Remember when we allowed people to see into our cars? Remember when we let people see into our lives? Remember when we allowed people to come up to our front doors without having to get past a security guard? Remember when we didn’t have to arm ourselves against our neighbors? Some months ago I saw a vintage Ford Fairlane on a Ventura street: big windows, clear glass, nothing to hide. It stood out like a fresh flower next to the other cars with their thick armor-plating and small, darkly-tinted windows.
What are we afraid of? That a Zombie will jump us on the sidewalk? That a terrorist will toss a bomb into our house? That a shooter will spray our cars with bullets? We’ve definitely been watching too much TV. We’ve been watching too many Hobbit movies made by the likes of Peter Jackson, who turns a charming children’s fairy tale into a random succession of brutality, darkness, and fear. Does this movie reflect how we see the world, so differently than Tolkien saw it? Tolkien, who had fought in trenches of the darkest of all wars and seen most of his companions slaughtered on the fields of France in 1917, did not think the world was so dark and fearsome. His hobbits walk the streets bravely and even enter Mordor armed with nothing but a little sword and faith in the eventual triumph of Goodness. Alhambra can’t be so dangerous that people can’t walk down the sidewalk unarmed, or drive an open car down its broad avenues. We do, after all, live under friendly skies.
At the end of my walk down a neighborhood in Alhambra, two middle-aged Asian ladies came from the opposite direction. We said hello, and bowed slightly with shy smiles. They were the only other human beings walking outside that afternoon. They had not yet learned how dangerous the streets of Alhambra can be; they had not yet learned that one must hide and arm himself.