Monday, July 27, 2009

In your neigh-bor-hood

Since my lock out I've been thinking a little bit about the Prof. Henry Louis Gates situation. I have barely followed it at all. It seems that everyone has been focused on the cop, but I have to wonder about Prof. Gates' neighbors.

Someone called in the incident. Someone who thought it was weird that there was a man in their neighborhood messing with the front door of a house. Perhaps they would have called in the incident regardless of the man's appearance. Perhaps they didn't recognize him. Many of us don't know who are neighbors are these days. We don't recognize them on the street or know each other well enough to feel comfortable asking for or offering help. And I cannot help but think that this is actually the heart of the problem. The nation of strangers problem.

One summer when I was a kid, my father was re-roofing the house and it started to rain, a heavy torrential downpour. Four of our neighbors rushed right over and climbed the ladder to help him cover the roof with tarp to prevent the front half of the house from being flash flooded. We were not close, but we were neighbors and that's what you do for your neighbors. I have no doubt that if my father was struggling with the front door, someone would have come over to see if he needed a hand.

Someone was trying to be a good neighbor by calling the cops. But those good intentions coupled with a lack of information, a lack of relationships, led to a really crap situation because they didn't know their neighbors. It snowballed from there to what it is now.

I think next weekend I am going to have to start buying lemonade from the kids up the street and make it to the block party this year.

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