The World Writ Small
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A neighbor of mine likes to say that this island is simply the rest of the world writ small. If I have mentioned that before, it is because local news stories make it pop into my head. This week it is the awful news that another woman was raped in her own home. We are the rest of the world writ small indeed.
An attack like that resonates in a small community. It dredges up emotions. First, our hearts go out to the victim. We can never understand the pain and anger she must be suffering.
The second emotion is fear. People begin talking about getting a gun, about getting new locks on the doors, dead-bolts, asking what the cops are doing to catch this creep. People begin wondering if a sexual attack is July is related to this week’s attack.
The fear of crime expands itself into larger sociological rumblings. It begins with this sentence: Once there was a time when we did not have to lock our doors. And it quickly morphs into this sentence: When “they” began moving here things began to change.
It is a very slippery slope to begin thinking that way. Fear of “the other” makes us take our eye off the ball. The focus should stay on finding out who did this awful thing and bringing him to justice. The larger issue of immigration, or eulogies for how things used to be here, just serves to blur that focus.
Community is not just a nice notion that centers around getting together with like-minded neighbors on some sunny Sunday afternoon. Community is a challenge.
That challenge requires the heavy lifting of living shoulder to shoulder with people with whom we appear to have nothing in common. Very often it is a challenge that involves the police to sort things out.
In the end we trust that law enforcement will deal with the bad guys in any part of the community, leaving us with the chance to slowly find some common ground.
And so the people who complain that our island has changed are right. It has changed. We must now lock our doors and windows, worry about strangers, be smart about the chances we take.
We are now like every place else. We are the larger world writ small. But we have always been that. What makes this place different is that what happens to one of us still has small echoes in all of us. That is something to hold onto.
– John Stanton