Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Speaking of homeland security...

Tonight I spent about an hour at the home of a neighbor representing my block as a “block captain” in our new neighborhood security program. Two starched and serious police officers explained to us the importance of closing our garages even when we are at home, hiding all personal and valuable articles in our vehicles, not warming up our cars on our driveways in the morning (which is actually illegal here in Mecklenberg County), and not even leaving our wallets, purses, or laptops computers in our kitchens. It’s an increasingly dangerous world out there, and now apparently that danger is coming much closer to home. One of my neighbors ventured out into her backyard earlier this fall to water her plants and upon her return to her kitchen, discovered that someone had entered her house through the garage, stolen cash and credit cards from her wallet, and made his way to the nearby Target to do some early holiday shopping. They know that’s where he went because they caught him on the store’s security tape. Apparently, he had done this before as he kept his baseball cap pulled low on his forehead and never looked up during the entire transaction. Too bad the cashier didn’t notice that the well-groomed, polite young man was using the credit card of a woman named Mitzi Savage. If the cash register doesn’t beep or blow a whistle or send up a smoke signal, then no one bothers to match the name with the face. Nine of us sat in my neighbor’s dining room entranced by the tales of the devious behavior and downright audacity of this city’s criminals, and we were dismayed by the foolish behavior of the victims who walk alone at night, leave our wallets, cell phones, computers, and expensive leather coats on the front seats of our cars while the engines are running, and we are no whwere in sight. We South Charlotteans have been targeted by trenchers (the idiots who get a thrill out of driving their cars across meticulously manicured lawns), teenage car thieves (who steal cars from a nearby driveway to go to the local shopping mall, where they do their shopping, and then steal another car to drive home), and larcenists who break into our kitchens and steal our laptop computers and wallets while we sleep. If we can’t be safe in our upscale, overpriced, exclusive enclaves, then what hope is there for anyone? Why can’t my husband’s hard earned money protect me and my children from the riff-raff that wants to make my life so miserable? And who makes up the bold new breed of malfeasants that have upset the delicate balance of our fair community? I can’t even write that stuff with a straight face. Do I want my house to be broken into? Do I want my husband’s car to be stolen off our driveway? (Why he won’t put his car into the garage is one of the many things about him I will never understand, but c’est la vie.) Do I like having to turn on the alarm when I go out for a walk with the kids on a sunny late autumn afternoon? Do I want my mailbox knocked over by drunken teenagers leaving a local party? Absolutely not. But do I deserve to avoid the injustices of life, the ravages of desperate and mean people any more than anyone else? Absolutely not. As we sat in that meeting earlier this evening, we all wanted some reassurance that the police would do more to protect us, that we could come up with some plan that would make all the crime stop, and that our beloved neighborhood, Rosecliff, would not succumb to the madness that seems to be gripping other areas of Charlotte, North Carolina, our nation, and our world. As I sit here now recounting the increased crime in our neighborhood, I find myself wanting to explain where I live. I want to do all I can to fend off the notion that “someone out there” would assume that I live in a bad neighborhood, so what else should I expect? I want to prove that I don’t live someplace where crime is taken for granted; I want to prove that we are in one of the most coveted areas of this entire state; I want to say that we deserve better. We work extremely hard to keep our homes, lawns, and streets looking their best. We paid more for our houses when we bought them and we pay more in taxes every year in order for our children (well, not mine in particular, but "ours" in general) to go to good schools. We chose to live farther from uptown Charlotte in order to avoid the hassles and dangers of “city life.” But the truth is that I don’t deserve any more protection or safety than anyone else in this or any city, nor can I say that my nation deserves more of God’s blessing, protection, or love than any other. Every parent in the world hopes, dreams, and prays to live in a community and in a world where our children and spouses and houses are safe from harm, from break-ins, and from terrorists. Some of us pay for alarm systems, guard dogs, and safety deposit boxes. We pay for kick boxing classes, pepper spray, and gun licenses. But none of that can insure or assure our safety. I live in what many people consider to be the strongest, most revered, and most powerful nation in the world. Our military is the largest and most technically advanced in the world. Our nation consumes more sugar, soda, ice cream, and French fries than any other nation in the world. (Just thought I’d throw that last statistic in there to lighten things up a bit.) But we are not immune from the cruelty and murderous rage of people who would rather die than see us live as we do. No color-code alert systems will change that. No well-armed citizenry, well-trained military, or well-patrolled borders will change that. No ADT system will stop thieves from prowling our quiet streets and breaking into our well-appointed homes. No vigilant neighborhood watch system will outwit the determined criminal in search of an easily snagged leather bag. We will lock our doors, set our alarms, and bring our wallets upstairs at night. We will be careful when we are out and about in the evening. We will tell the children to wear their bike helmets and come inside if a stranger ever approaches them when they are outside playing. But the bottom line for me is a plagiarized line. This line was written centuries ago by a lowly shepherd boy who later was crowned king of Israel: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Good night. Sweet dreams.

No comments: