Boarding the House

August 21, 2007

While HBM is off cavorting in an RV with Clark and Ellen Griswold, I was invited to blog sit. I think she’s hoping one of her squatters will pitch in to finish off that bathroom. Although I am usually her helpful friend with the jazz hands and the chocolate, renovations aren’t really my shtick. I’d rather hang with the old pirate across the street.

In fact, I’m thinking of inviting him over to my ‘hood to mess with the neighbours.

I could have used a colourful pirate last night when my door bell rang. The sound of that sing-songy chime usually means someone is selling something or asking for a donation, and I am wholly incapable of saying no. I have been known to dive for cover to the floor and pretend no one is home. But if I open the door, I am a goner.

Last night was a little different.

On my front steps, was a well-coiffed man in his 30′s with better eyebrows than I could ever aspire to. He stood there demure and friendly, in his carefully pressed shirt and argyle vest (yes vest), and introduced himself as a fellow resident of our street.

We live in a very gentrified, trendy, smallish neighbourhood in the center of the city.

The perimeter is surrounded by an eclectic and culturally diverse mix of restaurants and neighbours. We also border the city’s largest subsidized housing complex and live along side daily reminders of the poverty, homelessness and significant urban challenges that Toronto faces. At the very end of our street, where our pristine ‘hood ends and the city begins, sit two boarding houses screaming for a coat of paint. They are always full, sometimes noisy, and often spill onto the porch and out to the sidewalk. In a city with a serious lack of affordable housing, it is a much needed option for those who stay there.

My visitor lives at that end of our street and nearish the boarding houses. He is not a fan. He is so not a fan that he’s been talking to city councilors about getting the rooming houses’ license revoked. He’s now going door-to-door and charming the neighbours into signing a petition to support his quest. And he’s done well. There were pages and pages of willing names.

But I am not always as easy as I look. Heh.

I wanted to understand why he wanted to shut down the houses. I mean, I knew why. I just needed to hear him say it. Would he really tell me it was to preserve his property value? He was quick to point out that he “wasn’t exactly against rooming houses per se”. He just didn’t like these particular ones because they were full of “crack dealers” and “prostitutes”. I was enjoying his verbal waltz and wanted to see where he’d take it so I probed further. Did he want to get the rooming houses closed down or just the resident profile “cleaned up”? Well, of course, he simply wanted “what was best for the community”.

Whose community? His community or the community of people who called this boarding house their home?

When I told him I worked in a social services organization and was sensitive to the challenges that those residents faced, he changed his tune. His waltz effortlessly transformed to a smooth tango. He offered stories of frightening interactions. He asked if I was a mother. He asked if I owned my home or rented. And, sure, I’ll concede as a home owner and as a mother, it would be in my best interest to have this boarding house boarded up.

But what about the other sides of who I am? Do they take a back seat? Should they take a back seat in favour of protecting my child from “crack dealers” and “prostitutes”? Because my prolific visitor was right. That is the vocational demographic of the address in question.

Each person in that house has a story that led them there. Each one has a right to that roof regardless of their “crack dealer” or “prostitute” label. Keeping “them” out of sight may make life tidier, but is it something I should sign up for?

He chose his words carefully and finished off with a grand cha-cha-cha before offering me his clipboard to sign the petition. His clipboard filled with names of all my neighbours who cared about their children and who understood the importance of property value. Their names all neatly autographed in support of our community.

I stood there with his pen and looked him softly in the eye. And I wondered, what would you do, lovely internets? Seriously. What would you have done? As a parent, are we obliged to scrub clean every inch of our child’s environment regardless of who else it affects?

———————

When she is not squatting at Her Bad Mother’s ‘hood, Sandra messes with the neighbours at her own blog. She also joins HBM at BlogHers Act Canada, where yesterday we got nekkid to announce the results of the enviro-vote. Check it out.

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    { 44 comments }

    motherbumper August 21, 2007 at 7:37 am

    My gut reaction would have been to gently torture the vest-guy over the why for as long as possible. I find when I can force a person to verbalize their opinion, they realize that there is more to it than just “cleaning” up the neighbourhood. There are people involved, living breathing people who will be force into worse situations if centrally located affordable roofs disappear because they don’t “fit” into the rejuvenated neighbourhoods. I’m scared for what is happening downtown and I hear the rumblings up here north of the downtown. People are seeing more and more financially/situationally challenged folks coming up here to find shelter (usually outside) since there is nothing downtown. Which means it’s only a matter of time before the locals start the petitions. Where do the people who can afford housing, think the city folks who need affordable housing are going to go? Seriously, where are they going to go?

    Sorry to hijack, this topic weighs on my mind often since I have relatives that falls into “that” category. Thought provoking post Sandra, very thought provoking.

    rachel August 21, 2007 at 7:48 am

    I’m glad you engaged him. And I hope you didn’t sign. I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but these things are always easier on teh internets than in person.
    Thoughtful post to start my morning. Thank you.

    Serendipity, baby! August 21, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Ah NIMBY at its finest. I wouldn’t have signed, largely because in my job (crim lawyer) I see the prostitutes and crack heads and hear the stories of what led to their current situation, and figure “there but before the grace of God go I.” It’s lots easier to dismiss someone when you can think they are fundamentally different from you – but in reality prostitutes and crack heads are people too, and had my life as a kid been like many of theirs, there’s no telling where I’d be right now.

    madamspud169 August 21, 2007 at 8:15 am

    I’d love to think I would not sign, many of those in the boarding houses & yes even the ex addicts & “working women” need somewhere to live but I also would prefer them to live far away from me & my son.
    I guess that makes me a hypocrite but I know I shouldn’t sign but then again as a mom isn’t my raison d’etre to protect my son & keep him away from unsavoury lifestyles?

    Assertagirl August 21, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Having lived in Toronto I think I know the exact neighbourhood you are talking about. Since I don’t have any children, it’s probably easier for me to say HELL NO I would not have signed that petition.

    If I did have kids I’d want them to see other sides of society and also come to appreciate what we have.

    It’s a tough question, though, and much easier to discuss hypothetically than realistically.

    mrsmogul August 21, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I haven’t been to toronto since I was 11. My uncle lives outside of there though. I wouldn’t sign

    Hetha August 21, 2007 at 9:17 am

    It would be so nice if petition boy and those who signed were putting their energy into solving this issue of creating more affordable housing in more locations, rather than just attempting to further displace the people who need the most assistance.

    Great post!

    kgirl August 21, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Unless he inherited the house from his grandparents, he knew what the demographics were where he was moving. I bet at one point the intermingling of urban/gentrified space was even part of the ‘charm’ of the area to him.

    How does he think the residents of the boarding house feel, seeing mr. dandy walk up and down their street with more in his pocket than they’ll ever have?

    I’m all for ‘safer’ neighbourhoods, I just hate it when people think that just because Starbucks has moved in, that the (less desirable) people who have been in the area for a lot longer should leave.

    verybadcat August 21, 2007 at 9:47 am

    While I have mixed feeling about the success of subsidized housing and tend to see it as political slavery, I don’t think I would have signed.

    The subsidized housing, without an incredible amount of vocational support, doesn’t solve the problem. Now you have people who are dependent forever, and must vote a certain way to keep a roof over their head. I wish that we actually taught these people to fish instead of giving them fish- where the end result was a healthy, successful independent citizen.

    Regardless of that, civil societies have an obligation to care for those who cannot (or will not?) care for themselves. So, if not in your backyard, then where? Out on the streets? Oh, that is so much better.

    Frankly, unless there is a lot of violence in the neighborhood, I don’t see the harm in “unsavory”. When the kids are old enough to understand what crack dealers and prostitutes are, it’s a great opportunity to reinforce the importance of good decision-making, and compassion.

    If vesty boy didn’t want to live near the projects, why did he buy downtown? There is a place for the NIMBY folks, and it’s in the suburbs.

    metro mama August 21, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Good for you for making him stop and think for a minute.

    As you know, my neighbourhood is being gentrified too. One of the things I like about my neighbourhood is that the “new” people, for the most part, try to find ways to live with the folks who were here first instead of trying to drive them away.

    Kaleigh August 21, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I so agree with kgirl’s comment. Two years ago, my husband and I decided to move our family across town to a brand-new development in the heart of a pretty scary neighborhood. It was built on the land that once housed one of the worst housing projects in the country. We knew what we were doing. We knew it might be dangerous. We also knew that we were “invading” someone else’s neighborhood. We also knew that it was the right choice for our family.

    If this guy bought his house, he knew, too. I get frustrated with my neighbors who act like they had no idea what our neighborhood would be like. I expected some crackheads and pimps. I expected the longtime residents to regard my family with distrust. But I also expected to make a difference, though likely a tiny one, in our city. I expected to get to know the folks, show them that positive race and economic relations can happen.

    And it was the best decision we ever made.

    NotSoSage August 21, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I love that you brought this up.

    A little story. We live in a neighbourhood that is slowly becoming gentrified but still, when mentioned, is accompanied by discussions of drugs and prostitution. And for good reason.

    When we were deciding whether or not to buy our home, we crossed the street to a park bench and next to us on the bench were three people whose lives had led them down a very different path than mine. Joe said to me, “It’s funny, I was thinking to myself, ‘Do I really want to raise a child in this kind of an environment?’ And then I thought, ‘Yes.’ I do. I want her to recognise that her experience does not reflect that of everyone else’s…I don’t want her to grow up with blinders on.” I had felt exactly the same way.

    I don’t necessarily think that those neighbourhoods are any less safe for those who aren’t involved in the activity, especially when you recognise it and take precautions, than the neighbourhoods where the average income is higher.

    Um…so, long story short, no, I would not have signed Sir Tango’s petition. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

    NotSoSage August 21, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Speaking of hijacking, MB, I just did. But I wanted to add that the migration you’re talking about IS happening, and the problem is that the services are largely located downtown. Which means that people are moving further and further away from the services being offered. It’s a recipe for disaster, really.

    Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 10:20 am

    I lived in a house in downtown Toronto 30 years ago when the whole area was like that. I loved it since I had always lived in neighbourhoods where everyone was alike (in those little boxes) and we all thought just the same.
    I live in France now and we had the same issue with some ‘travellers’ parked in the area who were doing no harm to anyone but were different. I guess that’s what it’s all about.
    I don’t think that children are necessarily in danger from the people we think are dangerous – it’s the little (wo)men who are behind the petitions that are dangerous.

    Sandra August 21, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Sage, that is EXACTLY why we chose our neighbourhood. For that reason and for the diversity that we celebrate. I used to live in a very WASPy pocket of town and it didn’t feel like the way I wanted to raise my son.

    And if you haven’t guessed it, I didn’t sign the petition. And I did doll out a good soap boxy rant as I handed it back to Mr. Tango.

    Loving the discussion here!

    Kyla August 21, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Nope, for all the reason so eloquently stated above.

    nomotherearth August 21, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Goody for you for not signing!

    If I truly thought that these people were a danger, I would be more likely to alert the police. I wouldn’t try to wipe out the building in general. I don’t, think that someone is a danger simply because they are poor or a “prostitute”. They are people. Part of the reason I want to live in Toronto proper, instead of suburbia, is because of the diversity of people.

    I live a WASPy pocket of TO because I love the house and the accessibility, and the people I’ve met since moving there. The WASPishness is the one thing that irks me, and would be the one thing that would prompt me to move. (We can’t financially do this right now, though)

    Jenifer August 21, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Oh yes, you are right there are no prostitutes or drug dealers in suburbia! Ha.

    Maybe he wants to move to Brampton where on a lovely residential street my friend lives on there have been three “grow” houses in the last couple of years.

    How about increasing services? How about better support? I am not sure where this man thinks these people could possibly go without support.

    Right. This is all about him not helping the neighbourhood and even if his concerns are valid his tactics are not.

    Mimi August 21, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Argh. I don’t think I would have signed. I live in a neighbourhood like you describe — the edge of genteel, but with a triplex (low rental) as my next door neighbour, sometimes with visiting squad cars and ambulances!

    From a social stability point of view, it has been demonstrated amply that warehousing all the poor and downtrodden together just stigmatizes and reinforces existing social problems. New social strategy focuses on ‘mixed market’ developments: market rent apartments, owned-property, and subsidized units all in the same neighbourhood. So your dandy is promoting a 60s era NIMBY mindset that is likely just headed towards making the socially disadvantaged even more entrenched in their poverty, and more desperate in their behaviours.

    Grr.

    BOSSY August 21, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Bossy thinks this question deserves her undivided sober attention. Good luck with that.

    my minivan is faster than yours August 21, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Maybe I’d sign it then move so HE wouldn’t be my neighbor anymore :)

    kittenpie August 21, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    That old charmer, NIMBYism… Oh no, we’re all sympathetic, but maybe if they could just move elsewhere to do what they need to do? Ugh. To state what they really want might be ugly, but at least it would be honest.

    Me, I figure if you really don’t want to share your neighbourhood with people of a different stripe, go looking for “your kind” of neighbourhood. Bet those rooming houses were there first. Your neighb has been home to lots of them for a long time. And as for the kids? Guess what? They grow up smart enough to know who to talk to. I grew up in the east end when it was still working class, and there were some people you just smiled at and kept on walking. I also think it doesn’t hurt people to see others who live with a different story and a different circumstance. It helps grow understanding and empathy, in the end.

    reba August 21, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I’m sure you all will be “celebrating diversity” until something bad happens to one of your kids, or a crack head breaks into your house.

    Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I’m withe Reba. You people are nuts.

    I want drug dealers and hookers away from my children. Ideally, I want them in jail.

    Of COURSE I would have signed it.

    Cranston Snord

    Diane August 21, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Yeah, that’s a tough one. I live in a nice little suburban area that is slowly deteriorating. In fact, local gang members now like to hang out at a basket ball hoop in a nearby parking lot. Would I just sweep everybody up and move them out? Certainly not. If it’s that uncomfortable, we’ll leave. Maybe this is what Mr. Argyle needs to do.

    MplsChica August 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Usually a lurker, but this is such interesting, thoughtful dialogue, thought I’d chime in. I really do admire the thoughtfulness of those who are saying they would not have signed and are ripping on the guy with the petition. I understand your point of view. I live downtown in a large-ish Midwestern city and I am very familiar with all that’s been described here. I know that feeling of wanting to challenge oneself to be more accpeting, to understand and live alongside people of all stripes. And I *do* like that about my neighborhood, for the most part.

    However. The point about how someone’s perception may change based on an incident (drug crime, etc.) is a good one and really should not be brushed off so quickly. Our experiences change us, and we can’t fault people for that. While I may have compassion for someone who falls into an “unsavory” category because they are a family member or I work with people with similar challenges, my neighbor may feel just the opposite based on a bad experience they’ve had. It goes both ways. And my position is no more “noble” than my neighbors.

    Does everyone need to whip out a petition to get the change they want? Nope. Could this guy move? Yep. But none of that means he doesnt have a point in what he’s trying to do. What I’m trying to say is he’s not so evil, and so far responses here really seem to be vilifying him.

    That said, again, I do think all responses have been very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    Piscesmama + One August 21, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Hi, I got your blog off Mothergoosemouse, and I thought it was great. I live in a place that lacks affordable housing, and I write a blog about it as well.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I added you to my page :)

    -Hanna

    Andrea August 21, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    I don’t know what I would have done in that position. It’s not something that I would hope I could decide to pin my name to in just the few minutes it took Mr. Tango to “explain” to me what he was doing and why. My instinct reading this is to say that I wouldn’t have signed, but I don’t know that I could say that and still be honest with myself.

    Sure, I want my child(ren) to grow up and see that not everyone has the benefit of a safe and secure upbringing or that not everyone lives happily ever after. But I think I could find a way to bring that point home to them through volunteerism and charity work rather than residing in real close proximity to something that could potentially endanger them.

    From the sound of your description of the neighborhood, it definitely sounds as though it’s a fairly safe neighborhood, so maybe safety isn’t as big a concern as it once might have been. But don’t the people hard on their luck deserve a safe neighborhood, too?

    I’m just trying to be honest, both with myself and with you. It doesn’t sit well with me to sign something intended to oust people who need all the help they can get from their home simply for property values or because Mr. Tango, compelling argument or not, is clearly disdaining something designed to help the down and out; but on the other hand, my kid(s)’ safety is a giant concern to me.

    I simply don’t know.

    kesiarhea@gmail.com August 21, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    I think raising your children in a bubble would be incredibly bad for them. I think that allowing them to see where bad decisions can lead at an early age can help them later in life. My parents didn’t shield me from the uh..bad people they knew. They would never have left me unattended, but they didn’t say “OH! JOHNNY IS COMING! HIDE THE BABY!” and having seen what these peoples’ lives have come to as I’ve grown up has been a learning experience in and of itself.
    So no, I wouldn’t have signed. Some people think that just because it doesn’t matter to THEM, it doesn’t matter to anyone–and those people infuriate me. There’s more to life than property value.

    Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    I must be missing something here – WHEN did crack dealers become victims of society? These are people who have made a choice to ruin others lives with their poison. I will do whatever I have to to protect my children from their vile drugs and poor judgement – call me a suburban snob or whatever you’d like, but I’m not going to knowingly place my children in harms way just so I can feel better about my contribution to “diversity”. Should I also move next door to a sex offender, since THEY have to live somewhere too?

    the mad momma August 21, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    I am sure everyone is a victim of their circumstances – but as a parent, my first duty is to protect my children. sure, you have the choice to move to a better neighbourhood, but affordability needs to be looked into too…

    so yes, I would sign, after taking argyle’s trip for a bit ;)

    and particularly if its a boarding house, well then they can shift up further. drugs are a real problem. i dont want it to be easier for my child to buy crack. really

    Sandra August 21, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    MplsChica, I really respect your balanced approach to this issue. Yes, there is more than one side. And, Yes, challenging our own perceptions and taking into account the rights of *everyone* in a neighbourhood is also valid.

    Living in an urban center where one is closer to boarding houses like the ones I described, does not automatically translate into safety issues. In fact, we feel very *safe*. I have lived uptown, grew up in a rural village and also spent 2 years in the burbs – and each have their own challenges. Like some of the commenters pointed out above, there are grow houses in the suburbs and other threats like child predators everywhere. Saying that a drug dealer/user or a prostitute will harm my child is not automatically true. Especially if one is a careful parent.

    And I thought I’d offer one point of clarification about my comment using the term “diversity”. I actually meant it in the very literal sense of the word. I like my neighbourhood for the reasons Sage identified, but *also* because it is more culturally/ethnically diverse than many communities in the city. Sorry for not being more explicit/clear on my intention with that term. And, yes, we do celebrate that. My son was the only non-white child (he’s mixed heritage) in his preschool before we moved. I was not okay with that.

    Thanks for this great discussion from everyone! I am loving it.

    Anonymous August 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    This has been an interesting discussion. Cities, neighbourhoods, any public space, really, do not have impenetrable boundaries safeguarding the “good” and shutting out the “bad.” Sure, it can be easily realized that Forest Hill, Rosedale, would probably exude a privileged, pristine environment, and a different security altogether different than that experienced in Regent Park, Moss Park, large areas of the Jane-Finch corridor.

    But, outside of these common understandings, the complexities of this issue become even more intricate when other factors as gender, family, economics, race, come into the mix. Ask a woman walking alone at night, for instance, how she would feel in any one of those aforementioned communities; even walking alone in a fairly upper middle class, diverse, downtown community at a late night hour. She may feel more protected in some areas over others. But there is no guarantee, as with much else in life, that she may come to harm in the downtrodden, sadder part of the city, and walk away unscathed, and unharmed in the beautiful, wealthy neighbourhood. Safety is not a common, fixed experience. Without one’s knowledge, even in our “safe” enclaves, there may be prostitutes living around the corner, a released convict several streets down, a drug addict, or several inhabiting a home a few blocks away.

    There is that innate, primeval, real need and desire to protect those we love, but sadly, we cannot at all times, and in all situations. Every day, there is that risk of harm, and hurt, at workplaces, at schools, in playgrounds, in the streets, and sadly, unknowingly, even within the sanctity of the home.

    Sandra August 21, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Well said anonymous. Well said.

    crazymumma August 21, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    shit

    I honestly do not know.

    It would depend entirely on the experiences I had had with the residents of the boarding house.

    I am people bound, and sensitive to the paths that lead us to where we arrive.

    what an amazingly provocative question.

    gingajoy August 21, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    well, holy moly. now you put it *that* way. i guess it depends on whether i actually felt put upon by those “undesirables” or not. if he rubbed my up the wrong way, then no. nah.

    definitely a good question, Sandra. gots me thinking as i scour the area we are moving to for nice middle class, bourgy areas where my son will have a good school.

    Pgoodness August 22, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Living in relatively quiet suburbia, I can’t really give you an educated, personal opinion. BUT, first instinct would be not to sign and instead, see if Mr. Vest would like to start some sort volunteer group to paint the places and rather than kick the people out, maybe try to HELP those people out. He’s taking the easy way out – but getting rid of the boarding house doesn’t get rid of the “problem”.
    None of this is to say I want my kids exposed to crack dealers, but hell, who knows what the people in my neighborhood are really like! They may be already! Just saying, just because someone lives in a boarding house, doesn’t mean they’re a crack dealer. Just because someone lives in an expensive home doesn’t mean they aren’t.
    (I hope that made sense, my dog is completely distracting me by being an idiot!)

    Lisa b August 22, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Oh I am late to this party.
    Since Jen has so nicely described my hometown I guess it is clear why I know it is not just the downtown that has problems.
    It is a tough call. We want our kids to be safe but there is no guarantee of that anywhere we live.
    great post Sandra.

    winslow1204 August 22, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I love all the flowers in front of the houses/house??!!

    Redneck Mommy August 22, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Well, I can say I wouldn’t sign. I can say this because I lived in an area that had a boarding house, a half way house and far too many crack houses to count.

    I knew this when we moved there. Wasn’t ideal by any stretch. But in the end, it worked for us. The money we saved by living there allowed us to buy our own piece of heaven out in the sticks.

    Where my neighbours run a grow-op and deal out of their house.

    Even rural areas have crack houses.

    It’s a complicated matter, not as simple as some of the commenters have implied. Bad things happen in good neighbourhoods too, regardless of who your neighbours are.

    I just want to squeeze ya for taking this subject on. You’re a good egg. With a nice rack.

    Wink, wink.

    smooches.

    mamatulip August 22, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I read this early yesterday morning and have been thinking about it ever since. My gut reaction was to say I wouldn’t sign it, and I don’t think I would…but, like Crazymumma, I can’t say for sure because I have never lived in an area like that with a family. I did when I was in college, but that’s completely different.

    Excellent post, Sandra. The discussion you provoked was really interesting.

    Pattie August 22, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Sandra,
    I don’t know what I would do. I would like to say “yeah, I wouldn’t sign that”…but I don’t know. I understand the plight of those less fortunate. I worked in inner city hospitals, I was a home care nurse and went into very tough neighborhoods for years, and I worked with the homeless for a year providing medical care from a van at night. We would roam the streets seeking out the residents with drug and alcohol problems, and mental illness, and provide them with food, supplies, etc. And believe me, I sympathized with them. despite my experiences, (or maybe in spite of what I witnessed) I am not sure I would not sign. I just don’t know….

    Jennifer August 23, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    This is a tough one…be true to your liberal persona or protect your cubs? Can you do both? We live in the heart of suburbia–living in the heart of our city is way out of our price range–but have sent our daughter to a magnet school right smack in the middle of the city. It’s more diverse–the real world a friend tells me. A housing development is one block away and many of the kids live there. We have never had an “incident” at the school. But it has a reputation (don’t we all?) for problems. Someone asked me if it was one of those schools where they don’t allow backpacks for fear of weapons, just because of the housing project. No, it’s not, but I told her yes it is, so beware!

    So to answer the question in the most circuitous manner possible, no I would not have signed the petition. And I would have inwardly mocked his vest.

    Cynthia Samuels August 24, 2007 at 8:29 am

    I raised my kids on the Upper West side of Manhattan in the 80s, with welfare hotels all around us and homeless guys sleeping on the grates up and down Broadway. I thought then it was good for them to understand that there we were many people far less fortunate than they and that they couldn’t help it. They did indeed learn that, but they also spent more time scared than I understood until they were old enough to explain it to me. When my older son when to college in the country he said to me “mom, the only thing that can mug me here is a deer.” He had really felt the anxiety of his surroundings – really.
    I’m as ambivalent now as I was when I heard it. I believe that no one should grow up in a glass bell, that the only way to be a citizen of the world is to live in it. BUT I also don’t think our kids should come second to our ideology.
    So – I don’t have an answer. I would not have signed the petition but I also think that behind all his phony intolerance there’s a point that might be valid.
    If life were simple though we wouldn’t have blogs to read, would we?

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