Friday, September 2, 2005
Comments On "Your Neighbor"
The response to my last entry, "Your Neighbor - Fact or Fiction?", has been interesting, to say the very least.
I'm grateful to each of you who took the time to express an opinion. As I said on my "Share Your Opinion" page,
I welcome your viewpoints, even if they don't agree with mine.
2:15 pm pdt
The remarks have ranged from one word - "Wow" - to long, thoughtful and thought-provoking essays. Some writers
have requested permission to copy and distribute it to friends. Others have just "forwarded" it on.
Some folks have chosen to not go "on the record" with their comments. Those have also covered the gamut, including
such comments as, "I'm glad you finally said what had to be said." and, very succinctly, "At last!"
Another writer - who apparently has done some research on the subject - went to great lengths to explain to me why the German
people followed Hitler, describing in detail the history of the German people and what made them so susceptible to his mantra.
It had to do with early Germanic mythology, which apparently made them feel like "special" people. A cornerstone
of this feeling of "specialness" was having someone else to blame for things that were going wrong. For that reason,
they embraced Hitler's condemnation of the Jews. Regarding my last blog entry, this writer went on to say, "It's a hard
road and one that you will not get a lot of 'Thank You's' for, but it is a heroic one. Yes, the word must get out. I hope
Another quite interesting response was a little piece of fiction composed by a local writer with a style is not unlike that
of my character Your Neighbor. This person, an activist just like Your Neighbor, publishes what he calls a "newsletter",
through which he attempts to provide enlightenment (propaganda) to his subscribers. I'm not a subscriber, but I was provided
a copy by a friend. The writer, a very clever person just like Your Neighbor, composed what might be considered a rebuttal
to my last entry in which his main character, Lonely Old Man, is described as a paranoid who envisions Hitler's brain in the
basement of the Costa Mesa City Hall, "beaming evil thoughts up to the dais where some or all of the City Council members
were receiving these thoughts." It's a real hoot and should be required reading for anyone interested in the thesis
of my blog entry - because it proves the point.
Another writer, a long-time activist in this city, wrote describing personal experiences with a person also very closely resembling
Your Neighbor, in which he instructed disciples to stay away from the writer simply because of the person's ethnicity.
One response described Your Neighbor's influence as a "cancer in this city", and indicated that it needed to be
treated. Is there therapy available to treat fear, hatred and intolerance? If so, I suspect it might begin with megadoses
The following are samples of some of the other responses I've received over the past couple days:
"That was a very powerful "blog" and - I would wager - true. More power to a good citizen like you to create
a possible expose'... My husband is always quoting Abraham Lincoln (I think), "America can only be destroyed from within".
Isn't that the truth and more and more we must be watchful citizens!"
"I wish that I could say that your "Neighbor" story is fictional; however, I believe we continue to have discrimination
against those who are 'different' expressed every day. I think we need to engage in some much needed introspection/self-reflection
and, then, use empathic
dialogue to overcome our prejudices and biases that get expressed in various forms of discriminatory behavior.
To refuse to 'deal' with our own prejudices and biases, we all have them, results in continuing denial. I am convinced that
the above, resulting in a national dialogue, is the only way that we are going to make real progress, in our society, in lessening
the discriminatory behaviors that continue to marginalize many persons because those in a position of power and privilege
refuse to do the hard work and, thus, resist change. Hell, who wants to work that hard? Unfortunately, the list of those
who are marginalized, on a daily basis, continues to grow (e.g., the widening gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots',
in terms of income)."
Finally, I close this entry with a submission provided by a person offering another chapter to my theoretical scenario. The
writer entitled it "Chapter 2".
"After a late night of beer and pool, the Westside out-of-town-industrialists squatting on the view bluffs have had all
they can take of Gadfly and his pals. Suggestions range from the traditional tar and feathers to buying him a hacienda in
Tijuana the with obscene profits from their buggy whip businesses on the Westside. The Boys load up their pick-ups and head
across town to give our learned Gadfly the choice of tar and feathers or the Tijuana hacienda. The Gadfly is a tough haggler
and settles for a European breeding station in Utah, with a herd of blond, blue-eyed desperate housewives intent on the Blonding
of The Country. With the Gadfly at stud in Utah, Costa Mesa soon realized the value of the squatters and thanked them for
peacefully removing the stain that had shamed the City."
Monday, August 29, 2005
Your Neighbor - Fact or Fiction?
Today, as we approach the long Labor Day holiday, I have a few questions for you. Before we get to those questions, though,
let me set the scene by posing a theoretical scenario for you. It's a bit long-winded, so just consider it your final "summer
9:50 pm pdt
Let's assume for a moment that you have a neighbor - for the purpose of this scenario we'll just refer to him as "Your
Neighbor" - who seems to be a nice enough guy, although a little tightly wound. You seldom see him smile. You assume
he's a family man with children because he occasionally mentions them. You don't know much about his background - it's rumored
that he might be a military veteran, a lawyer or an actor - or, perhaps, all of the above. Your Neighbor has no visible means
of support, but you've heard he might be a writer, living off residuals from his work, or one of the many savvy real estate
investors in our area who have taken advantage of the rapidly rising property values in our town. What ever he does, it sure
gives him a lot of time to be involved in community matters - to the point of occasionally being referred to as a "Gadfly".
You are very impressed with his willingness to get involved in community affairs. He frequently writes letters to the local
newspapers and takes the time to appear before government panels to address issues he feels are important to the community.
Your Neighbor has even managed to get himself appointed to committees where he can use his considerable intellect - he may
be the smartest man in any meeting in our town - and his formidable gift of gab, to influence decisions on important matters.
My theoretical scenario continues...
One day, while you are tinkering around with a Google search, up pops Your Neighbor's name on a site associated with some
very far right wing activities. There, below a photograph of his frowning countenance at the top of the page, is a listing
of more than one hundred essays he has written for this site over a period of several years under a nom de plume. Your interest
piqued, you begin to scroll down this list and find many obviously intentionally provocative titles. Further interested,
you select some essays from the list and begin reading. After a short while your mind is reeling in disbelief. You find
yourself sickened by the manifestos on the screen before you. In document after document you read his views stated directly
or by a fictional alter ego he created to preach his depraved view of life.
As you read these essays, many of which deal in no uncertain terms with what Your Neighbor apparently believes is the dissolution
of our societal structure by interracial marriage and the resultant homogenization of our species, you find your blood pressure
beginning to rise. Painful as it is, you read on - trying to understand just what kind of a warped mind composes such venomous
Then the light goes on and you begin to think back on the things Your Neighbor has said in the past before local government
bodies, and the issues he addressed and opinions he expressed in his more docile writings. You recall some of his postings
on a local web site - a site that has gone into hibernation since it's exposure to the light of day by a local reporter.
The goal of all his efforts is now becoming quite transparent. The common thread through most of his activities is pure,
In my theoretical scenario, as you continue to cull through the essays more lights begin to flip on in your mind. You expand
your search of the internet and find many more sites which use his essays as a cornerstone of their hate-filled propaganda.
It's all beginning to come together now.
You realize that Your Neighbor's frequent rants against "out of town industrialists" who own and operate businesses
in a certain section of town - an area far from his home but, in his view, better suited for high-end residential housing
than the industrial tax base on which this city was built a half century ago - are really part of a smoke screen to cover
his attempt to expel the Latino majority in that part of town by doing away with many of the jobs held by those workers.
You realize that his frequent criticism of the various charities in our town was aimed directly at that same demographic group.
Your Neighbor stated many times that those charities are magnets for undesirables. You recall that, due to his position
on a particularly influential city committee, he was able to facilitate the reduction of funding for some of those charities
You recall that Your Neighbor was a prime mover in the recent apparently successful attempt to close the Job Center - a city-sponsored
venue where, for the best part of two decades, willing workers were matched with needy employers. Of course, most of the
workers involved are Latino. I said, "apparently successful", because our ruling body originally moved to close
it, then re-considered and gave it a brief reprieve until the end of the year while local activists try to create an alternative.
You remember Your Neighbor's unsuccessful campaign a couple years ago to divest the city of a swap meet held at the local
community college. This event is a venue for low-end commerce and social interaction by predominantly Latino patrons. The
smoke screen at that time was unwanted traffic caused by participants coming down across our northern border from our neighboring
city - a city with a large Latino population.
In my theoretical scenario you recall a successful campaign Your Neighbor orchestrated a few years ago that resulted in the
election of a man to our government body who was arguably the least competent public official in recent memory. Your Neighbor's
objective was to get this fellow elected, then use him as a puppet to accomplish his insidious plans. Fortunately for all
of us, the official in question, while not the sharpest arrow in the quiver, was smart enough to turn his back on Your Neighbor.
This, of course, incurred Your Neighbor's wrath, which he expressed before the government body many times.
You find yourself worried now, though, because Your Neighbor has recently orchestrated yet another election and placed another
dangerous person in a position of power. This one, however, is no dunce - he's much more dangerous than that. He and another
of Your Neighbor's chosen candidates have teamed up with a lame duck on that particular body to form a majority. This group,
following the lead Your Neighbor provides, is methodically tearing the heart out of this city and making great strides toward
the expulsion of the Latino residents of this town.
In the meantime - in my little theoretical scenario - the electorate is oblivious to the damage being done. Some folks hear
Your Neighbor speak - now with the occasional smile on his face - and nod their heads approvingly. Little do they know that
they are acting exactly as the German people did when Hitler cast his spell over them in the 1920s and 1930s. The plan is
identical - give the people a group to fear and hate and they will listen to almost anything you have to say. For Hitler,
it was the Jews. For Your Neighbor, it begins with the Latinos and will likely spread to other groups. You found yourself
thinking these thoughts long before you discovered the first of several internet essays on which Your Neighbor used the swastika
as adornment. Those illustrations confirmed your worst apprehensions.
You fear that Your Neighbor, much like Hitler in the immediate post-World War I era, has found a fertile field in our community
in which to sew his seeds of fear and bigotry. You know he has a following of a few loyal, misguided folks - those afraid
of the immigrants among us - but you worry about the impact of his campaign of intolerance within the community as a whole.
You worry that, while the populace dozes, Your Neighbor and his disciples will take this city so far into the quagmire that
it might be impossible to retrieve when the citizens finally wake up.
That's my theoretical scenario. It may or may not be fictional.
Here are my questions for you:
If the scenario outlined above is fiction there is nothing for you to do, right? I mean, you can just use it as food for
thought and move on. However, assuming all of the above is true and not just a fabrication, what do you do?
Do you permit Your Neighbor's influence over city leaders to go unexposed?
Do you just look away as the forces of fear and intolerance guide this city?
Do you just stand back and let the destruction of your community take place?
Or, do you use every means available to you to try to make the residents of this city aware of this man and his obvious underlying
Do you point out the links between Your Neighbor and his favored politicians and activists?
Do you expose Your Neighbor for what he is - and hope he scurries back under the rock from which he crawled?
What, exactly, will you do?
How would you write the next chapter of this scenario? I'd be interested in your opinion.