|By Clyde Lewis
The neighborhood bogeyman is making the news. While it is healthy to have a bit of caution when speaking with strangers, it seems to be the latest hysteria to suspect that your neighbor is doing something that may be considered strange, or even wicked. Ground Zero takes a look at the paranoia in your neighborhood and asks "Is the neighborhood Mr. Rogers really all that altruistic, or is it a cover for a phantom who is watching your every move?"
I have always had a terrible feeling when there is a knock at the door. If someone knocks, my heart pounds into my throat and I feel the sweat start to form on my brow. I guess it stems from my childhood.
I was about eight years old. My mother was very sick and was taking medication that would make her drowsy. One night while my father was out on business my mother was resting and there was a knock at the door. My little sister answered and it was the neighbor down the street. She had with her two men who l didn't recognize. She said she wanted to speak with my mother. I went in the bedroom to get my mother and when I returned the two men were gone.
The woman asked my mother how she was feeling and my mother complained that the severe headaches that she was experiencing were debilitating and that she was taking medication in order to keep them from causing her too much pain. The woman kept my mother talking and then said that maybe it would be best that she rested and that maybe she should leave. I escorted my mother back to the bedroom and returned to see that the two men were back in our living room. We as children trusted this woman because she was married to the church leader in our neighborhood. When she left with the two men we thought that they were also men from our church.
They were agents from the department of Child services investigating our house to see if our mother was in any condition to raise us. We did not realize this until our father returned to ask us if we let any strangers into the house. It seemed that a nosy neighbor had heard that our mother was in the hospital and that my father had to work two jobs in order to pay for my mother's doctor visits. They assumed that my mother was in no condition to raise us.
Thinking back on the experience makes me shudder to this day. We trusted a "good neighbor" who brought with her two agents from social services to see if we were being raised properly. The part that is the most troubling is that if we did not fit their criteria we would have been placed in foster homes, or removed by the Child Family Services. The only reason why we were spared the removal was because our parents had a supply of food in the basement. They determined that we would not go hungry.
That was 1972. In the year 2000 everyone in your neighborhood is a suspect. The chances of being searched or harassed by the police is growing.
Neighborhood paranoia has been revived and many people fear that some dark presence is in their midst and they can't pinpoint exactly where it comes from. So, everything is suspect and the goose bumps and nail biting have become business as usual in the apocalypse.
Many people assume that there is a crime taking place because we are programmed by the media, religious groups and certain watchdog groups to be suspicious of people who dress differently, who have a different skin color, who listen to certain types of music, and whose belief systems are unconventional.
This type of fear that has been engineered by these groups is reminiscent of the Satanic Panic that existed in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. There is evidence that does show that crimes do happen. The body count is the evidence.
However we have become myopic in our way of dealing with such crimes and have resorted to blaming and in some cases have created a rigid prophylactic stance thinking that it will prevent or deter potential crimes.
The enemy in some cases is the next door neighbor. You don't know him and so you must always hold him in suspicion. He hasn't done anything bad to you, but he could. He hasn't said anything abusive or cruel to you but he would. He may look like Mr. Rogers but he could be a John Wayne Gacy.
The Movie Arlington Road was a film that stands out as the modern day parable that admonishes you to re-evaluate the relationship you have with your neighbors. It digs up the bones of events like the Oklahoma City Bombing, and many other organized terrors that make the front page and shakes you into a vague paranoia about the status of the American domestic terrorism.
We are being turned on to the idea that the American neighborhood is now the neighborhood of Phantoms. If the news is any indicator, a dark cloud of mistrust is finding it's way into neighborhoods making it a crime to even appear to be out of the ordinary.
The reason the paranoia is becoming more prevalent is that we have become isolated and in reality most of us do not even speak with our neighbors. So we have become a community of strangers. Strangers become suspicious of each other and eventually someone who may be "different" always ends up being pushed out of the area.
If they do not go quietly it is easy and convenient to call upon a group who can force them out.
In Cave Junction Oregon a man was awakened by his 9-year-old who was upset because some men in black were at the door with machine guns. Clyde Highbarger rubbed his eyes and realized that he and his family were the target of police terror. Highbarger and his wife, Ruth, were handcuffed by a number of federal agents, and state police wearing black combat-style uniforms, helmets and visors.
Their children of course were standing there terrified and freezing in the cold air as their home was being searched an ransacked by agents who were tipped off that there were drugs in the house.
Mrs. Highbarger, was holding their 2 year old daughter Madeline, when she was ordered out of bed at gunpoint and told to keep her hands up. As Mrs. Highbarger headed for the front door, baby in her arms, an officer aimed a semiautomatic handgun at her.
The agents found no drugs but what they did find was a number of pamphlets on survival and what they determined were anti government propaganda.
Luckily the family escaped with their lives most people are not that lucky anymore.
We are people who police each other. We have been programmed into thinking that there is a threat lurking in our neighborhoods and so we must turn in those who are not following the social norm. While there is always the possibility that someone in the neighborhood might be up to no good, the new sport is to turn your neighbor in for something that may or may not be subversive.
We have developed this sick need to protect ourselves from an unseen enemy. We are devolving into the attitude that internal security is more important than any violation of human rights.
We have the great and terrible fear that our neighbors are not above suspicion and so the innocents must suffer the consequences and terror that comes with a nation that has been programmed into believing in an agreed upon threat.
There is a "dirty little psyche war" that is going on in the United States. It seems sickeningly anthropophagous when you can see that people are either dying, or are being psychologically harassed at the hands of a paranoid group of individuals that believe in shooting first and asking questions later.
You may or may not see the trend but it is definitely becoming more and more the norm. We base a lot of what we consider entertainment on the pain and suffering of people who do not necessarily agree with us.
It is as if the new course that has been set for our future is the removal of all "imperfect" human beings. The horrific part is that when you are in the crosshairs there will be no one that will pull you out of harms way unless we wake up and realize that we are outnumbered.
It will only be a matter of time when your thoughts and actions that you thought were harmless will be legislated. It will be in the not too distant future that you will be held under suspicion for your unconventional viewpoints. The majority will decide what is to be believed and disbelieved. If you think openly you will be held up for scrutiny.
One of the most hypocritical human beings to surface at the turn of the millennium is the ever-faithful cult watcher. These "defenders" of the faith are very meticulous in warning us of the strange religious rituals that they witness that aren't typical "Christian" rituals that everyone should be privy to. They suffer from "Gladys Kravitz" syndrome. The nosy neighbor on the television show Bewitched was always watching the peculiar witch next store, and was always willing to start a witch hunt of her own.
It seems that these latter day Gladys Kravitz types are worried about people who have not found the right Jesus. They believe that if you aren't speaking gibberish in tongues, jumping up and down on one leg, praying to a cross, or waving your hand to the angels you must be on your way to rendezvous with the mother ship.
A recent story in Corona California caught my eye and it makes you wonder where one should draw the line.
A family of six made the big mistake of telling their neighbors that they were leaving earth. The Associated Press reported that a neighbor worried about their safety because they were all sitting in their front room staring at their belongings that were piled on the floor waiting to be beamed up.
The neighbor told police that the family had made doomsday predictions, believing the end of the world was coming.
The family was taken to the Riverside Emergency Treatment Services facility for a 72-hour psychiatric observation and evaluation. The case also was referred to Child Protective Services.
When I hear stories such as these I always wonder what belief system the neighbor had. What religious beliefs the neighbor practiced. Roughly 40 percent of mainstream Christians believe in a little something known as the Rapture. The Rapture is the belief that before the end of the world Christ will beam up believers so that they will never taste death. It is by all interpretations a mass evacuation of the planet conducted by God.
Once again the notion that all perfect beings will be taken into heaven and all imperfect beings will face the tribulation for their non-belief in Christ.
When nosy neighbors begin to report people who are practicing their religious freedom one has to stop and ask what kind of crime has been committed?
I have seen Rapture believers in Seattle that have T-shirts and bumper stickers that have slogans that say "Warning driver will abandon car in case of rapture!" or "Beam me into your Kingdom Jesus!"
During the gay pride rallies in Seattle there were born again Christians who profited by selling postcards, buttons, and T-shirts that promoted hate messages to homosexuals and no one called the police. No one gave them 72-hour evaluations and no one accused them of being in an organized cult of hatred.
Do we live in a place where we have approved hatred? Approved religious freedom? The example given speaks for itself.
The persecution in the minds of the watchdogs is justified because of those "evil" Branch Davidians, those "zombie" followers of Jim Jones and the 39 "weirdo's" of Heaven's Gate who tried to hitch a ride on the Hale Bopp Comet.
The idea of a mass evacuation of Earth is also preached by Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, John Walvoord, and Jack Van Impe. I do not believe any of these Evangelists are sitting in a Psyche ward waiting for the results of their evaluations.
Maybe they should be.
Sadly it seems that if you believe that Jesus is about to descend with a squadron of saucers to scoop up the faithful, you better be careful, there may be a group of police waiting to take you to the loony bin.
When has it been a crime to be weird in the United States? It seems like we have forgotten that being peculiar got us here in the first place. We rebelled and said that King George was a tyrant, which of course had the British scratching their heads and then loading their muskets.
The Christian right continues to tell us that this country was founded for the sole purpose of allowing religious diversity and freedom. The story has changes like the seasons.
You hear the constant moaning and whining of the need for balanced information and that their moral message is drowned out by moral degenerates who want to speedily drag all of us to hell with their evolution, and anti-god rhetoric.
Religious diversity and moral diversity are a threat!
Such is history. People are once again scratching their heads and calling in the troops with huge guns to get you to "get with the program." It seems that if you want to be left alone you are a weirdo.
History seems to always find itself going in circles. The witch-hunts that existed previously in our nation's history seem to be coming back.
The other phantom that exists in our neighborhoods is of course the sexual predator. I have spoken of this breed of animal many times on my program and I have also kept close contact with Andrew Vacchs on the subject matter.
Children are our most precious commodities and we all would like to prevent the attacks of our children before they happen.
One of the most controversial laws on the books is Megan's law. The Law requires that authorities notify communities when a convicted rapist or child molester moves in.
Already this law alerts a neighborhood to a phantom and potential threat. However while in theory the law is a good idea, the drawbacks are that it may give a false sense of security and the idea that it is a surefire way to guarantee that the phantoms are only strangers and not people who are in a position of trust with an intended victim.
In essence it does little to create awareness of the larger problem, that sexual abuse is usually carried out by family and friends.
Many people tend to look the other way with the family secret of abuse yet the sexual offender gets a scarlet letter tattooed on him. Both cases are not dealt with equally and children suffer either way.
Andrew Vachss told a Virginia newspaper his views on Megan's Law, "It's a bit of a flim-flam." It costs little and requires little real commitment by politicians.
"It's notifying you of the presence of people in your community who shouldn't be in your community in the first place," Vachss says.
Vachss says that despite all the media uproar about high-profile sexual-abuse cases, too little is being done to protect children - especially when the offender is someone already in a position of trust.
"You will do less prison time for raping a child than for raping an adult," Vachss says. "And you are less likely to go to prison for incest than for shoplifting."
The offender gets tossed around and becomes everyone's problem. The solution is to stiffen the penalty on child molestation, not putting Band-Aids on wounds.
Politicians use Megan's law as a "catch all" which liberates them from pursuing anymore law reform to keep these predators behind bars indefinitely.
Informing a neighborhood that a predator has moved in does nothing to protect a child. It's like saying that a "Beware of Vicious attack Dog" sign guarantees that you will not be bitten. Predators lurk in many places and they come in different shapes and sizes, most of the time they aren't freaks.
A story that I read in Portland once again forces me to ask the question where do we draw the line?
It was reported in the Oregonian newspaper that a man approached young girls as they walked home from their Elementary Schools, held up women's underwear and asked the girls: "Are these the type you wear? Are these your size?"
Well needless to say a manhunt was on. The man never laid a hand on the girls and it was reported that he never left his car.
It is up to you to decide if a crime was actually committed. Do we truly know his intent? We can say that it is obvious, but is it really?
The act was weird and perverted but was it a crime?
It's a case of putting out small fires instead of eliminating the cause of the fire. The mounting hysteria that exists in a time that we have been told is virtually crime free tells us that there is something wrong with ourselves.
Maybe we have given into the "dirty little psyche war." It is evident that we have unresolved fears that we have carried over into the next millennium.
Maybe these fears have been generated by people who have the money to control what you see and hear on a daily basis. They have the power to shape what you care about.
These unresolved fears are about drug users, people with unconventional viewpoints that may sway your thinking, and people who do freakish things just to scare you. There is also the ever-looming threat of terrorists, and mad bombers and shooters who are targeting you as we speak.
We hear about them and their legacy is constantly shown to us in a series of sound bites, and public service propaganda that uses trigger words, and alert mechanisms.
A healthy case of prevention is always a good thing. However when it gets in the way of your common sense, you can take desperate measures that may not be reversed.
There is always the possibility that the agreed upon threat may not even be a threat at all and that someone or some organization is pushing your buttons to get you to act.
The idea that Government and media could be the driving force behind your fears is a possibility. Seeing is believing, and believing can be deceiving.
The fear that a government or a police force could be plotting against you probably never crosses your trusting mind? Because they have been charged to serve and protect.
Has it ever occurred to you that policeman are paid citizens who have the right to shoot you if they can show probable cause? Usually they can justify their actions because there is honor among other police officers.
A new case is unraveling in Los Angeles about cover-ups and conspiracy amongst police officers.
A disgraced police officer is now blowing the whistle on alleged wrong doing in the LAPD. Rafael Perez has told investigators that an organized criminal subculture thrived within the Los Angeles Police Department, where a secret fraternity of anti-gang officers and supervisors committed crimes and celebrated shootings by awarding plaques to officers who wounded or killed people. According to an LA Times report at least three sergeants, and up to 70 police officers conspired to put innocent people in jail and to cover up unjustified shootings and beatings.
Perez began talking after he was caught stealing 8 pounds of cocaine from the LAPD, he hopes to get a reduced prison sentence in exchange for his cooperation with the corruption investigation. However his position may conveniently jeopardize his credibility as a witness. It is clearly a time where every cop is a criminal, and all the saints are sinners , to coin a phrase from he Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil."
However there are still many people who will demand to be mothered and governed and policed because they fear the phantoms that lurk in the shadows. They belief that more laws that take away personal liberty are the answer.
Always remember what Pierre Joseph Proudhon wrote:
To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied upon, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about---
To be governed means, to be at each transaction, at each movement, Noted, registered, taxed, stamped, measured, evaluated, patented, licensed, authorized, endorsed, admonished, hampered, reformed, rebuked, arrested, held to ransom, exploited, monopolized, extorted. Squeezed, hoaxed, robbed, and then at least resistance… to be repressed, fined, abused, annoyed, followed, bullied, beaten, disarmed, garroted, imprisoned, machine gunned, judged, condemned, deported, flayed, sold, betrayed, and finally mocked, ridiculed, insulted, and dishonored.
Hysteria can cause you to beg for that kind of treatment. You will give in to that when you feel you have no choice. The idea of knuckling under to an unseen fear is as primitive as ancient civilizations offering virgins to volcanoes to please an angry God, real or imaginary.
Many centuries later someone realized that it was silly. Someone had the guts to ask why?
To expose the truth.
The truth is we do need to protect ourselves, but making a deal with the devil is not the course of action recommended in doing so.
However if group wants control of you, they will go to any means necessary to get you to fall in line. They have the tools to frighten you into submission.
The nosy neighbor of the past could very well be the domestic spy that can be paid off to watch your every move and monitor anything that may appear subversive or insurgent.
The Detroit Free Press reported that in Wayne County Michigan, police were giving free video camera's to citizens for the soul purpose of spying on their neighbors. The Idea was to give the cameras away so that they could get a crime on tape.
We allegedly are already under surveillance, a clear sign that someone is afraid of insurgence. The popular demonizing of any revolutionary thought or any rebellion against the continuing loss of human rights in the United States will force a government who fears it's people into shooting first and asking questions later.
In a time where people are unaware of what will happen next.
Where they are told that they are certainly in grave danger. Any solutions to our social dysfunction even a nonsensical ones such as more government controls, unreasonable laws, search and seizure, unauthorized surveillance, even death to the alleged perpetrator sounds keen to the intellect.
Be thinking about these things the next time a stranger knocks at the door.
The stranger known as your next door neighbor.
Copyright 1998-2007 Ground Zero Media, Clyde Lewis, and John Hart. All Rights Reserved.