I accidentally pepper-sprayed myself in the face. What’s worse is admitting I feel unsafe in Philadelphia | Arwa Mahdawi

The right likes to portray Democrat cities as dystopian hellscapes - and yes gun crime is soaring, but not for the reasons they give

‘Bad things happen in Philadelphia,” Donald Trump once warned. Last weekend, a very bad thing happened in Philadelphia: I pepper-sprayed myself in the face. I had bought some pepper spray keyrings online because, after a spate of armed robberies in my neighbourhood, I was worried about walking my dog at night.

My dog is the size of a large rat so he doesn’t really deter bad guys – unless the bad guys are scared of rats. Anyway, I had gone out to the garden to test the spray – I’m not a complete idiot, I didn’t want to inhale that stuff in a confined space – and managed to get some droplets on my face. At first it was kind of pleasant. A nice little tingle. An exhilarating Philly facial. Then it started getting painful. Then I rubbed my eyes and …. yikes! 0/10 do not recommend.

You think admitting I pepper-sprayed myself is embarrassing? As a proud progressive, admitting that I feel unsafe in Philadelphia feels way more embarrassing. Rightwingers in the US are obsessed with the narrative that Democrat-led cities such as Philadelphia are dystopian hellscapes where you will almost certainly be killed if you step out of your house.

While the right cynically politicises crime (Fox News slashed its crime coverage in half after the midterm elections), they’re not entirely wrong about the problem. Shootings have surged in Philadelphia since the pandemic. By early August, more than 1,400 people had been shot in the city this year. Gun violence is out of control.

The right blames this violence on liberals and the movement to defund the police: Philadelphia has a famously progressive district attorney who, they argue, is too easy on criminals. The real reason for all this violence, however, is that Philadelphia has high rates of poverty and easy access to guns. That’s not a winning combination.

The antidote for all this violence isn’t rocket science. You increase social safety nets; you decrease poverty; you decrease access to guns. Unfortunately, there seems to be zero will in the US to do any of this. Which is great news for the pepper-spray industry and bad news for everyone else.

• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnnist

  • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a response of up to 300 words by email to be considered for publication in our letters section, please click here.

Contributor

Arwa Mahdawi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
I want to buy a house in Philadelphia. Does that make me an evil gentrifier? | Arwa Mahdawi
My wife and I can’t afford to stay in New York – and our recent house hunting has brought on an existential crisis, writes Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

21, Sep, 2021 @11:52 AM

Article image
Why did the doctor ask if we have a gun in the house at my toddler’s check up? Because this is America | Arwa Mahdawi
After taking my daughter to the paediatrician, I was left wondering if I want to raise her in a country obsessed with the right to own deadly weapons, says Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

31, May, 2022 @12:50 PM

Article image
‘He has done more to further the cause of hate in the US than almost anyone’: the rise and fall of Alex Jones
For years, the Infowars provocateur has made millions of dollars spreading lies and disinformation on social media. Last week in a Texas court, he finally saw some comeuppance. But will this be the end of him – or is it just a temporary setback?

Charlie Scudder

08, Aug, 2022 @9:00 AM

Article image
Porch pirates have been stealing my online shopping, but now I have a secret weapon | Arwa Mahdawi
The number of packages stolen from doorsteps has soared. Security cameras and video doorbells haven’t helped me, but then I met someone who could, writes Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

05, Jul, 2022 @12:20 PM

Article image
The US is the world’s richest country. So why can’t I get a glass of clean drinking water? | Arwa Mahdawi
This weekend, 8,000 gallons of latex were accidentally dumped in the Delaware River – and tap water across the country is laced with disturbing chemicals

Arwa Mahdawi

28, Mar, 2023 @12:50 PM

Article image
The car is king in the US – and pedestrian deaths are rising. Where is the outrage? | Arwa Mahdawi
Pedestrian deaths are at a 40-year high and the number of cyclists hit by cars has increased since the pandemic. The most astounding part? These are preventable tragedies, says Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

27, Jun, 2023 @2:31 PM

Article image
My living room is shaking – yes, developers have moved in next door | Arwa Mahdawi
I was feeling smug about fleeing New York for more space in Philadelphia – until I found out about their construction laws, writes Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

02, Aug, 2022 @2:31 PM

Article image
Rising food costs are causing global hunger while the rich are getting richer | Arwa Mahdawi
The rich are now nearly 40% richer than before the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, food prices rise, and more and more people go hungry, writes Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

11, May, 2021 @1:55 PM

Article image
Better than Bulgaria but not as nice as Cuba: how did the US become such an awful place to live? | Arwa Mahdawi
The land of the free is heading for ‘developing country’ status, based on a UN index that ranks quality of life. The UK’s not doing much better, writes Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

21, Sep, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
To my wife’s annoyance I am getting obsessed with litter – is this what middle age feels like? | Arwa Mahdawi
Philadelphia, where I live, is nicknamed Filthadelphia and I’m getting more disgusted by the day, writes Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

29, Jun, 2022 @6:00 AM