15 May 2010

On Becoming A Statistic

Something new happened to us yesterday. We became a statistic. A crime statistic.

Upon returning from a morning of work and chores we noticed our back door was open. Remembering that we locked it on leaving I walked very gingerly into the house, and noticed that the door was damaged and several laptop computers were missing.

We called the police of course, and did a more thorough look around. Oddly, one computer was not taken. Nothing else was much disturbed, although a backpack and shoulder bag had been emptied out to carry the laptops.

The police came and took down the information. I called a friend to ask how to repair my back door. In the course of the next three hours the door was fixed, the house was dusted for prints and - this is the wild part - most of the loot was recovered. How that happened is too long for a post, but suffice it to say that such things are very rare. That bit of luck on the part of the police may also lead them to a conviction in what would otherwise be an unsolved crime.

What makes me write about it is that I see in my personal experience a mirror of the national experience since 2001.

While we were not cavalier about security, we truly did not expect a violent act. A bicycle was stolen from our garage two years ago, but actually having the door broken down was never a serious worry. Now that is has happened we are wondering how to prevent it from happening again, and whether the miscreant will do it to us again.

That's pretty much the way the country felt after September 11, although written quite large. But the sense of unexpected violence, and the aftershocks of vulnerability and uncertainty, are the same.

The day after our crime we are wondering whether we can leave the house untended , even as we know we have to. And what should we do in the future? More locks? Alarm systems? Again, questions the country was and still is asking.

I take some comfort in the likelihood that the felon will be apprehended, and go to jail for a longish time, which is not true for the country yet. But what about known associates and all those ominous things? That surely is part of the national anxiety.

What I am trying to say is that perhaps we should, as a nation, look back over the last ten years as an experience of being a crime victim. However different the specific acts, and the scale, the psychic response is strikingly similar. And is there something we could learn, as a nation, from how people have responded to being violated?

Sounds like I am suggesting group therapy or something. Not really. Just wondering if we would benefit by looking at 9/11 as a criminal act as well as a political act. From what I can tell, outrage and retaliation have not brought us more security. The world is more precarious now than ten years ago, and I cannot help but wonder if our swift and violent retaliations have added fuel rather than reduced it.

Yes, I want the criminal to be imprisoned, if only for my sake. I will probably add more locks to my doors. No doubt I will be on edge for some time. But I am not yet putting a fence around my house or demanding checkpoints on my block, or even more police on my street, or arming myself or setting out to catch the person. When I think hard, I know such things will imprison me as much as much as protect me, reinforce my fear and outrage soothe them, and ultimately cost me more than some laptops and a door and some naivete about how safe anyone really is.

Careful thought tells me I am no less safe than I was last week, and no less free either. Crime and violence force us to face a clearer picture of what is really true about our lives. That is the hard part, I think. And not just for me.

1 comment:

sermonsinstones.com said...

My sympathy, Fred. It is a terrible feeling to realize one's vulnerability.

If we had seen September 11 as primarily a criminal act--murder on an enormous scale--then we might have chosen some different approaches to punishing it and preventing another occurrence.