Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the difference between community and adjacency

We celebrated our first Halloween at tin box last week. The house’s construction makes it easy to decorate: the ferromagnetic shell allowed us to hang spiders using magnets, the thin edges of the steel purlins were the perfect place to clip the blinking jack-o-lantern lights, and the steel exterior panels let us hang spooky plastic stuff with simple masking tape. The electrical outlet on the porch is perfectly placed to power the blinking lights, whose orange glow harmonizes well with the silver skin of the house. There was just one problem. Nobody showed up.

Not a single trick-or-treater came by the house. Not a one. We found out later that kids haven’t gone door to door in our neighborhood in some time. While it is common for children to head to gated communities now for the increased sense of security (and better hauls of candy) some traditional neighborhoods still see a fair amount of trick-or-treating. Just not ours.

This may not seem like a huge problem, especially compared to concerns like traffic safety or crime, but it is emblematic of an issue that plagues South Florida – a diminished sense of community. Holidays are often important community events, where neighbors celebrate civic milestones together. Is a municipality really a city if there’s no place to hold a parade on the fourth of July? And in the absence of such public spaces, what is left of the truly democratic spaces where we celebrate, grieve and protest as a community? The annual rituals of walking door to door and handing out candy speak of our generosity as a community and the pleasure we take in our neighbors’ company. The quality of a neighborhood can be measured in the way it supports the vital interaction between neighbors. This is the difference between community and adjacency.

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