Why we need to know our neighbors

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By GENE H. McINTYRE

Some questions are easy to answer.  As a guy who’s been around for a while, one of the easiest for me is what I miss most from my growing-up years.

That would be the community atmosphere that characterized the people who populated the west end in the city of my birth.  They were a disparate group; yet, they shared common social, economic and political interests and valued a general fellowship based on honesty and trust.

All was manifested in genuine caring.  They cared for each other and worked together to make the place a community of mutually concerned and safely protected individuals.

After learning about what happened to three young women in Cleveland, Ohio, I thought back to my community, reflecting on the fact that nothing like that, not even remotely like that, could have happened where I was raised.  No one could have been a psychopath, a sociopath, a “monster” of any kind, much less a brutal, sexual sadist who preyed on girls, but remained a secret, undetected.

Every home was everyone else’s home, while every public meeting place, whether religious or secular, maintained an open door to all who wanted to enter.  There was never the slightest hint of danger and no person who went anywhere had his or her life menaced or defiled.

Just short of my 19th year of life I left my hometown, going off to college, and, unless returning for a visit, never lived there again.  However, upon departing, I held the naïve notion that all people in all places were like those who populated my hometown.  I was soon disabused of that idea.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me.  I’ve met a lot of fine, upstanding, good people in the years of my life.  I know they are out there as I have come across them here and there while my adulthood years have unfolded.  They simply have not been found on every corner as they were found at “home.”

The bottom line is that Cleveland is not unique.  It is more like much of modern day America where far too many of us today do not know much, if anything at all, about the people who even live next door, whether “next door” is in an apartment house, a condo complex or a single-family home.

In my own case now, I live in a neighborhood of nice homes but I know very little about people just two doors away.  Further, I don’t pry and they don’t pry.  Yet, they could be practicing the most depraved of human abuse of others just a few feet away.   And, unless someone ran from a house screaming, “I’ve been kidnaped” or “My husband will detonate a bomb at the marathon today,” I won’t know from knowing nothing.  Then there are the terrorists, thieves and brewers and distributors of illicit drugs.

We can blame it all on technology, like television and cell phones, that we are a mobile nation where it’s not necessary to shop for groceries or anything near home, that our children and youth too often raise themselves these days and that so many care not what becomes of others so long as they are okay.  It’s just sad and scary that what’s become of us is a country of mostly strangers and thereby a place where the most horrible of human atrocities can be planned and committed up or down one’s own street.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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