A Move To The Suspicious Suburbs

<p>Moving from New York City to rural Westchester County, a writer meets an unfamiliar culture of xenophobia. Soon she finds herself increasingly suspicious of strangers, too.</p>
October 16, 2007, 5am PDT | Michael Patrick
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Rebecca Johnson and her husband have moved to Pound Ridge, New York, a forested town of rural houses on meandering country roads and quiet cul-de-sacs. The landscape invites them to venture out and enjoy it -- until a property owner intervenes, stating they are trespassing on his private property.

She then begins noticing her new neighbors' fearful attitudes toward the unknown in their community. Strangers in unfamiliar cars elicit police calls. A crime in a Connecticut town grabs the community's full attention. Eventually she finds herself converted, also monitoring her surroundings with suspicion.

Johnson writes: "Sometimes the xenophobia of the suburbs is subtle, sometimes it's not. But you can't live here very long without becoming aware that so much of what draws us to the suburbs - the ability to find a parking spot in town, the quiet of the night, the sense of safety - is based on the principles of exclusion."

Thanks to Richard Layman

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Published on Sunday, October 7, 2007 in The New York Times
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