Back in “the day” folks knew their neighbors and knew them well. People lived in neighborhoods where children respected their elders and elders had no problem disciplining the children. Today it’s an entirely different story. Now people can live in a neighborhood where a man keeps three women and a little girl captive and chained like animals in a dark dank basement for over a decade and if anyone complained, seek view nobody listened. How could this have happened? The days of nosey neighbors all “up in your business” seem to have gone by. Now it’s as if people just do not want to get involved. We live in the age of technology where emails and texting have replaced handwritten letters and thank you notes.
Many people today do not know who they live next door to much less where their neighbors work or what occupation they have. Literally people can go months and years without ever speaking to the people who live next door to them. Individualism and a type of “me and mine” mentality overrules any need for real human connection, neighborly friendliness or kindness towards one another. Unfortunately we all suffer the consequences of the lack of old school neighborhoods. Families with children definitely need to know the people they live around. It is imperative that people reclaim the practice of becoming good neighbors, recognizing that personally connecting one to another is what builds good neighborhoods. And strong communities are built by strong bonds of neighborly friendliness, care and concern for one another.
Back in the day, it would be unimaginable for a house to be abandoned and boarded up in a neighborhood and no one knew what was inside of that house. People used to know when folks got a new television or bedroom suit. They knew what color your bathroom was or the pattern of the wallpaper on your walls. They even knew when your parents were fighting or your grandparents were coming to town. Today a serial rapist and pedophile can live next door, a mass murderer or homegrown terrorist can anonymously “live among us” and no one pays attention. No one questions why a man comes to a boarded up house with bags of fast food and why there’s no lights turned on. Why is there garbage being brought out when no one lives in the house? A woman and baby spotted in the attic window of a boarded up house aren’t strange? If only it was back in the day when neighbors knew who was who and asked questions until there was an answer. If only it hadn’t taken over a decade for someone to be paying attention when cries for help came. If only neighborhoods were made up of people in community with each other, looking out for one another and suspicious of things that didn’t seem right. If only all human beings regardless of race, gender or class were valued in the same way as those with money, means and privilege. Three young women and a little girl might have spent far fewer days in the captivity of an unrepentant pedophile and serial rapist than they did. If only neighbors and neighborhoods were more like they were back then than they are today. What do you think? Talk to me!
Artistic Director and Founder of
The Conciliation Project & Professor
At Virginia Commonwealth University
Up next week: Memorial Day: the unrecognized & forgotten