An All American Story

October 30, 2009

October 24th 2009 Richmond California

A truly All-American story.

City Lines: Just imaginary lines drawn to make people feel better about themselves by ignoring the plight of others and sell newspapers and real estate.

I read the headlines, all pointed to Richmond as the real criminal. None pointed out that the suspects were from other parts of the Bay Area. How about “Pinole and San Pablo teens rape helpless Richmond girl”. This might have been more accurate but was not published. Or more accurately a headline of “Young teenage girl raped at her Homecoming dance”.

In more homogeneous countries stories of crime are not presented as problems of just a few that live close but a concern for all. The Chinese, the Germans, the Japanese, even the Cubans.

What sold this story was “Richmond”. Plucked from the news cycle to make us assume this was the only crime of that day.  Or that this was the the most important crime law officials needed our help solving thus worthy of such publicity. It was neither. But what we do know is that the above headline gave us some sort of emotional response.

Whether it was “shame” or “disgust” or “pity” or “anger” or even “glee”, it wasn’t the first time we felt that way. We need something to keep us feeling the way we need and this was the medicine of the day.

These stories are propped up because they reinforce not change our existing feelings. So why the labels of “city”? Because this is what sells. This is what makes us feel better or worse. But it also causes apathy. Assigning a city label only matters so that we can geographically ignore the problems of others. Sometimes the boundaries are within blocks of our imaginary safe existence. Think Palo Alto v. East Palo Alto or Watts and Hancock Park.

Richmond is a beautiful proud diverse city of  thousands of hard working patriotic Americans. But there is no need to charge or defend any imaginary lines drawn called towns, cities, counties, or states because all are just a reflection of our society and culture as a whole whether we acknowledge it or not.

Other crimes of that week received little or no attention. The two “Salinas” teens charged with a double murder or the elderly “Concord” man nearly beaten to death were just ignored. Maybe because these stories hit a little too close to home.

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