It's why I don't put out a more regular newsletter any more. It was going strong with my Column of Shame -- stories from the news on the growing incidence of violent outcomes in neighbor disputes. But I don't like using those as part of a "pitch." Those are terrible stories of untold anguish and long-lived misery. I'll continue to highlight those because it's important for my media contacts to see a summary of just how bad this problem is getting.
I'm more comfortable, instead, sharing a few of my favorite excerpts from the book. Every so often I read a portion or two and find myself not-so-disgusted with my writing talent. While the book was aimed at helping people and it gets the reviews from those in need who found it beneficial, it was not meant to be a work of literary art. And it ain't.
But here are a few excerpts I do like, and I'll offer more of these in the coming months unless I come to tire of myself sooner rather than later.
I’m listening to news radio in my car and I hear a sad story about a young woman who was killed while jogging, when a tree limb fell on her. In typical fashion, the reporter aired a sound bite from a neighbor. That neighbor said, “She was so nice, she never complained about noise or nothing.”And I think to myself, when did things get so twisted in our communities that “she never complained about noise” came to replace “she never made noise”?
When it comes to lifestyles, diversity is overrated. I don’t belong in a noisy apartment building, any more than fraternity brothers belong in a gated community or Manhattan co-op. What’s good for you is good for your kind (people whose lifestyles are similar to your own). Lifestyle diversity is at the heart of most neighbor conflicts I’ve studied and been immersed in. Avoiding it is difficult and certainly not a guarantee of no neighbor problems, but it builds a good foundation.
Better neighbors don’t want to be immersed in our conflicts, and can’t be counted on for support in most cases I’ve studied, even if they’re our close friends. Teaming up against a neighbor is the stuff of the bad guys – they involve others who readily become part of the conflict because, like our Neighbors From Hell, they are idiots. Why else would they be associated with our stupid neighbors? Our good neighbors, like ourselves, are positive people, not seeking a fight. Confiding in friends to a limited degree is understandable and I’ve done this, but be careful not to overdo it. Better neighbors may come to view you as exceedingly negative and whiney when we fall into a cycle of being victims, focused too intently on the jerks next door. Don’t make the mistake of further isolating yourself by pushing away the better neighbors. Share an issue if you’d like, but leave it at that. Accept the fact that you’re going this alone.
Similarly, do not become engaged in the battles of others. You can offer moral support, but anyone who becomes involved in someone else’s war is still liable for damage – even damage done to a bad neighbor. Teaming up with a friend who thinks his is a Neighbor From Hell, exposes you to a harassment complaint brought by the person you teamed up against. And, whether that person was right or wrong to begin with, your decision to join the fight against him rightly makes you potentially culpable in a harassment charge and/or lawsuit.