By Steve“National Night Out" Events Creating Fear, Isolation in Many Neighborhoods, Study Shows
BETHESDA, MD — “National Night Out,” a grassroots movement created 30 years ago to foster a spirit of community and good will, and to give citizens a chance to meet and get to know their neighbors, may actually be having the opposite effect, according to a recent study.
(Left) "Are they gone yet?" Bob Windmere peers cautiously out his window, wondering if his "neighbors" have ceased invading his personal space through their National Night Out "festivities," which in reality are more like torture sessions.
“What’s happening is full of irony,” says Dr. Suzanne Loudwright, of the National Center for Community Research. “People actually hate these gatherings so much that many of them turn out their lights and pretend they aren’t home rather than attend them. We hear stories of entire families, sitting in the dark, frightened, almost cowering, peering out of their windows, and waiting for it all to be over so they can get back to their normal lives.”
As one man in a northwestern Washington D.C. suburb describes it, there’s a lot to be afraid of out there.
“It can be scary,” says Bob Windmere, who lives in a typical middle-class neighborhood with neatly-manicured lawns and large shade trees . “You get the Night Out flyer inviting you to a potluck dinner fixed by who knows who, consisting of casseroles made of who knows what. You have to try some if you’re brave enough to go out there, and it scares me to death of what kind of intestinal attack I might have later.
“Then you get stuck talking to people you don’t know and probably don’t even like, about subjects that are meaningless. It feels like your head could explode at any minute. But you feel the pressure to get out there. Haven't these people ever heard of 'personal space'? It’s easier to just hide in your house until it’s all over. Last year my wife and I went to the local Starbucks and sat drinking coffee for three hours until we knew it was safe to go home. Only problem was, it wasn’t decaf, and it kept us awake half the night. Thank God this happens only once a year.”