A different kind of chill
The weather shifted and all of a sudden it was late autumn, complete with high wind and low temperatures. It was cold enough at the Whaler field hockey game that layers of sweaters and jackets were required and gloves were optional.
Maybe the chilly weather and the dwindling evenings were just waiting for the Red Sox to fall a couple of runs short of a World Series bid. Terry Francona said it best in the Boston Globe. You win or you begin picking out your Halloween costume.
We sat at the kitchen table with a note pad, deciding which windows and doors needed to be weather-proofed and whether we should begin pricing a new furnace. And then we talked about dead-bolts and whether the cops needed a budget increase so they could hire a few more patrolmen.
There is a different kind of chill in the air this October. Word that a serial rapist might be on the loose is all anybody can talk about. So we get dead-bolts installed on our doors. We keep an eye out for anything unusual, ready to call the cops. We keep our cell phones and a baseball bat handy. We add this to the list of changes to life on this island.
More than a few people have told me how upset they are that they have to lock their doors. I always thought that was a sort of throw-away line taken from the gauzy memories of a golden small-town past. But all week people kept using the fact that they have to lock their doors as a sure sign things have changed here.
I have never lived any place where you would let the door go unlocked. I have lived in apartments where you have two locks on the door and when people visit they say, “Only two?” I understand the peace of mind of a good dead-bolt.
The other chill in the air is the whispered talk that the cretin behind these attacks is one of “them.” You know, them. The other. In days past, the role of “the other” was played on this island by, well, us. Unless you were born here, you were once “the other.”
Those days when “the others” were merely Hippie kids now take on the air of nostalgia, although it was seen as enough of a problem that a set of “anti-hippie” bylaws were quickly enacted.
These days you don’t hardly qualify as “the other” if you were born in this country. These days people talk about immigration laws and I.C.E. agents when they talk about “the other.”
But these people are our neighbors. Irish, Jamaicans, El Salvadorans and Bulgarians are our neighbors now. They are not the reason you need to lock your doors. They are our neighbors even if one of them did this. Crime is caused by criminals, and heinous crimes like rape are caused by sick criminals. Crime is a problem, but it is not an immigrant problem.
The problem is that most of us do not know these neighbors. There is the obvious language problem. There is the instinct of people from someplace else to stay with their own and create little underground communities.
“The other” have always been hard to know. But somehow we should try. Not because we are afraid. Small-town life does not lose its luster when we have to lock our doors. The center of small-town life is knowing our neighbors. A locked door should be a habit we teach our kids, even after the cops catch this creep.
– John Stanton