Saint Elsewhere
November 26, 2005, 04:44 PM
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A reader sends this reply to my Thanksgiving roundup. Deena Flinchum writes:

"What are these men doing that is so offensive? They aren't asking for handouts. They want to work to support their families and themselves." Leslie Milk

Ah, yes, another "saint elsewhere" as I call them. "Chicken-hawk" has entered our vocabulary as a person, usually male, willing to fight to the last drop of other people's blood as long as he and his family and friends aren't affected. I hope to see my invention "saints elsewhere" do as well. A "saint elsewhere" is a person who wants to do good works and be recognized as saintly but to have the results - often bad or very bad - of those good works fall elsewhere, as in somebody else's neighborhood.

I dare say that if a day labor site were to be placed in Ms. Milk's neighborhood, she wouldn't stand for it for a minute because she knows as well as we do what is so "offensive" about them in addition to the fact that they are aiding the commission of crime.

A brief story if I may.

I used to live in Alexandria, VA in a middle-class affordable apartment complex. Starting in the 90's, it was inundated with immigrants, mainly from El Salvador and Ethiopia. We low density (usually one or two) tenants per apartment were gradually replaced by high density (I suspect 6 or more in many 2BR's) tenants, with the usual problems and deterioration that I won't bore you with - you know all about them. By the time that I retired and moved to SW VA, it was difficult to recognize that complex as the well managed community that I had lived in for so many years.

Big trouble started, however, when the overflow from some of these apartments started parking their cars in a nearby neighborhood where houses were then going for about $500,000. When you have 6 people in an apartment, you have a lot of cars - more than an apartment complex designed for low density can accommodate. The neighbors, some of them my friends, formed a committee, gathered data such as the lack of local tax stickers on the cars, and watched as several cars were routinely parked in their neighborhood late at night and another car ferried the owners of those cars back to the apartment complex. Neighborhood Watch at its finest. I was impressed.

Soon they went to the city council and were successful in getting neighborhood parking restrictions, thus solving their problem. I supported them completely and even wrote a letter to a city council member that I knew well and a letter to the 'Washington Post', which, believe it or not, got printed in its Thursday Alexandria-Arlington section.

Fast forward six or eight months later. I'm back in Alexandria visiting my friends. One of them lit into the Minuteman group in Herndon that is photographing cars that are picking up day laborers, etc. He referred to them as vigilantes picking on "these poor people who are just trying to work". The leader of this Minuteman group actually lives in the neighborhood where the day laborer site is planned and you and I both know why he doesn't want this site in his neighborhood. The people parking in my friend's neighborhood were basically just parking there - which was legal at the time.

Apparently if you are protecting your neighborhood, it's civic responsibility and neighborhood watch; if somebody else is protecting his neighborhood, it's vigilantism. He honestly didn't seem to "get it".

Saint elsewhere.