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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

'Fortress mentality' catching on locally

Saturday, June 2, 2007

"Suburbia Fortress Mentality." I had never heard this term used until this week as I read yet another column about the decline in this country. The article talked about how many of us are retreating to our homes because the outside world is simply too dangerous. Well maybe that's a bit of a stretch. The article talked about how, as children, we could roam fairly freely around our neighborhood without fear of any form or fashion.

I began to think that perhaps this "fortress mentality" might just also apply here in our own community. But I take a somewhat different approach, as I so often do.

I suspect that many families right here in Sikeston are "victims" of this fortress mentality. Instead of getting out and about - wherever that might be - we bulk up our homes with every conceivable gadget and, that way, we don't venture into the "real world" quite as often. I doubt we actually think of it in those terms, but in many ways, that's exactly what we are doing.

If we live in our private "fortress," we may be safe but we also lack any outside engagement within the community. We hear others talk of eyesores or violence but inside our "fortress" that is not the case so it's not our problem.

Of course, there's a major problem with this "fortress mentality." Someday those outside problems will present themselves at the doors of the "fortress." But then it will most certainly be too late.

I guess what I'm saying is that keeping yourself and your family safe is without a doubt the top priority. But we also have some obligation, some responsibility, to venture outside our "fortress" and see what transpires there. If it's not of our liking - and it certainly will not be - then maybe we need to help address whatever problem we see. By waiting in our cozy "fortress" and allowing others to take care of the community problems, we become part of that problem ourselves.

Another interesting aspect of the article I mentioned talked about house size. Over the past 20 years, the square footage of the average house has increased while the yard size has decreased. That almost forces more indoor activities and diminishes outside activities. Once again, that helps to insure safety but it brings a dangerous isolation. And like it or not, we can only live in this isolation for so long.

Sikeston has the potential to be an even more dynamic community. But it will never happen if those who could make a difference live in their "fortress" and fail to venture outside. Until we all recognize that our gains and our losses are shared by all, we'll live safe lives in a community that is growing unsafe. The problem remains. We don't lack the resources to improve our community. We simply lack the support and determination of our "fortress" friends.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen