This week, what do you see when you open your Facebook account? I see almost all of my friends and family have imprinted the French flag across their profile. This is done in solidarity with the French people in lieu of the terrorist attacks that have happened this week. I know that several attacks occurred around the world, but the Paris attacks spoke to most of us Americans as we understand being attacked in such a fashion when we are not actively engaged in war on our own soil.
So what does all of this mean? It is a matter of civic pride. Civic pride in where you live and who you are. Pride in your country, your community and your world. That is what it means. For us Americans it means a way to find unity that was once lost. Back on September 11, 2001 we faced the same type of unexpected attack. What did this do for us? It unified the American people in a way nothing else has ever done, or ever will again. People flew the stars and stripes with pride, they sang songs about America from the heart, they checked on their neighbors and families across the country.
Civic pride is something that I believe gets lost in many places. The best example of civic pride I have ever seen, aside from 911 was my neighborhood in Seattle, Georgetown. Every February they held a neighborhood cleanup. People all over the area helped pick up trash and tidy up the neighborhood. We had several events put on by different people to showcase our beautiful neighborhood. What does this all mean? It means it was the one place in the world where I felt at home, welcomed and wanted to be. It was the one place that no matter who you are, you mattered.
Civic pride is defined as pride in your community. Pride in our homes, in our children, in our neighbors, in our churches, in our sports teams, in our farms, it is pride in everything that makes your community home to you. Without civic pride there is typically an increase in crime. Think about this when you see crime ridden areas. What things do you notice? Typically there is a lack of community connection, high amounts of garbage around, a lack of people communing outside, overgrown bush, and a lack of beautification projects. When you have no pride in your self, your home or your community you tend to allow it to show.
Jamaicans have a serious sense of pride. It shows in the way they dress when going out in public. You will never, I mean never, see Jamaicans running around in public in pajamas, ripped or dirty clothing, and their shoes are washed weekly! Many homes will be nicely fenced off and if possible beautified by flowers and nice plants. But what about those spaces that are unoccupied? What about the garbage on the ground? These seems to be where the pride for Jamaican as a generalization end. (This is not all Jamaicans and this is a simple observation about how things look to me.) Why is there garbage all around on the ground? Did you know that mosquitoes use trash to breed when it fills with water? Did you know that trash attracts disease carriers like rats and mice? Did you know that dogs dig through the trash and make a terrible mess?
The other thing you might not know about allowing the community to look so bad, is that crime will go up. You see in my community there has been a rise in burglary and car theft. Why? A main reason might be that there seems to be no civic pride. The garbage is often blowing in the wind. The bush is left to grow over the roads and the people are not talking with their neighbors. How do we solve this? Neighborhood watch groups are great, but the problem has deep roots. It has to do with the appearance of lack of pride. If you take pride in your area, crime will drop. It seriously will. When there is no trash on the ground and the bush is cleaned up nice, criminals notice. They understand that this community has a sense of belonging and a sense of pride.
If we look at examples of civic pride we will see that there is a sense of accomplishment and belonging. There is this great surge in wanting to make your community better. There is this ability to see potential in forgotten plots of public land. When my children were small there was a large area of city owned land that was a crime magnet. It was filthy, it had been left abandoned for far too long. It attracted drugs and prostitution, it also attracted thieves and vagrants.
A group of civic minded individuals contacted the city and asked to build a park there. The city approved the request but stated there would be no funding for it from the city. This group had a dream and they were passionate about it. They set up donation jars at many of the retail stores around the community. They simply asked for you to drop your change into the jar. In about 6 months the funding for the park was raised. It was appropriately named the Penny Playground because it was funded mostly by pennies. It still stands today as a testament of what civic pride can accomplish. The crime moved on and the surrounding homes were safer. The children had a great park and the community found a voice.
So what do we do now? I feel the proper course of action is to set up committees to fight the crime that has infiltrated this area. How do we do that? We start to recognize that not only do we need a neighborhood watch, and many of them in all areas, but we need a neighborhood clean up day and a way to keep the community trash free. We need to learn to donate our time and commit ourselves to making the areas we live the most attractive they can be. Go chop the bush back off the corners to keep the visibility clear, clean up the trash and find a proper storage for it. Keeping the community looking good is part of the solution.