The Hovel of the Fearful

ATrigueiro
Apr 17, 2019 · 9 min read
Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

After 9/11, my country became ever more fearful. My nation decided it needed to give up liberty for safety even though on 9/11 not a single plane was stopped by the authorities. No plane was stopped by the military. No plane was stopped by the police. No plane was stopped by any government entity! The only plane that was stopped was stopped by the people. We surely seemed like the Home of the Brave on THAT DAY. However, after that day we started down the road to becoming the Hovel of the Fearful.

My nation was gripped by fear and a desire for vengeance after 9/11. My nation has lashed out at all things that scared it ever since. I am unsure why we are so afraid of an enemy that has no air force and no navy. We have continued to give up freedom in favor of being “protected” even though the alleged protectors failed on 9/11 to protect. The alleged protectors have failed to defeat any that we fear, though they pretend victory by giving the same enemy a different name. It is frustrating to watch my nation devolve in this way. To watch the Home of the Brave become the Hovel of the Fearful has been distressing.

Recently, this devolution was on full display in my neighborhood. I walked out in front of my house for the dog’s evening constitutional. My wife noticed someone in front of the house and as we walked out the gate, we could see it was a young woman who was in tears. My wife asked her what was wrong and she revealed that she had been dropped off by an Uber driver in the cul-de-sac. It did not seem like much of a problem. We live in a fairly nice neighborhood, so I felt like she was acting a bit overwrought. I learned a lot that night about the state of my neighborhood and perhaps my nation too.

My street is unusual in that part way up the street the odd numbers stop and then its all even number addresses on both sides of the street until the end. On the other side of the hill, the odd numbers for this street name are used. Though the two streets have the same name, they do not connect. It is strange and I have done a little research on to why this is. It appears to be related to the fact that a relative of the developer was living on this cul-de-sac. That was over fifty years ago and I won’t belabor you with my speculations on the matter.

In any case, since there is this strange numbering scheme, both Google and Apple maps seem to have problems with the odd street numbers. It is not uncommon for people to get lost and ask for directions due to this disconnect from the omnipresent, yet not quite omniscient, tech cartographers. Therefore as the young woman spoke to my wife, it became clear WHY the Uber driver had been confused and dropped her on the wrong side of the hill. However, as she related the story she became ever more upset,bawling and in near hysterics as she spoke.

I felt that it was an overreaction, but I listened further as my wife spoke to her and learned that her phone’s battery was almost out of juice. She was panicking, because she could not call another Uber. I immediately offered up my phone for her to use. She called her boyfriend and he scheduled an Uber to come pick her up. My wife and I stood with her and awaited her pickup, since she was still visibly upset.

We chatted with her to put her at ease. As it turned out, when she was dropped off, she almost immediately established that the house number she was looking for was not at the end of the cul-de-sac. She walked to the nearest house and knocked on the door. Nobody came to the door, but since it was night time, she could easily see into the house. She could see that someone was peeking out at her. She knocked a bit more frantically and then actually walked toward the window she saw someone looking out of it. The homeowner immediately got very upset and yelled at her to leave or she would call the police. Apparently, the homeowner became evermore strident as the young woman tried to get assistance, so she left the property upset and in tears.

It was then that my wife and I had come upon her in front of our house. It was the reason that she was SO shaken when we met her. She had been treated poorly and been threatened with the police. She was clearly afraid that the police would not take kindly to her “trespassing”, but I assured her it was no big deal. We in fact knew the woman that lived in the house. We also knew that she was rather old, odd and a bit reactionary, so we felt certain the call to the police was just an idle threat. The Uber eventually showed up and the young woman was on her way.

My wife and I then began our dog’s walk for the evening. We chatted about how fragile today’s generation seemed. We agreed that younger generations had become VERY dependent upon technology and were clearly afraid when it did not work or they lost access. We also wondered why our neighbor had been so afraid of a woman, who was barely five feet tall and probably only a few ounces over one hundred pounds. As we laughed about this, a police cruiser pulled up in front of our neighbor’s house.

The police do not come to our neighborhood that often and when they do it is often false alarms. In fact, only the previous week a neighbor had a birthday party for one of their children. They invited the children of their landscaper too. This had prompted a call to the police, because there were brown teenagers in our neighborhood. I was embarrassed by this and actually scolded my neighbors on the NextDoor app…which made me no friends of course.

In any case, here was a police car in our neighborhood again and we knew why. Apparently, our neighbor had in fact called the police on the young woman. I decided that I should tell the police what I knew. They were understanding and assured me they would tell my neighbor what had really happened. I warned them that she had a tendency toward hysteria, but she was just a little senile perhaps. My wife and I went on our way as they walked to the neighbor’s door.

It seemed like the incident was over, but it was not. The next morning, I was grooming my landscape when I heard the old woman’s housekeeper talking to my next door neighbor’s wife. I made myself scarce and kept my head down pulling weeds, not really wanting to be sucked into gossipy morning chatter. However, I was within earshot and what I heard was appalling. I overheard a story being spun about a gang that was fronted by a woman who was knocking on doors trying to get people to answer their door, so they could do a home invasion. It was quite a scary story about our dangerous world, but I knew it as completely false.

I felt I had no choice, but to enlighten my neighbor as well as the housekeeper that there was NO GANG. It truly was a young and fearful woman that had been lost and scared. A fearful woman that could find no assistance in our neighborhood until my wife spoke to her. I tried to shame the housekeeper for telling such stories, but there was no contrition. Even though I could tell that I had convinced them that I knew what had happened. After all, I had been out there on the street at the time, but there was no contrition. They just then continued to chat about other crimes and dangers they had heard about in the neighborhood.

I was sickened by the whole episode. Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles, I know what it is like to be afraid in your neighborhood. There were REAL things to be afraid of on those streets, especially at night. Here behind the Orange Curtain, I sometimes have to check myself for being TOO relaxed and unafraid, which is a welcome change from how I grew up. I really wonder about people making up things to be afraid of, since I know what REAL fear is and I don’t seek it out.

It seems that in the Hovel of the Fearful, one’s life is made more interesting by these “incidents”. Incidents where they bravely call 9-1–1 on a sad and lost young woman or on some innocent brown teenagers. Somehow summoning the authorities makes these people feel brave???? At least, that is how it seems. It is very strange. It is almost like watching CSI this and Law and Order as entertainment has warped them. This constant drumbeat of crime and fear turns these incidents into something that makes their lives more exciting? I am not sure.

In another example of this penchant for ginning up fear, I often read multiple posts about coyotes in my neighborhood on the Neighborhood Watch forums and apps, like Nextdoor. In my opinion, coyotes are mostly just trying to make it like any other wildlife. They are of course a danger to cats and small animals, but they are hardly something that adults should be afraid of. I regularly chase them when I see them, so that they are afraid of people and find my neighborhood unfriendly. I am not particularly afraid of them, but I do bring my cat in every night.

This desire for “excitement” leads people to constantly report seeing coyotes. This can pretty much take over and swamp any forums or apps like Nextdoor, where one is actually looking for notices of crimes and activity that might really be something to be worried about. Sometimes I will post things pushing back against the coyote hysteria, but I try to ignore it for the most part. Still, when I read someone posting that a PACK of coyotes was roaming the “neighborhood and looking hungry”, I had to comment.

I know enough about coyotes to know that they are not generally roaming the neighborhood in packs, but rather singly or perhaps in pairs. I asked what does a “hungry” coyote look like. The person followed up with more “stuff” that was infuriating. They claimed to have seen a small animal in the jaws of one of the coyotes and that they were yelping and tearing the bloody carcass apart as they ran down the street. It did not sound too credible to me and I said so.

I felt compelled to point out to the poster that just like yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater, the spreading of unfounded fear and panic was borderline illegal. I asked them to be certain about the things they are recounting in the forum. After all, falsehoods that spread fear and panic are no help to anyone and again could be considered “illegal” behavior.

I was shocked by what happened next. My posts about spreading unfounded fear and panic were deleted by the moderator. The hysterical posts about small animals being torn apart remained with no supporting documentation that this was occurring. I realized that by pushing back I had become persona non grata within the forum. It was all very frustrating for me. I am especially frustrated by this rampant fear that seems to be everywhere.

I do not know what to do. Everywhere I see fear rule the day in my country, in my state, in my city and in my neighborhood. Everyone seems to be afraid of their shadows. I especially worry about a generation that rarely, if ever, is actually on its own. I recall a time when getting a flat tire in the wrong neighborhood was a REAL problem. Now a simple call on the cell phone and the problem is quickly rectified. In an era, where EVERYONE has an electronic bodyguard, I would imagine that the streets would be safer and there would be much less need for so many police.

Instead in this era, the police are also more fearful. They are often shooting people because they are in fear for their lives from a cell phone. They are gripped by fear while wearing so much body armor that it would take a dead-eye shot in their Adam’s apple to actually be killed. Nonetheless, the heavily armored police officer of today seems to be in far more fear for their life than the officers of the 20th century who regularly were on patrol with a white T-shirt under their uniform instead of a Kevlar vest.

It makes me very sad to see my country, once the Home of the Brave, to have devolved into the Hovel of the Fearful. It does not bode well for the future, especially when it seems like there is a desire to make one’s life more interesting by FINDING THINGS TO BE AFRAID OF.

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