The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






The Tennessee Mockingbird

Warning: Neighborhood Watch Area

The Mockingbird received permission from Jim Upton to print the following allegory. Fit for our times, "he that readeth, let him understand."

Warning:  Neighborhood Watch Area

By J. Patrick Upton

Once upon a time in a  land far, far away, a band of sojourners settled in a near wilderness territory.  They had fled their native soil in search of an abode which would provide for their posterity all things necessary for life, prosperity, liberty, tranquillity, and happiness.

With time this band of sojourners grew and prospered.  Their diligence, industry, and sound work ethic brought them great wealth and in time news of their riches spread to distant lands.  The tremendous wealth generated by this flourishing community spilled into the entire region so that fledgling communities began to spring up all around them.

Indeed, for young men and women just coming of age and full of hopes and dreams, Ourtown, as it had come to be called, seemed the perfect place to be.  Peace,

June Griffin

prosperity,  and goodness abounded.

On a typical Saturday evening, many of the residents of Ourtown could be found at the town square.  There was fellowship, music, revelry, and dancing.  Occasionally, there was storytelling or public announcements and such.

One particular Saturday evening, however, the usual merry making was halted as one of the Smith boys abruptly interrupted the storyteller.  He related to the crowd a tale of horror, as he described what had befallen their neighbors just moments earlier.  It seemed the Jones family had been accosted at knife point by an alien intruder who had made off with a significant amount of the Jones' family treasure.  Mrs. Jones and the children had been threatened and traumatized by this brutality and were still struggling to gather their wits about them.

By Friday of the following week, two more assaults and robberies  had taken place by even larger groups of bandits.  It was necessary that the typical Saturday evening celebration be replaced with a more somber town meeting. 

Pastor Poindexter presided over the meeting in which the testimonies of several eyewitnesses were given.  The victims themselves also relayed the horrific details of their experiences.

During the meeting, it became evident that the people of Ourtown must organize and implement a plan to protect and defend those values and goals for which their forefathers had assembled in this place.

It was agreed upon that a Neighborhood Watch Area program would be initiated.  Howard T. Justice volunteered to oversee the program and all of the men of Ourtown agreed to volunteer a portion of their time to this endeavor.  Arrangements were haggled over and eventually finalized to ensure that twenty-four hours a day the community would have someone on watch.  The man on watch would have other men of the town on whom he could call should the need arise.  The men would all arm and equip themselves for this work.  Signs were quickly constructed and placed about the community intending to discourage would-be offenders.  The signs were painted bright red and boasted in large black letters, "Warning - Neighborhood Watch Area."

The validity of this effort was made obvious within a short time as at least three different robbery attempts were foiled by the Neighborhood Watch Area volunteers.  In fact, on one occasion a would-be robber was apprehended during his escape attempt and was forcibly presented before the citizenry of Ourtown.  This particular bandit was forced to make two-fold restitution to his intended victim.

As time passed the population of Ourtown continued to grow.  As the burdens and responsibilities of the town's Neighborhood Watch Area also expanded, it became evident that Howard Justice and his volunteer force were increasingly overloaded.  While they had done a commendable job, things were beginning to slip through the cracks.  It had become exceedingly clear that someone must be appointed who would be available full-time to properly oversee the Neighborhood Watch Area program.

Howard T. Justice was overwhelmingly voted to become the first full-time "Constable" in Ourtown at the next town meeting.  It was agreed upon after a great deal of debate, that every household would contribute to the fund from which Mr. Justice's salary and equipment needs would be drawn.

It was a great relief to several of the men of Ourtown that Howard Justice was on duty full time since it was easier to make a contribution to the fund than to find the time to serve on the volunteer force.  With Howard working full-time to protect the people of Ourtown, there was a decisive decrease in the attempts at robbery,  extortion,  and lawlessness of every sort.

For some time the new Neighborhood Watch Area system seemed to be functioning as designed.  However,  as Ourtown continued to grow, Mr. Justice seemed increasingly overwhelmed with his responsibilities. His pleas for relief were heard at yet another town meeting, wherein it was decided that it was necessary to employ two assistants to provide twenty-four hour, full-time security for Ourtown.  While almost all of the men of Ourtown agreed to increase their voluntary contributions to this effort of protecting the well being of their families, there were a couple of men who were uncertain as to their ability to do so.
Years rolled by, Howard T. Justice grew old, and Ourtown grew dramatically.  The population and geometric proportions of Ourtown had grown exponentially, while the surrounding communities had grown as well.

Howard Justice's successor was a young man by the name of Edward Slack.  At the time of his election to office, Slack was overseeing a Neighborhood Watch Area force totaling twelve men.

The amount of the voluntary contribution required by  the growing size of the Neighborhood Watch Area had been compensated for by the growing number of households in the community.  The increasing tendencies toward violence by outlaw bands had been matched only by the Neighborhood Watch Area force's increase in powers and armament.

Gangs of lawless thugs grew larger and stronger in the surrounding communities.  Their forays into Ourtown grew more frequent as Ourtown had continued to grow more prosperous.

At Saturday evening town meetings it had become a regular occurrence to have representatives of surrounding communities present to plea for assistance and protection for their citizenry.  More and more the boundaries of communities began to overlap and citizens to intermingle.  More and more Edward Slack was drawn into situations wherein cries for help from other communities were more than he and his men could deny.  More and more town meetings in Ourtown consisted of a people not descended from the founders of Ourtown.  Indeed, the few remaining descendants of those people were rarely to be found at a town meeting.

Simon Newvision was Constable of Ourtown when the Neighborhood Watch Area force exceeded 1,000 men.  It was after a particularly heated debate at a town  meeting when it was decided that a portion of the funds collected from the households of Ourtown would be utilized to fund a Neighborhood Watch Area program for a neighboring community.  Mr. Do-Good, it seems, was able to convince the attendees that it was in the best interest of Ourtown to ensure the well-being and safety of surrounding communities.  Also, at an ensuing town meeting it was decided that Simon Newvision's retirement pension would be paid for by the contributions of the people of Ourtown.  By a slim margin it was also decided that the salary would be paid without interruption to a member of the Neighborhood Watch Area force who had been too ill to perform his duties. Murmurs of discontent could be heard throughout the community of Ourtown, but seldom did anyone complain overtly once Frank Enforcer was named head of the Neighborhood Watch Agency (NWA).

By this time, the NWA consisted of over 2,500 well-armed men scattered amongst a dozen or so different communities.  Also several agencies had been spawned from the NWA including the LCA  (Love your Children Agency).  As the programs, agencies, and services performed by the NWA increased so did the "contribution" amount demanded by them per household.

The judges who had been appointed to sit over the courts, regularly imposed fines and penalties which were paid to fund the NWA, the court system, and other related agencies.  The victims of the crimes had learned not to expect even a partial restitution.  While the jail system was continually enlarged, still there was perpetual over-crowding.

Mr. Right stood alone when he approached the podium at a town meeting and announced that he was no longer willing to voluntarily contribute to the fund for the NWA or its associated agencies.  He opposed the brutality the NWA had employed when coercing his nephew (a citizen of an adjoining community) to pay an annual tax for the right to shine shoes in his home town.  He objected to his contributions being used to render compensation to men he believed were not ill or injured but were simply disinclined to work.  He absolutely disagreed with the principles that teachers were forcing upon his children, with their salaries being paid through the LCA.  He went on to explain that he was adamantly opposed to a portion of his contributions being sent to the PCA (Population Control Agency) to fund programs with which he was morally obliged to oppose.

The following month Frank Enforcer noticed that Mr. Right's contribution was one week overdue.  While making his rounds, he stopped by to visit Mr. Right.  The visit was non-confrontational and congenial.  Mr. Right pointed out to Mr. Enforcer his moral duty to not knowingly or willfully endorse, promote, or contribute to causes with which he disagreed.  Frank Enforcer very diplomatically agreed with Mr. Right's freedom to disagree --- as long as he continued to provide his voluntary contribution. 

The following month, Frank Enforcer showed up at Mr. Right's front door with three dozen of his men.  It seemed Mr. Right had neglected to send in his contribution the second consecutive month.  As the NWA men bound Mr. Right's hands, a crowd gathered 'round.  Voices in the crowd could be heard scolding Mr. Right for not paying his fair share.  As he was being led away, Mr. Right could be heard pleading with the crowd that Ourtown had been plagued by hordes of outlaws more over the past twelve months than ever in their history.  "In fact," declared Mr. Right, "the more we give and the larger the NWA grows, the less safety we have!"  The NWA men quickly gagged Mr. Right as he was attempting to say something about his children, his home, and  .  .  .  . freedom! 
Frank Enforcer was quick to inform the crowd that Mr. Right's property would be auctioned off the following week with the proceeds going to the NWA to continue to support their benevolent and charitable activities.  He also issued a caveat to any citizen who might entertain thoughts similar to those of Mr. Right's.

"Just read the signs," said Mr. Enforcer, "and remember  -  you are, after all, in a Neighborhood Watch Area!"