is a network of strong relationships. I believe that living in community is a basic human right.
I believe that there are places in America where forming that community is too difficult to be tolerated.
I believe that we have a lot of rebuilding to do.