Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Phoenixville, PA

Tonight, I went with a friend to a movie at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, PA. Phoenixville is one of those old factory towns in the Philadelphia area that once thrived, but was hit hard when the American industry went into decline. The steel factory failed, the jobs dried up, and the commercial district was on life-support. Yet, like a few other towns in the area, Phoenixville has worked to reinvent itself over the past ten years. You can’t keep good people down.

Some of the downtown businesses survived, and are now joined by interesting restaurants (I had the BEST tomato basil soup at the Artisans Gallery and CafĂ©), assorted pubs, funky shops and galleries. On Friday evenings, live bands play at both ends of the main street. I hear that the nightlife is hopping. Whether you want to party, shop, or stroll the streets, it’s a nice place to be.

Phoenixville is one of the locations shown in of the classic film, The Blob. In one scene, people run screaming from the Colonial Theater into the street. To commemoration the making of the movie, the town holds an annual Blobfest over a weekend in July. In addition to the contests, films, food and vendors, the signature festival event is the “Running Out”, in which participants re-enact the scene, and run screaming from the theater into the street. Too funny! Maybe I will go and take photos.

So, tonight I saw the film, “The Visitor.” It related the story of a professor who is at-sea after his wife’s death. He befriends an immigrant couple, and begins to rediscover himself. No spoilers, but it is set in Post-9/11 New York, so suffice it to say that the issue of illegal immigration dominates. One of the reviewers thought the film heavy-handed in its message. I disagree. The writer’s opinion on the issue was quite clear, but the subtlety of the acting, and the manner in which the story unfolded were engrossing.

Walking back to my car, I thought about the revitalized downtown of Phoenixville. I thought about the immigrants who had built the town and this country. I thought about the ebb and flow of commerce and development, how we prosper, and falter, and rise from the ashes – like Phoenixville. Such a rebirth never happens without the injection of new blood, new hopes, new ideas, new dreams. We should consider that when we seek to bar the door to immigrants.

Without that new blood, America would be a weaker nation. Without the constant influx of those seeking a new life, our growth would have been stunted. Without new people now, we threaten to destroy the very conditions in which we have prospered. We should embrace new peoples for their own sake, but at a minimum, we must realize that our rejection of immigrants damages us, siphoning off our value and strength. And, a weakened phoenix cannot rise.

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