This is the way it usually works: politicians treat us all as if we just fell of the turnip truck. When anything even slightly disconcerting happens, they start flapping their gums about how they are sure to save us all from certain doom.
These strident but ultimately soggy promises can be seen all the time, from the national stage where politicians bloviate about how they are going to save us from the terrorists under our beds to closer at home. Think everything from the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y. to Greenwich, Conn., beaches that not too long ago had local politicians hatching plans to save residents from outsiders who, with their beach chairs, tubes of sun block and summer reading, were apparently coming to ruin everyone’s way of life.
That’s why I was intrigued to read a story on this website that Peter Swiderski ,the mayor of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, essentially said even in light of a recent spate of home break-ins, there was no cause for special concern or action.
A proposal for neighborhood watch patrols (think a crew of vigilantes like the Guardian Angels meet soccer moms and dads) seems the natural knee-jerk reaction in this age of Chicken Littles in the public square.
But this mayor rejected the idea out of hand as an overreaction.
“I understand why people feel anxiety, but I can’t justify doing something drastic,” he said.
Of course, there is probably a finer line than one might expect between rank panic and total inaction. Time will tell if this mayor has taken the best tact. Nevertheless, that a political figure did not immediately deal from the bottom of the deck by heightening any slight hint of danger, jacking up public fears in the process, seems a welcome departure, maybe even an example of leadership. Not every iPad burglar, after all, is a pack of killers on the loose.
Keeping peace in the valley by saying, “Hey, let's not overreact?” Well, in this age, it's a novelty act, to say the least.
How do you think it will pan out?
Marek Fuchs is the author of "A Cold-Blooded Business," the true story of a murderer, from Westchester, who almost got away with it. His upcoming book on volunteer firefighting across America, “Local Heroes,” is due out this year. He wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column about life in Westchester for six years and teaches non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville. Follow him on Twitter: @MarekFuchs.