Who can protect me now?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Woke up this morning to the first ice on the walk since the October snow wrecked my trees.

I ought to be grateful, and I suppose I am, that this winter has been so mild as compared to last year this time when the residue of the post Christmas snow storm still cluttered the streets.

Ice doesn’t sit well with me because I live near the bottom of a very steep hill, which I have to climb in order to get to public transportation.

Even when I had two eyes and could drive, climbing this hill was not fun, all spinning wheels  and prayers that I didn’t slide all the way down to where the street meets the highway and the parade of tractor trailers making their way north from Port Newark.

Last year, walking down the hill, my wife and I both slipped on the same piece of pavement on the same night, but about an hour apart. This stretch is owned by some old mobster, who rarely shovels his walk, except to make a path for his Seville to park in, and never puts out salt when his pavers get slick.

We learned to walk on the far side of the street where the Head Start staff keeps their walks clean, but even then, melting snow or ice intrudes, leaving slick patches.

This morning being the first morning of ice, nobody put out salt so that the walk and street proved an even steeper challenge than usual, forcing pedestrians to cling to fence posts, car mirrors and any other protrusion to keep from falling.

Two women who also survived the climb pondered why news stations didn’t issue icing reports the way they sometimes did for snow, warning people that we risk life and limb if we go out at this particular time.

I guess we’ve been warned too much about every possible disaster, from terrorists to hurricanes that we’ve come to rely on someone telling us when to duck.

I remember some misguided woman who wrote about the history of children’s playgrounds, talking about how they were supposed to be safe for children – obviously misreading the reasoning and logic behind the original construction.

She tried to explain why playground got rid of concrete and asphalt and installed rubberized floors, as yet the next step in keeping children safe.

It’s not true. At least not all of it.

Playgrounds were made hard because they were built mostly in a working class era when parents needed to prepare their kids for the harsh realities of the world, and figured scuffed knees and bruised elbows taught children more about life than any lecture did.

As our nation abandoned the working class model and pressed people to aspire to middle and upper class values, we grew more afraid for our children, coddling them more, seeking more protection against things like asphalt. We did not want our previous progeny injured, and so we sought to warn them against things instead of letting them experience things first hand.

This idea that I have to make my own way in the world and deal with situations like ice and snow make me appreciate things better. I hated getting yellow and red terrorist alerts from a government too inept to protect me and yet left me with no way to protect myself.

We have divorced ourselves from FDR’s idea that fear is the only thing we need to fear, and we are constantly being encouraged to be afraid, warned of potential dangers – some of which we are helpless to avoid.

Perhaps this harkens back to the air raid drills I underwent as a kid, when nu ns at my school shouted for me to duck under my desk, when we all knew the desk couldn’t save us if someone dropped a nuclear bomb, and the least anybody owed us was to let me see the flash before it was all over.

The fact is the government doesn’t protect me – at least not from terrorists or bombs – but it makes a good show of saying it does, doing as much to make me scared to look around me as the terrorists or the soviets would.

Maybe we do need someone to tell us to look down at our own feet when we walk, to remind us that there is a real world that we should be aware of in order to protect ourselves, but I’m pretty sure the people who warn of us everything else, aren’t the people I trust to look out for my interests. I need to look out for my own, play in a playground that isn’t made too safe for me to ever injure myself, to walk on a sidewalk which the local mobster is punished for not keeping clear, to look up when the bomb drops so at least I get to see the beauty of its flash.


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