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Law's No Substitute for Responsibility

Across the United States, residents appear to have ceded increasing authority and, concomitantly, responsibility to the power structures of government. 

Whether at the local, state or federal level, residents appear increasingly prepared, or more likely groomed, to accept government as the universal answer to all social problems; likewise, they appear more prepared than ever to embrace government as the legislator of all things moral and ethical.

Where there arises any sort of discomfort, threat or discord within the community, individuals appear more likely than ever to consult law enforcement or, more broadly, the word, suspected word or conscience of the law; they incorrectly assume that the law has a conscience, that its agents are properly incentivized, or even authorized, to promote — or even begin to understand — the interests of the community. 

Moreover, where there appears to be no obvious violation of the law, many members of the community have almost robotically assumed that no threat or problem exists at all, that it is no one’s business to concern himself with the activities taking place directly outside of his own house, insofar as they are legal. 

Of course, the nature of this statement is flawed by obtusely implying that legal activity must never concern anyone, that it must always accompany desirable activity, or that such activity occurs exclusive of the threat of eventual illegal activity. 

To that end, the only way to possibly prevent criminal activity, or to defend oneself against it, is to recognize the features and machinations of activity that appear legal at the time. 

In this context, there appears to be an increasing measure of confusion within communities around the subjects of legal and suspicious behavior, how much to tolerate of the latter, and whether to do anything about activity that is strictly legal. 

This destructive thought process is rather unique to the corners of the globe so tightly governed by laws, ordinances and regulations that the average person has largely abandoned the notion of taking any responsibility over his own community. 

He seldom talks to his neighbors anyway, so it bears hardly any cost on his conscience if they are eventually robbed or assaulted. 

"So long as it's not me," he thinks.

He neglects to acknowledge, much less appreciate, the extent to which neighborhoods and communities are improved and protected by the individuals with the greatest vested interest: the residents who live there. 

He neglects the extent to which declining standards and vigilance affect the safety and security of his own home, and with this he neglects the limits of the code of law.

Ultimately, the laws planted upon society do not intend to enumerate every socially-acceptable form of human behavior, and they do not strip individuals of their private responsibilities in their own lives and communities. 

Where we find activities that are strictly legal, we cannot say for certain whether they are desirable. 

There are a myriad of problems that occasionally require immediate or community action, which law enforcement and the judicial system cannot possibly resolve alone. 

In the end, it is the community that sets and upholds its standards, whether passively or actively, not merely the code of law or its agents. 

Neighborhoods and individuals serve to complement the code of law by cooperating for the betterment of their respective communities, and they collaborate to address the nuances that any larger body of uninvested agents could never truly appreciate. 

Ultimately, law cannot and will not solve every imaginable problem within our community. 

This error in judgment appears to have leaked into the forums of our local, state and national discourse, which has dissuaded individuals from — or even penalized them for — assuming responsibility over their communities. 

We are all safer for the vigilance exhibited and concerns raised by the members of our community, whose vested interests naturally cause them to care more about our neighborhood than any bureaucrat or law enforcement officer. 

While there are those who worry about the risks of paranoia or those of raising awareness around suspicious activities that ultimately turn out to be innocent, the risks of remaining silent and willfully ignorant are far greater. 

Finally, law and its enforcement agents are reactionary, primarily compelled to action only after the fact, whereas individuals within the community can be proactive about preventing crime before it happens. 

This is how we serve each other as neighbors, by fostering an environment of mutual respect for the property and interests of those who live among us. 

And with a watchful and vigilant set of eyes upon the community, this is how we discourage the contemptible activities that perniciously threaten the community or ultimately violate the hardened code of law.


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