May 9, 2013

Won't you be my neighbor?

The rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight from 10 years of captivity in a nondescript home in the city of Cleveland has led to wild speculations (not to mention the meme-ing of Charles Ramsey and his McDonald's) most of which are offensive.
 My particular favorites are the "why didn't they try to escape before this?" assholes who --deliberately or inadvertently-- by asking the question, imply that these poor women aren't really victims.
These three women (and countless others) have lived in hell. The fact that they survived is a testament to their tenacity and willpower. Back off.

However the point of my post is a topic that has come up on the periphery of this whole sordid affair. My beef is with the journalists and commentators who have openly suggested that Cleveland is some sort of freak show since these terrible crimes went on for ten years in a modest house on a relatively crowded street full of homes and no one knew.
Frankly, I challenge anyone to go into a medium-sized city in one of the neighborhoods teetering towards poverty and find more than a handful of people who know anything about their neighbors. Aside from that, go into a nice neighborhood and do the same.
Yes, there are streets that have great camaraderie; block parties, kids playing, loaning tools, borrowing sugar. Yes, we should aspire to be closer to our neighbors.
On my block of 25 houses, I know 14 of my neighbors in a "Hi, how are you?" casual nod manner. Of that 14, I know seven well enough to inquire after their jobs, spouses, kids, etc. And within that seven, there are two neighbors I consider good friends.
With the exception of those two neighbors, anyone -ANY ONE- on my little suburban street could have held three girls captive for years without my knowledge. 
By all reports, this alleged kidnapper and rapist led what appeared to be an ordinary bachelor life. He tinkered with his car, he grilled out, he had his brothers over to visit. (ew!) My neighbors do all those things, AND I've never seen their basements. I bet yours do too. Have you been in their basements?
So step down from your seat of righteous indignation. This is not something that could only happen in Cleveland. The sad fact is, to a lesser degree it has happened all over this country.

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