Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bringing Glass Into It Again

Hey, remember that broken window I had to deal with last winter?

It turns out that I was not the only person in my complex who had a window broken that day. A lot of other people also had windows broken in their condominium units -- and no one ever fessed up to doing it. The current theory was that it was just kids but even kids need to take responsibility for their actions -- especially when their actions affect others. And while one can argue that anyone who owns a condominium can well afford to replace a broken window every once in a while, that's not the point.

It's not like most people who live in my condominium complex get free window panes every time they ask for them. While the complex's maintenance people will do a lot of things for free, they generally balk at fixing broken window panes on the grounds that fixing such items is the responsibility of the condo owner. And while one can argue that most condo owners should be able to afford that, it should be noted that many people in my complex live on fixed incomes. Moreover, some people who own condos there sublet their units through Section 8 (i.e. the government pays their maintenance fee aka rent).

Even if this were not true, most condo owners don't put up with broken windows forever. Eventually if the police fails to locate the culprits who do such things and their windows keep getting broken, many of those who can afford to do so will move to a location where their windows are not as likely to be broken. Which mean the condominium complex will eventually be left to those residents who either won't or can't afford to move elsewhere.

Yes, it is tempting to dismiss this issue as the type of minor thing that only uptight senior citizens worry about but then again, this is how neighborhoods start going bad. Not because a lot of poor people move in but because a lot of people who don't really care about their neighbors start breaking stuff and making life hell for everyone else who lives around them, eventually forcing the more respectable residents to move and ensuring that equally respectable people won't move in and replace them.

It's not like breaking windows is a typical activity of the poor. I grew up around people who grew up poor and some of my best friends have firsthand experience of such a life. Though I grew up hearing many stories about poverty and discrimination, I was never taught that it was right to go around breaking other people's property -- for fun or otherwise -- and the notion that other people weren't taught likewise is depressing.

Even more depressing is the fact that my neighborhood's downward slide just didn't stop with broken windows. Just a few weeks ago when my mother and my middle brother came to visit me, my mother spotted a broken bottle on the sidewalk just a few feet away from my condo unit. Since the bottle was a malt liquor bottle, it seemed obvious that the bottle in question had been dropped by either an adult or a person who fancied himself or herself an adult. And yet even though the person who had dropped it lived in a condominium complex where many of the residents have children -- children who could have been easily injured by the bottle's broken glass while they were walking or playing on that sidewalk -- he or she did not consider it his or her responsibility to pick up that bottle's broken glass. In other words, they considered themselves mature enough to drink alcohol but not to clean up after themselves. And if I had not swept up that glass soon after my mother had told me about it, that glass would probably still be there today.

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