Thou Shalt Not Steal Much?

Why being surrounded by conservative Christian Republicans makes me covet a security system

Why being surrounded by conservative Christian Republicans makes me covet a security system

Austin Photo Set: News_pesoli_obama sign_nov 2012_sign
From a neighborhood in Florida that struggled with the same sign-stealing problem. Courtesy of Bay News 9

I'm thinking about getting a home security system, and boy do I resent it.  Security systems go against the whole 1970s-liberal-Democrat-spirit of my upbringing.   Guarding your house was a bourgeois concept — completely repugnant to my parents' way of thinking.

And ridiculous, too, since it implied that we had property that was actually worth protecting. With a house full of threadbare furniture, books for Mom and Dad, and rented cellos and violins for the kids, not only did we not need a security system, we didn't even need to lock the front door.

Our neighborhood was a little on the hard-scrabble side, and we had some sketchy neighbors directly next door who weren't exactly law-abiding citizens.  But Dad came to an understanding with them early on and for the most part they left our house alone. 

Fast forward to five years ago.  I was at the onset of a contentious divorce. My gadget-loving, 20-something son who tends to be a little on the protective side was immediately on me to get a home security system. I gave it some thought, but decided against it mainly because the couple of times I've lived in houses with security systems, they have always made me feel less rather than more secure. It was as if the very presence of a security system somehow served as a constant reminder that my safety was imperiled. 

Over the past five years I've had some tense moments. The most notable was the time last summer when a dead body was discovered in our neighborhood park.  As it turned out, the murder had not taken place in our subdivision, but the perpetrators had selected our tennis and swim center as the perfect site for their victim to rest in suburban peace.

The robo-calls from security companies began almost immediately — and I'm still getting them today. The pre-recorded message informs me that a house gets broken into every eight minutes, then reassures me that a company representative will be in my neighborhood next week to help me secure my home. These calls never have the intended effect, and I’ve never taken the bait.

But I've finally encountered a threat that has me rattled.  I live around the corner from a conservative Christian private school and many of the families who live on my street send their kids there.  Like most high school students, these kids love a good prank. That in itself is A-Okay with me. I love a friendly prank as much as the next mom (suffering from arrested development). So, when the neighbor's house repeatedly gets toilet papered, for example, I see it as the compliment that it is to the students who live there.

 When it comes to the sketchy neighbors of my childhood, or my ex-husband during our divorce, or the thugs that dumped a body in the park, I knew exactly what I was dealing with because no one was pretending to be something he wasn't.

But back in September we awoke to find that someone had taken our Jeep out of our driveway and put it smack dab in the middle of our neighbor's front yard.  In my view, there's a big difference between wrapping a house with toilet paper and auto theft. (And that's the police department's terminology for what happened, by the way, not mine.) Auto theft doesn't feel very friendly. And because we are not part of their school community, our property being the butt of their joke didn't feel very friendly, either.

The police offered to send an officer to take a report and dust for prints, but I was more interested in making this a teachable moment than a criminal case.  I wasn't one hundred percent sure that the Jeep relocation was the handiwork of the high school kids, but it seemed the most plausible theory considering whose yard it ended up in. 

I contacted folks who worked at the school but reactions ranged from lack of concern masked with a pleasantry (“I have no idea who moved your Jeep….Have a great weekend….”) to an unwillingness to take action unless we could identify exactly who the culprits were. As far as I was concerned, the important thing wasn't for the kids to be caught and punished, but rather for the adults tasked with guiding these kids to do their jobs.

At the very least, talking to the high school kids about the line between harmless pranks and criminal acts couldn't hurt. After all, this is Texas and guns are a dime a dozen. The governor himself took out a living creature for daring to cross his path while he was out for a jog in his tony neighborhood one afternoon. It isn't a stretch to think that real harm could come to a teenager caught in the act of taking a car out of someone else's driveway in the middle of the night.

I suggested a few times that they not worry so much about who did it (not that they were waiting for my permission) but instead gather the kids together and talk to them about the topic of pranks and the dangers of going too far. They never got back to me on that.

 I'd rather deal with someone who makes it clear that they have no regard for the law than someone who professes their profound respect for it — but then disregards it when no one is looking

That brings us to week before last. Before going to dinner, I put up an Obama 2012 sign in my front yard — right next to my daughter's "Nutcracker Cast Member" sign. The next morning, the Obama sign had been stolen along with other Obama signs on our street. (The Romney signs were unaffected by the spree.) Not wanting to overreact, I simply pulled out the extra signs I had in the garage and stuck another one in my yard.

Later that evening, my daughter and a friend had been playing in the front yard. We hopped in the car to run a short errand and were back within thirty minutes.   When we got home both the Obama sign and my daughter's ballet sign were gone, along with all of the newly-replaced Obama signs on our street.

As far as criminal acts go, I realize this isn't front page news — in fact, it doesn't even rise to the level of auto theft. Yet these events were nonetheless unsettling to me and here's why: When it comes to the sketchy neighbors of my childhood, or my ex-husband during our divorce, or the thugs that dumped a body in the park, I knew exactly what I was dealing with because no one was pretending to be something he wasn't.

This made it easy to steer clear of trouble. I knew I was never to go play inside our sketchy neighbor's house when I was a child.  I understood that trust was no longer something my ex and I shared once we were in divorce mode.  And I got that the lowlifes who dumped the body in the park were bad guys.   

But the incident with the Jeep and the Obama sign-jackings are another matter entirely. The folks that moved the Jeep are presumably students of a conservative Christian school.  And it's a safe bet that the folks who keep stealing the Obama signs are Republicans, which means they most likely profess to be Christians, too.

Republicans often tell us how much they love the U.S. Constitution and Christians are supposed to follow the Ten Commandments.  I'm left wondering whether it's dark demons, a sense of entitlement or just garden variety hypocrisy that leads them to the conclusion that the very laws they profess to love so much do not apply to them.

Whatever the reason, pseudo patriots and hypocritical Christians are more frightening to me than known criminals any day. I'd rather deal with someone who makes it clear that they have no regard for the law than someone who professes their profound respect for it — but then disregards it when no one is looking.   

That's why even though I resent everything about them I am seriously considering getting a home security system.   At least my son will appreciate it.   The next time I get one of those robo-calls, I might just go ahead and make his day.