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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Haunted Houses (part, whatever)

How do you know you are middle class in America? Do you open your wallet and look at how much cash is there (my Uncle Lou Jacobs used to carry around huge wads of twenties, fifties, and hundreds,way back in 60s, but he was a Purple Gang associate and may have been unusual even for his era)? Do you look at your family pictures and think with pride how many generations of your lot went to college? Do you check your employee ID, health insurance membership or social security card?

I think most Americans (at least until the music stopped in 2008) looked out at their home, probably through the car window, on the way to work at 4:30 am, or on the way back at 9:15 pm. Does my home stand physically apart from my neighbors? Does it have a bit of green between us? Does it abut a cul de sac, preferably or at least a curving suburban lane, entered through a drive way, with perhaps a basketball hoop? And most of all, do I "own" it (even if that means I own 5 or now perhaps -50 percent of it)?
For too many Americans, being able to answer yes to most of those questions is what assured them they were middle class, no matter how lousy (or how many) jobs they had to work, no matter how far they had to commute, no matter how distant any amenities like parks, libraries, museums, or shops might be from their door.

Here in the Bay Area, where prices to own a home on one side of the Bay or the other long ago went beyond starter range for most middle class families, pursuing that middle class status meant locating in places like Pittsburgh and Antioch, where subdivisions rapidly filled in the canyons in the dry hills behind San Francisco and San Pablo bays. Its a place now haunted by the ruinous financing schemes behind the housing bubble. But it is also haunted by the unsustainable life styles that government promoted in this country right up to the crisis, an in the name of producing more secure "crime free" communities. The perverse relationship that Americans have developed to their houses (that has gone along with a loss of serious political movements directed at jobs) has a terribly dark side to it. Its a dark side of methamphetamine, of domestic violence and child abuse, of heart attacks and bankruptcies. And occasionally a twilight zone of unspeakable sadness. Case in point, penned by veteran crime reporter Henry Lee in today's SFChronicle, "Antioch baby girl dies after being left in car."

Sofia Wisher, 7 months old, was sitting in her car seat in her parents' Toyota station wagon when the family pulled up to its Antioch home late Saturday after doing laundry at a relative's home. Each parent thought the other would be taking Sofia inside.

Tragically, neither did....

The parents, both of whom work two jobs, went to bed about 3 a.m. Each saw the door to their infant's room closed and assumed the other had put her in her crib, Orman said.

The parents told police that Sofia was a "light sleeper, so it wasn't their practice to be going in there all night checking on her, because she'd wake up," Orman said.

After Sofia was found dead, Contra Costa's Child Protective Services agency placed the couple's 2-year-old daughter into protective custody, authorities said.

Cross posted at Governing through Crime

Posted by Jonathan Simon on April 20, 2010 at 01:24 PM in Culture, Jonathan Simon | Permalink


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That is indeed unspeakably sad. But it's also not particularly unusual, and perhaps not linked to a particular social set in this country - the linked article on the subject is fascinating.

Posted by: anon | Apr 20, 2010 2:48:45 PM

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