No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Monday, February 4, 2008

teach your children well

We got a new road here in the neighborhood. It's a nice little bypass that enables us to avoid school zones and traffic and shave about 15 minutes off of the morning commute. The road was delayed in opening, apparently due to a once nearly extinct purple coneflower that only grows in this little region of the state. But all was saved and provisions were made to preserve the poor little purple flower. Harmony was achieved.
Ours is a rapidly growing neighborhood, with more and more foreclosed homes going up for auction than you can shake an " AUCTION" sign at. We have watched sadly for the past two years as home after home has received that ominous sign in the front yard, telling all the world, or all of La Vergne rather, what fate befell that homeowner. Last summer we counted 18+ homes for sale on one street alone.
Our once quiet and cozy neighborhood has changed. We started noticing that the kids that were hanging out on the side of the road were not just kids; "just kids" don't typically show gang signs when cars pass, do they? Graffiti started to appear here and there. The old familiar sound of police sirens ebbed back into my life. It wasn't such a difficult thing for me to acclimate to, I lived the several years prior to my life with Macey in South Nashville. Even lived in Woodbine for a short period. I know all about the sound of sirens all day and all night. Macey didn't sleep at all the first time she stayed over at my apartment, she jumped up startled and said " What's that??!" I sleepily raised my head, listened, nodded and said, " Oh, nothing, just the police helicopter, you'll see a spotlight in a minute, they go over every night. Go back to sleep."
That's why, when I moved into the suburbs, into a home - into a neighborhood where we knew the neighbors and they knew us, I thought we were safe. I felt I had stepped out of the crime ridden area that had engulfed South Nashville.
Last summer our house along with several others in the neighborhood and even someone's car got spray painted by some punk ass teenage pricks. It wasn't gang related, just bored little pricks with a can of spray paint and too much time on their hands. Unfortunately it meant that in the middle of the 108 degree summer days, Macey and I were out back painting the back side of our house to cover up the vulgar racial slurs that the little pricks thought funny to post there.
Last week I heard a report on the news that there was gang graffiti sprayed on some houses in our neighborhood. Now that's scary. And just awful. And then Saturday as Macey, Sunny-dog and I rode up to the store to pick up some stuff to make Super Bowl snacks we decided to take the new road and there... on the brand new road that just opened up 3 weeks ago, gang tags! Sprayed on the bridge overpassing the delicate little purple-cornflower wetlands.
My neighborhood is steadily declining. Although we are in the fastest growing neighborhood in Tennessee and some speculate the Southeast region, there are more foreclosed homes now than new homes, from what I can tell. Are the foreclosures fueling the gang activity? Is the gang member influx driving the high foreclosure rate? (gang members don't make reliable mortgage payers, I wouldn't imagine.) Is it a chicken or the egg situation? Or can we look at it more closely? Our friend who works at the Sheriff's Department, upon finding out we lived in La Vergne, said immediately to us, " You DO have a gun in your house don't you?" She went on to tell us how FEMA was, in her opinion responsible for the decline of the area. She said that they placed over 10,000 Katrina evacuees in our neighborhood. When FEMA money ran out, they couldn't keep up the mortgage and subsequently became one of the many, many homes we see with the sad little AUCTION! sign in the front yard. I don't blame it all on FEMA. Some personal accountability comes into play here too. One has to take the new home given them and find employment to sustain that home. Of course this economy has been a tough one to find and sustain gainful employment in, I agree. There are many factors, it seems driving the problems that I see in my neighborhood. The undeniable systemic failure to appropriately handle the aftermath of Katrina's devastation was tragic, but is not the only contributory factor here.
I think that the gangs are a sign of the times and that they would be here regardless of Katrina evacuees being placed here. I think that they got pushed out of South Nashville and made their way here. I think that the import of Katrina victims fuels the gang problem, sure. If you take a duck out of the pond and place him in a lake, he's still a duck. But I think that the Bush-economy, the predatory lenders who kicked these people while they were already way, way down, unruly, undisciplined, misguided and undereducated children, and absent parents play a bigger role in this problem. Until we take personal accountability for our own well being, for our children, for our communities... we will continue to see the writing on the walls and fences, and bridges...

3 cookies cracked:

Jay said...

This is happening all over the country. New subdivisions that sprang up over the last few years are now littered with empty homes that people simply had to abandon after the real estate bubble burst. When that happens, the property values plummet and then a whole new group of people start to move in.

No More Empty Fortune Cookies said...

true, sad and true. But a busted housing market is no excuse for gangs tagging houses and bridges in my middle class suburban neighborhood. It just shouldn't happen, not here, not anywhere. It still comes down to a matter of someone's parents didn't teach them proper respect and didn't give them the necessary tools to adapt to an ever changing world.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

WOW! Scary and upsetting.

YAY for the saving of the coneflowers though! YAHOO!

I worked near a gang area and walked through there during lunch and was threatened several times, but I kept walking anyway. They said, don't walk through here if you value your life. I do. But I did.

And lived, thank goodness, to tell about it.

But they did vandalize houses and lots of other stuff.