Letter From the Editor: Neighbor

Dear Reader,

I think it was Jesus who said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

I grew up in a neighborhood where nobody really liked each other at all. My mother’s best attempts at creating a community were met with unanswered phone calls and empty promises. People, apparently, had more important things to do than show up to a block party once a year. So our neighborhood was much more an assemblage of houses than a congregation of people.

The man who lived next door was a brain surgeon. He never left the house without wearing bright blue latex gloves—even in his backyard, he was ready to operate. He bought a special vacuum to suck up pine needles off his driveway. After one vacuuming session, he decided it was so much work that it would be better to illegally clear-cut the whole property—a dozen douglas firs and western hemlocks, all probably older than he was. Once, he introduced my mom as “the owner’s wife,” because apparently only men can own houses. Last I heard, he was saying he regretted buying the house in the first place. That he wished he could burn it down. 

Everyone has had a weird neighbor—whether it’s the grumpy old man from down the street or the stoner on the fourth floor of Mathias. Our neighbors tell us a lot about our expectations of people—whether we see them as people like us or as intruders in a space we feel entitled to. And are we really obligated to like our neighbors, much less love them, just because Jesus said so? 

After my neighbor clear-cut his property, the county fined him over $10,000, and our neighborhood bonded over the mutual antipathy toward his behavior—it’s now a frequent conversation starter.

When we started brainstorming stories for this issue, we were inundated with stories about these kinds of crazy neighbors. Ultimately, though, we ended up with a fairly serious issue. 

The issue opens with Eden Lumerman’s story about Birthright, investigating the relationship between Jewish identity, Zionism, and Israel’s occupation of Palestine (pg. 8). Maggie O’Brien’s photo essay captures the unique culture and politics of the Rio Grande Valley (pg. 32); Megan Bott (pg. 30) and Tucker Smith (pg. 52) share memoirs of childhood in the South. Clare Ende interviews Mad Wallace, a former CC student band, just down the road in Denver (pg. 14), while back at CC, Monica Black and Rebecca Glazer look at how Bon Appetit’s claims of sourcing local, sustainable, and organic food products don’t hold up to scrutiny (pg. 18).

This issue travels widely: we begin in Israel, spend a couple stories in Colorado, take a pit-stop in Cincinnati, go south to the border, dash to New Orleans, and end, somehow, with a memoir in Kentucky.

Naturally, editing these stories had the staff reflecting on what it means to be a neighbor. Does someone become our neighbor because of their proximity to us, or because of our relationship to them? Are our neighbors the people closest to us, or the people closest to us?

Regardless, the writers of these stories took the time to get to know their neighbors—we hope you get to know them too. I’ll be on my porch, yelling at strangers.

I love you like I love myself,

Nathan Makela (& the Cipher staff)

June SassComment