On September 1, 2013, the Wendy’s fast food burger chain on Route 19 in Wexford Flats served its last meal, shut its doors, and closed for good. In time, Wendy’s built a new restaurant about a block up on the same side of the street. The design is sleek, wood-paneled, and modern. The old one began a slow process of dilapidation. The Wendy’s sign was removed so that the company would not be associated with the eye-sore it fast became. Three years and five months later, it remains in place, rotting and discolored. I live in the area around this building. I called McCandless Township last summer to see what the plan was for the structure or to see if there was a plan. I was assured that they are in the middle of addressing the situation and something new will be built. And so I wait. Meanwhile, the building sits there in disrepair, hallowed out and broken.
Here is the kicker. I don’t often “see” the building. Despite its deterioration, it has simply become part of the landscape. My eyes drift over it as I pass because it no longer sticks out like a sore thumb. It has been normalized, and I have become used to it barely ever noticing it as a daily blight upon the community in which I live. Life is like that. We get used to things pretty quick. Things that are novel become normal. We are creatures of habit and have an ability to roll even discomfort, pain, or ugliness into our routine.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “There are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize.” As I look out at the landscape today, I see a list of things happening that I never want to see become normal: racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, sexual assault, a lack of decency or civil discourse, disregard for our Earth, the killing of police officers, championing of corporate interests over people, religious zealotry, ignoring science, the marginalization of indigenous communities, police brutality, truth and facts being negotiable, a nation deeply divided, a free press under attack, and the list goes on. These things should always stand out to us. May we ALWAYS see them as ugly and dangerous. We cannot let forces of oppression and exclusion dictate to us what is normal. It is exhausting to keep our eyes attuned to that which turns our stomach. But we must continue to witness and speak out or else the center shifts and there will be a new normal. There are many things around us now to which we must remain maladjusted.
I just called McCandless Township again. I spoke with a nice person on the phone who informed me that the corporation who owns the land has no plans currently registered to do anything with the abandoned Wendy’s building. The zoning guy is going to call me back tomorrow, possibly with more information. I suppose I will reach out to community members in my area now. I am going to remind them about the building, as I assume they also have stopped seeing it. Maybe we can place our eyes and attention back upon this building and claim that it is not what we want to be considered normal in our community. Not sure how to go forward yet, but I know the more organized eyes I can get upon the building, the better.
We have to see and acknowledge the ugliness before we can address it. And then we will see what we can do together.