FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

 

Leave it to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to take a good idea and turn it to crap.

If there is one thing missing in America these days, it’s a sense of community. I remember a few years ago my kindergarten-aged son missed his bus to school. My car was in the garage, and my wife had already driven off to work with the other vehicle, leaving me stranded. This was in mid-December and bitter cold (about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with a ripping wind blowing, and making it feel like -10). The school was a straight shot two miles down a rush-hour artery. I figured anyone would pick up a father and his small boy in this weather, but to make double sure, I made up a large cardboard sign saying “Missed the schoolbus!”

For longer than I want to admit, my son and I huddled on the corner, watching car after car drive by us, eyes guiltily averted. Many of the drivers–most of them male–actually looked familiar; they were people I’d seen many times in the local stores. But no one stopped. Finally, mercifully, a woman in a van, going the other way, who had already passed us once, turned around, picked us up, and, nervously confessing that she had done so against her better judgement, delivered us to my son’s school.

Welcome to suburban America, where almost nobody will go an inch out of their way for anyone unless it’s a relative or a close friend.

Logically, our civic institutions, beginning with government, should be trying to combat this modern day curse of fragmentation and atomization, this profound loss of communal consciousness.

So what does FEMA do? This haven for right-wing zealots and martial law planners has brought us the National Night Out program, an annual law-enforcement extravaganza which, in FEMA’s words, is part of “a year-long community building campaign designed to:

(1) heighten crime prevention awareness;

(2) generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;

(3) strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and

(4) send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”

Building better communities by fighting crime.

At National Night Out festivities across the country this Friday evening, local police will show off their S.W.A.T. gear, let kids try on handcuffs and learn how to dial 911–all kinds of good stuff designed to make everyone, what?

Feel good and neighborly about the strangers in their midst? I don’t think so.

A real community-building program should be teaching people in a community to get to know one another, to learn each others’ cultures and needs, to find common interests, and to figure out ways to work together to improve the life of the whole community. It should, in short, be trying to reduce fears, suspicions and hostilities. A real community-building program might, for example, organize a community ride-sharing program, so people with cars could volunteer to help house-bound neighbors (or parents stuck with a car in the shop) to get to work or school. Or it might just host get-to-know-your-neighbors block parties. It might even include a meeting to look into the causes of crime in the community.

National Night Out, which does none of these things, appropriately is part of the Bush/Ashcroft Citizen Corps–the folks who tried to bring us TIPS, the Terrorist Information and Prevention System which, until cancelled by an outraged Congress last summer, was hoping to enlist millions of Americans to spy on their neighbors. It’s also sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, a mini version of the TIPS concept.

I’m not saying getting a community involved in crime stopping is a bad idea per se. Watching out for your neighbors’ house when they’re away on vacation is a community-spirited thing to do. But centering a so-called “community building” program around crime fighting and crime prevention is exactly the wrong way to go about building a community.

FEMA has always had a police state mentality. But the Bush administration seems to have a one-note song. With these guys everything is about crime, terror and paralyzing fear.

National Night Out is playing right into this theme.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail