Thursday, November 4, 2010

Suburban Paranoia

My life is, for better or for worse, pretty stock standard suburban.  I live in a modest rambler.  I have two kids and a dog and a minivan.  My weekday life involves a daily pattern of activities that tend to include errands and laundry...and the requisite "activities."  Monday is School of Rock.  Tuesday is Swimming.  Wednesday is Hebrew School.  Thursday is Swimming Again.  Friday we catch our breath on Shabbas. 

Though I'm a suburban denizen, there's one aspect of suburbia I try not to internalize.  It's the...well...paranoia.  Suburbia is an easily frightened place.

When I'm doing the activity-shuttle thing, I sit and listen to the parents around me, who've been thrown together at semi-random based on the schedules they've inflicted on their children and themselves.  As I listen, I hear that there are schedules out there that make mine look like a cakewalk.  Families have color coded charts that lay out the variety of different activities.  Kids leave school, and cram in their homework on the way to karate, which is followed by guitar lessons, after which they snarf down fast food on the way to tutoring.

That endless churning takes a toll on our ability to develop connections where we live...because even though we have a home, we don't really live there.  We live scurrying around in our crossovers.  For some reason, that reminds me of a scripture.  Then again, most things do. 

Earlier this week, I listened to a Mom and a Dad talking about Halloween.  They were lamenting how sad and necessary it was that their kids needed to be driven to go trick or treating at the mall this year.  "It's just so dangerous out there now," said the Mom.  "So many crazy people."  The Dad nodded.  "It's just not safe out there any more.  Not like when we were kids." So more and more kids don't go door to door with their parents.  You don't get to know your neighbors. Communities don't bond and connect, because the world is scaaaary.

This is, of course, materially false.  Statistically, crime rates are lower than they were when I was a kid back in the 1980s and 1970s.  But stressed out, over-scheduled, struggling American parents don't have the focus to realize this.  As they fret about every little minute detail of their kid's lives, they hear from their attitude of fear.  They don't know their neighbors, because they are too busy working and juggling schedules and shimmering with stress.  What little information filters in from our profit-driven media is "Fear! Terror all around! More after these messages!" 

The Big-Parking-Lot churches they attend affirm this fear, filling the world outside of their sprawling campuses with a motley cast of unbelievers and the dangerously unsaved.  Get out into the community?  Work with others?  No chance.  "Keep your kids safe in the hermetically sealed programming of our sprawling Jesus Campus!  Fear!  Terror all around!  Make sure to tithe!"

It's a strange, dark, and fearful place we find ourselves.