I was thrilled recently to see a post by bitterandrew at Armagideon Time that not only seems to recall recent local SouthCoast events, but also brilliantly portrays the thing that most chafes my topsail here on The Beach. It features a souvenir page from TIME magazine, apparently an advertisement for "Fear."
There are some products that can be pitched quite effectively with the merest brief mention of the negative consequences of forgoing purchase. That brake job, for instance. Or contraceptives.
Your ThirdMate has always thought of the Guardian Angels as a colorful overt presence that surely deters a few punks from acting out and provides witness statements when they do. But they are part of the Fear Industry, a big bunch of fear maintenance workers and supporting cosplayers. I congratulate them, however, on celebrating their Thirtieth Anniversary Year. It's a shame that we just missed last week's Gala. Tough guys DO hold Galas. See?And pretty expensive Galas, too. (Also reinvigorating the Nineteenth Century "slum tour" trade.)
Yep, even the Guardian Angels hold fundraisers to continue to remain a consistent red-topped reminder of the need to believe that your town, city, village, or neighborhood is a scary scary scary place, filled with creepy preverts and leather-jacketed truants and shifty no-goodniks from other countries and you're better off cowering at home paying to watch CSI:MyHomeTown and complaining to radio talk shows about "them" people (you know) while tapping away perfervidly and anonymously to your newspaper's online comments.
As luck would have it -- just in case the kids follow in your misanthropic heritage -- the Guardians also machinate a CyberAngel force, insinuating that children may be being bullied into online involvement in pronographing and/or identity theft. And viruses. And Rhodesian Lottery scams that force them into gang initiations where they drive around with their lights off until someone stops and plays a tape recording of a baby crying so that you end up stepping on a flaming bag of
No doubt, there is legitimate scary in this world. Which requires officially-sanctioned, organized policing and diligence to safeguard our property and our persons. Our teevee entertainment and news shows give us enough of a spook to make sure that we don't inhibit budgets. And that usually means reinforcing a culture of disenfranchisement and distrust that insists on prisons rather than schools. We do not need a bunch of well-meaning attendants walking around, puffing themselves up and tilting at the boogeyman of the week. Particularly with the widespread blessing of a big worldwide non-profit that has done some nice things in some "bad places."
Whether those "bad places" want it or not.
The Guardian Angels' originator, McDonald's night manager Curtis Sliwa, visited the not-so-bad city of New Bedford recently to further becloud the town's ability to catch a public relations break. And who better to help out the city's image problem than
Henry Bousquet, who previously ran for City Council,and Jerry Pinto, who recently directed Operation Clean Sweep in the city, contacted the Guardian Angels to visit New Bedford.Draw your own conclusions about the effectiveness of the efforts of concerned busy-bodies with the best interests of would-be voters in mind. In the middle of the Summer, to publicly point out an irrational fear that is endemic to a portion of your community and to suggest a glorified neighborhood watch? Some might even suggest that it borders on slander, this little backhand suggestion that the city needs better law enforcement. I'm sure the Southeastern Massachusetts Convention & Vistors Bureau, the Greater New Bedford Chamber of Commerce, the New Bedford Office of Tourism, the New Bedford Economic Development Council, and DowntownNewBedford Inc. all just LOoOOoVE you now. I can't say that an afternoon with the self-promoting boss of a populist vigilante club is the most auspicious happenstance for a mayor whose major support seems to be people who don't show up on anybody's radar.
"I would love to be part of forming the first [sic] chapter in New Bedford," Pinto said. "I would like to see the Guardian Angels working with the city and getting them involved with the community-oriented groups."
Bousquet said the Angels are needed in New Bedford.
"The folks in my neighborhood are scared," said Bousquet, who lives in the area around Mount Pleasant Street.
"They're frustrated. They don't know what to do."(Standard-Times)
One citizen in this NECN video is cringing and lashing out with extraordinary passion (extraordinary for the SouthCoast, anyway) at all the wrong things. Of course, her neighbors have been anecdotally cornered and unmanned by small-time hoods who are further encouraged by the citizenry's apprehensiveness. The criminals are fortified by the very people who are being sought in order to contain them.
Of course, they're not the cowards who infest the local "conservative blogs," forums, and talk radio -- the BFFs that self-styled vigilantes lurv in their PR battle against a strong and healthy community. Conversely, the Mayor seems to want to invest in the bravery of each citizen, not in the bravado of a misdirected few. (I had to laugh when I read a woman's comment to Henry, saying that Lang appeared to be "an ass" while he, in his two quotes in the vid, actually urges her to do something for herself and not rely on Guardian Angels. But I'm guessing that she's one of those "only one set of footprints on the beach" types.)
Stop frightening old ladies with halfwit campfire stories and breathless portrayals of police scanner calls.
And, at the risk of sounding like a prideful dismissor of well-intentioned extralocal succor: New Bedford isn't like other towns.
The Guardian Angels work best in places that present crowded commuter train platforms, raucous tourist congregation areas, busy subway stations (of which New Bedford has none), or on the meandering cramped walkways of spooky city parks where bad kids congregate. Parks in New Bedford seem like pretty safe open spaces.
It's the thoroughfares that are truly frightening.
If the Guardian Angels have a bunch of red-bereted Crown Vics that can cruise around to discourage left-hand turns from right-hand lanes and poor operation of four-way stops, then I say, "Welcome to the Whaling City!"