The City: Not Getting Involved

New York City, the truism goes, is not America. But it is the American Big City — increasingly so, as the homogenizing forces of the 20th century make all cities, all towns, all countrysides, and the people in them, interchangeable. In recent weeks, two New York crimes have dramatized facts of big-city life that have implications far beyond New York's five boroughs.

First came the murder of Kitty Genovese in the predawn darkness of the quiet, middle-class community of Kew Gardens. The murderer was a lunatic who had never seen her before. It...

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