So, one of my other neighbors finally called the cops on crystal meth house. Everyone on the block is sick of them, but everyone’s afraid of them, as well.
The fine gentleman who called the cops finally got fed up with them cranking their car stereo in the middle of the street. Their car was cranked up and the bass was shaking the neighborhood, so my portly senior citizen of a neighbor goes outside and shouts over the racket, “You need to turn that down!”
The response from Crystal Meth Boy: “We’re just testing the stereo!”
Senior Citizen: “It works! Shut it off.”
Crystal Meth Boy: “What’s your problem old man? I can kick your ass!” (familiar refrain?)
Senior Citizen walks back to his house, with Crystal Meth Boy trailing, shouting epithets. Senior Citizen gets onto his own property and closes chain link gate behind him. Crystal Meth Boy continues to rant about how he “can kick your ass, old man.” Then ups the ante to, “I can kill you!”
The Senior Citizen faces Crystal Meth Boy and says, “I’m a crazy Vietnam vet. If you come on my property, I’ll blow you away.”
Crystal Meth Boy is momentarily shocked to silence and backs off.
Meanwhile, the crazy Vietnam vet’s wife is inside, calling the cops.
I’ve come to the conclusion that civil societies depend on active participation. We do plenty of flag-waving about protecting our rights and freedoms, but when is the last time you called in a noise complaint on a party, or reported a neighbor for letting their dog run loose in your neighborhood?
I’m beginning to think that ratting your neighbor to the cops for the above sorts of infractions is the line in the sand you draw so that other, more anti-social behaviors don’t take root.
If a society doesn’t collectively demand that its citizens be civil, and doesn’t define a core code of behavior that everyone is aware of and has to adhere to, then it’s basically like raising your kid without any time-outs. Crystal Meth Boy has obviously grown up in a society where most people are either too polite, or too afraid to confront him. So, like the spoiled brat that he is, he tramples other people’s rights.
More and more, it feels like American society is losing its grasp on what common decencies its citizens should expect from one another. Everything seems to be up for grabs. And when no one is quite clear what the rules are, it means that the people who are the most insensitive and loutish will dominate the civil space.
Crystal Meth House now dominates the cultural landscape of my neighborhood. The fifteen other houses on the block that are quiet and unassuming don’t define the space. They don’t even stand out. They hunker down and quiver while the one bad actor redefines the codes of behavior. We’re slowly coming to grips with this fact and trying to change it, but it’s worrisome how a few bad actors can absolutely define your world. And if everyone else on the block doesn’t work together and set aside their fears of repercussions and push back hard, some very bad actors win the day.