Yesterday I had a conversation with one of the basketball guys about local politics, and we ended up talking about sidewalks. There is no sidewalk along his street, but, he said, the county has a ten-foot right of way set aside for sidewalks when the subdivision was approved. About ten years ago a new elementary school was built a block away from his house. It turns out that the federal government has money set aside to build sidewalks near schools, so the county could have gotten a sidewalk build down his street without spending a cent. But his neighbors wouldn't have it. They think of the county's right of way as their own property, which isn't so strange considering that they take care of it. He said, though, that the main objection they raised at the public meeting was safety. They were all afraid of all the strangers that might come walking down the sidewalk. "I already have enough criminals walking by," one said, "and a sidewalk will just make it worse." This crazy fearfulness is one of the worst things about contemporary America. You see it in the reactions some people have to any Muslim, but not just there -- you see it even when residents of one of Maryland's safest suburbs contemplate a sidewalk in front of their houses.
People should spend more time out walking around and less time watching sensationalized television news.