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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Apples and Oranges?

Suppose I told you that I know of a community in which the tension is so thick that residents are afraid to walk down the street...even during the day.

Suppose I told you that in this community there are healthy adult men who don't work, because they insist that there are no "good" jobs to be had, and that the government is not doing enough to help them, and that it isn't safe on the streets anyway.

Suppose I told you that different factions in this community "fly" and wear colors that identify their allegiance to different groups, and that if a member of one group sees a member of a rival group in public the two will almost instinctively attack one another...physically.

Suppose I told you that sometimes innocent folks, who are members of neither faction, are also hurt or killed when these rivals fight.

And suppose I told you that even a politician or a big-named public figure risked catching a bullet if they showed their face in this community.

I posed this scenario to a buddy of mine earlier today. I wasn't trying to set him up. But this is a guy who doesn't pull punches with his opinion. So I genuinely wanted to know how he would react to such a "neighborhood" description.

I consider this guy to be pretty fair-minded...most of the time. His reaction to my scenario? Lots of bluster and ranting about the 'hood, ie. largely minority populated urban American neighborhoods overrun by street gangs. He hollered about "Crips" and "bloods" and "lazy-a$$ed grown men" using safety and government dependence as an excuse for not working. He got righteously indignant about the danger in such places, and even suggested that "the government" should just drop a bomb on communities like this, so as to spare the rest of society the headache of dealing with the place.

And then he asked what 'hood I was talking about, West Detroit, South Philly, Overtown in Miami, West Baltimore, Southside Chicago, Northwest D.C., Grilltown in Charlotte, Northside Milwaukee?

Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

That's right. I was asking about the 'hood where Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Prime Minister, was fatally shot this morning and more than 20 additional people died in a suicide bomb attack.

Her death isn't funny. But I found it amusing that my buddy considered that scenario in Pakistan to be part of a larger, noble fight to save society, but when he thought it was about a depressed American community he was was ready to call for the total destruction of the area.

As soon as I said Pakistan, he replied "Well, that's different. Those people are dealing with groups that want to break down their structure for power and profit."

Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?

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  • It's not that different...societies is built on a certain "tribal" mentality in which an us vs. them mentality dominates. You could use this in almost any situation- gangs vs. gangs, racial interactions, even suburbanites vs. country folks vs. city folks!!

    It saddens me that Bhutto was sacrificed as she was, but she was very well aware of the dangers and opted to proceed to try and make her country a better place. that is heroic. May her death not be in vain.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:38 PM  

  • uh...that would be societies are built...not is ...sorry, didn't edit!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:39 PM  

  • While it's true that the world is made up of many neighborhoods, I see no similarity between gang members with little discernible sense of decency killing each other so recklessly that innocents become collateral damage and the death of an incredibly brave woman who against all odds, fought to save her country from the forces of evil.

    Benazir Bhutto's death is bad for the world because she was a voice of sanity and compassion in an increasingly insane political arena.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 6:37 PM  

  • Claudia, her life was definitely a sacrifice.

    HeartsinSanFran, I agree with you that there's no comparing Bhutto to a gangbanger. But I still think there's a parallel between "dangerous" American neighborhoods where people don't value life and dangerous Pakistani 'hoods, places where Bhutto was trying to help folks.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:14 PM  

  • It took me a second.. but I see your point.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 11:33 PM  

  • I understand your friend's cynicism, but he revealed what many blacks often reveal when confronted with parallel situations between different ethnic groups--those in black neighborhoods don't deserve the same level of understanding and empathy as those who live in 'hoods elsewhere.

    By Anonymous before the mayflower, at 3:49 AM  

  • hmm... I don't know how to express my thoughts on this. I was terribly saddened by her death, I posted an interview of hers on my page yesterday. But I think I get what you are saying. Maybe to me, I see it like a macrocosm/microcosm ... certain problems are seen in big countries and mirrored in small neighborhoods. Maybe it has to do with lack of a true spirituality. Fear. Incorrect religious interpretations or lack of a spiritual base? I just don't know but thanks for something to think about.

    By Blogger CrystalChick, at 10:38 AM  

  • I do see your point, James, but for me the larger issue was that Benazir Bhutto was trying to do good without contributing to the violence while gangbangers create it.

    Bottom line, though: The world has become a terribly dangerous place where murder is considered an option and ultimately, ideologies don't matter after death. You're just as dead either way.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 12:54 PM  

  • Here's the thing - we're all way more alike than we like to think. That means the good in us is the same as people across the globe... and the bad in us that we like to pretend isn't there is also in them. It's the same. That was a very clever way to get your friend's opinion.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 6:01 PM  

  • Reminds me of the look I got when wearing my Red Sox cap in New York City.

    "That shit ain't right."

    By Blogger M@, at 9:28 PM  

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