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A brief-yet-ongoing journal of all things Carmi. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll reach for your mouse to click back to Google. But you'll be intrigued. And you'll feel compelled to return following your next bowl of oatmeal. With brown sugar. And milk.
Nowhere to HideYour turn: Are there any solutions? Can there be true safe haven from crime? How does your response make you feel?
By Carmi Levy
In the end, we’re all the same.
When we first hear about a murder, rape or other violent crime in our city, we play a quick game of criminal geography. We read a few paragraphs down to determine where the crime occurred.
Then we begin to rationalize. It didn’t happen here. It was in the east end of town, where most people rent their homes, take the bus to work, drive beat-up old cars, and lead otherwise working class lives. We concoct any number of misguided black-and-white assumptions about the people who live “there” and not “here” as we blindly try to make ourselves feel better about our places in an increasingly chaotic world.
We heave a sigh of relief, comfortable not only that it can’t happen here, but that once again it didn’t.
That sense of security is, of course, false. It can indeed happen here. It can happen anywhere. And no amount of social climbing or silent elitism can change that fact or otherwise enhance our personal safety.
Violent crime isn’t supposed to happen in rural Pennsylvania, least of all to highly religious, clean-living and peace-loving Amish. Yet five Amish girls died last month when a deranged gunman lined them up against the wall of their one-room schoolhouse and executed them.
Violent crime isn’t supposed to happen in my old school, in a downtown Montreal college cafeteria. A promising 18-year-old woman who loved pink isn’t supposed to be shot dead by a gun-toting, goth-worshipping freak. Yet she was.
Violent crime isn’t supposed to happen in a quiet, leafy suburb, just down the street from my sleeping family. Yet when gunfire erupted in the middle of an August night, it did.
Assuming that good neighbourhoods somehow offer more protection won’t make us any safer. Stigmatizing those who live east of Adelaide – a longstanding yet unwritten London tradition – hardly keeps crime away from other areas. Yet we continue to believe in this separatist ideal, if only to make ourselves feel better that we made better choices than the poor, lower-class souls who got shot, robbed or assaulted.
In so many ways, society’s condescending way of viewing victims of violent crime and the neighbourhoods where these crimes occur is a large part of the problem. We separate ourselves, physically and psychologically, from those with whom we share our city. We don’t ride the bus because it’s somehow below us. We avoid our downtown like the plague because we can’t – or won’t – face the sometimes-ugly realities of living in a mid-sized city.
Yet it is this very strategy of exclusion that lies at the root of today’s decay. We spend so much time trying to get out of the wrong neighbourhoods and into the right ones. Once we arrive, we drive up to our snout homes, barely pausing in the driveway to give the automatic garage door openers enough time to work. We live alongside neighbours who we barely know because we no longer take the time to learn their names. How can we when we no longer walk the streets where we live?
The idealist in me believes that the isolationist ideals at the core of suburban and exurban society need not be our ultimate destiny. My rose-colored view of the world includes next-door neighbours who no longer stare awestruck into the local television cameras and blindly proclaim that the kid who just shot up the local school seemed like a good kid from a quiet family. Maybe if we all took a little more time to speak across the fence, gun-toting freaks wouldn’t fester silently before exploding tragically.
Sure, it’s a laughably utopian way of thinking. But it has to start somewhere. Otherwise, violent crime will continue to creep ever deeper into the areas we always thought were safe. And we’ll continue to shrug our shoulders as we seek yet another magic solution to a problem that seemingly offers none.
Task in Afghanistan ignores a duty hereYour turn: War (actually, this war.) Our involvement in same. Please discuss.
Published Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The London Free Press
By Carmi Levy
Many of us have driven cars that spent more time being repaired than on the road. We eventually realized any more investment would be a waste of money, so we cut our losses and just let them go.
Canada lost another four soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday. A bicycle-riding suicide bomber attacked them as they reportedly handed out candy to children. It makes me wonder if our mission there has passed that shadowy point of no return.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week Canada owes it to the people of Afghanistan to "help them finish the job." But she didn't say precisely what that job was. She failed to define what success means in this land that breeds terrorists and stubbornly clings to its opium-producing economy.
I'm not sure we owe anything to people who may not want to be saved. I think our government owes it to the people of Canada to define how much we're willing to sacrifice before we decide the so-called "job" may never be possible to complete.