When driving through town, I often notice how empty the streets and sidewalks are. None of the Saturday mobs of neighborhood kids I remember from my youth. Very few people walking around. They’re all inside, staring at machines.
Our society has changed from the former farm towns of a century ago, where most people and their children gathered at town hall for a weekly dance. In the cities, it was the union hall, or the church community room. That was when people sat on their front porches on summer evenings until it cooled down enough to go to bed. Now, we have air conditioning and global internet access.
Despite our current dependence on electronic media, there is a lot of inspiration to be found when people aren’t glued to video display boxes. There are stories of accomplishment, of overcoming adversity, of serendipity and tales of love.
But when we analyze our readers’ interests in the news, day-to-day, week-to-week, people want to read about crime, death and disaster.
There’s no shortage of bad news. There are more than one murder every other day in Cuyahoga, Portage and Summit counties every year. In 2016, there were 168 homicides in Cuyahoga County – so many that news about them often amounts to preliminary police reports. Many of the victims simply disappear without further mention.
I once called East Cleveland Police to ask about a murder that involved a young woman connected to Northfield Village. The department spokesperson had no information to offer. He was working on two other cases that day, either of which would have made a suburban newspaper’s front page.
Cities have always had high crime rates. It’s an obvious result of higher population, coupled with other factors. But today, we are no longer a land of little farm towns. Our world is a place where someone with bad intent can walk out the door and drive 15 or 20 minutes to your street.
Unfortunately, we remain parochial in how we view our responsibilities – or, from a different perspective, our self-interest.
More and more, I question whether a land of empty streets, whose inhabitants spend so much of their days in cyber-reality, can have goals that will manifest themselves in real life.
There has been a lot of talk about "regionalization" in recent years, but most of it has had to do with saving money, thus easing the burden of civilized life on taxpayers.
But true regionalization would address problems in communities that are not experiencing prosperity, where many citizens and their families are struggling to get by.
There’s been talk of "trickle down" prosperity for a couple of generations now. While some parts of the country and some local areas have not prospered, others have done quite well. Thus, there is room for hope.
Let’s hope more people realize that we’re all in this together.