Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

As I sat in my back yard chair a few days ago, I started thinking about how fences have impacted our lives. We have a tall privacy fence made of wood and the neighbors have the same kind of fence. We can’t see each other’s yards, but we can see the rooftops. When I was a kid it wasn’t like that.

When I was a kid we lived in military housing most of our lives but even in the civilian houses we went past on the way to school we saw many houses without fences. There were friends we visited, and the kids would go outside and play in the yard while the parents were talking and usually preparing food. I don’t remember fences back then.

I remember when I was a kid we’d play in someone’s back yard, then get tired of their toys and all go to the next kid in our group’s back yard and play with their toys, and move from yard to yard playing with whatever the kids in that house had until we grew bored with them. Or, we’d play a game of hide and seek and the whole immediate neighborhood was fair game, running to find a hiding place in the neighbor’s yard that was good enough to be the last one found but close enough to hear the “Allie, allie, in come free!” if we weren’t found. We could play tag running through five back yards, baseball across property lines; Army, or cowboys and Indians in seven yards, front and back. It was fun, a lot of exercise and made for good neighbors.

When someone’s children acted up, any parents would be allowed to reprimand them, or they’d do the worst thing possible: call our parents and tell them what we did wrong. Heaven forbid that was their choice because we knew that we’d get a spanking then!

We were taught back then that if something doesn’t belong to you that you can’t touch it without the owner’s permission. If you break something, apologize and make it right and to never steal. We were not taught that there is something called “economic inequality” that made it okay for us to steal. That was not something that anyone thought back then. When I watch the movies and television shows from back then (I am aging myself), I don’t see fences around the back yards. I see fences in the front yards sometimes, white picket fences trimmed with annuals or well-kept shrubs. Sometimes you see a farm show with a fence to keep the dog, chickens, or other farm animals in, but not often did you see a back yard with a fence.

Nowadays you can’t drive through anything but a deed restricted community and see open back yards, and even some deed restricted communities have fences; they’re just controlled by the property owner’s association (Home Owner’s Association, whichever). Those communities may have security gates at the entrances, private security guards roaming around in golf carts or regular vehicles and high prices for their HOA fees to pay for that security.

Fences are almost a must, a necessary accoutrement today because children (and some adults) were never taught the lessons of our childhood:

• If it’s not yours don’t touch it
• Thou shalt not steal
• Ask permission before playing with something
• Don’t trespass if you don’t have permission

Those things are no longer escaping parents’ mouths. Those things are not taught in public schools (or many private schools). Those things are not the acceptable norms of the left. Instead, excuses are made for those who have “less than” the next guy and theft is considered okay by some if the perpetrator has the excuse of _____________ (fill in the blank). It’s an astonishing change in what seems like a very short period.

Those who would break and enter, steal out of your yard after breaking a gate’s lock, or who want to do harm to those inside the house are no longer afraid of society’s norms nor their scorn. They want what they want and it’s by whatever means they deem necessary that will get them that and it’s okay if the excuse is available.

Society has made this possible by making excuses for the perpetrators and by giving parents the “My Child” complex, but only when in righteous indignation against anyone else verbally disciplining their child. What do I mean? When a child does wrong, and a neighbor does verbally discipline that child, the child goes home and whines about it to the parent. The parent will go to extreme efforts to make sure that the neighbor knows that verbally disciplining their kid is not an option and that it means war between the “adults” and it better not happen again or else! Meanwhile, the kid is off doing whatever he/she wants again because the parent doesn’t care what the kid is doing as long as that child is not in their parent’s hair.

Parents will visit their fourteen-year-old child in jail and ask the child why they did that, accepting whatever excuse the child gives (including “I didn’t do it. It wasn’t my fault. It was Jimmy (or Kate, or whoever)!” In the parent’s heart they know their child did it. They tell others up one side and down the next that the child is innocent, they borrow the money from friends and family and bail the kid out and make excuses for their bad behavior to one and all. In front of the judge the parent makes all kinds of promises, attends the four-hour parenting class while the kid does community service and then, since the boxes are checked, go back to kicking the kid outside so that the parent can get back to whatever the parent wants to do: besides parenting!

This is what the fences are for. They’re for the children who were never parented correctly. They’re for the children who were taught that whatever they want to do is okay as long as they have someone else to point to. They’re for the children who were taught that there is no right and no wrong; if it feels good, do it. They’re for the children who, because of the terrible parenting felt unloved and unwanted their whole lives and never learned to find fulfillment in what they can do for themselves, instead of what they can take from others – whether that taking be in government payments or theft and violence.

Fences are a form of self-protection. We protect the things we worked hard to earn the money to purchase. We protect our privacy and hope that those fences will keep out those who want to violate it. We protect our families and hope that fences will help prevent harm to them, whether through a child wandering into the road or through a perpetrator breaking into our homes and doing harm.

Fences are a sign of a failure of parenting and society. Parenting because with good parents, children do not do the things written about here. Society because we have been cowed into accepting the lie that there are those who have less and because of that less they have an excuse to do the things written about here. Instead of standing up to those spreading that lie we have chosen to not fight the lie and allowed it and its results to be woven into the fabric of our beings.

Fences are a sign of the division of society. With good fences we do not speak to our neighbors, thus do not know it. We do not recognize our neighbors thus we do not know who does and does not belong over there. Fences make us not care unless it is catastrophic and then we may offer to help a little. Instead of helping with the car repair if we have that knowledge, or the lawn care if our neighbor breaks a leg, or the cooking if our neighbor is down with the flu but needs to feed the kids, we stay behind our fences and consider that all is well with the world as long as our little fences make us okay. We can see the neighbors’ rooftops, but can we see the neighbor? Only if we are over six feet tall.

Fences make us delusional, isolated, insular, while making us feel safer (and, yes, sometimes they are effective in that). Fences divide us but protect us against certain dangers (unruly animals, etc.) but they also have their drawbacks. Fences allow us to swim in our pools without too many eyeballs on us, but they also prevent us from seeing the man next door having a heart attack in the back yard.

“Good fences make good neighbors”? In today’s world we feel we must have them to “keep the other guy honest” but do they accomplish that, or do they just keep the honest guys honest? Fences have been jumped by those who don’t think the rules apply to them so fences are not always effective.

Fences are kind of like guns. The law abiding don’t need them to stay out or to prevent them from stealing from or hurting their neighbor. As with guns, it’s those to whom the law means nothing that fences may help against. If the fence doesn’t work, the gun will.


© 2017 Linda McKinney All Rights Reserved