Peace on earth? Not likely, but it’s not as bad as you thinkThe worst sound in the middle of a celebratory slumber is that of crashing glass. As consciousness begins its meek tapping, one’s feeble brain begins to crank away at reality. Why is that glass shattering? New Year’s Eve left glassware on the kitchen counter. Is the cat walking across the counter? Is blitzing fluted champagne glasses onto the tile floor so satisfying that he can’t stop himself? Something more sinister begins to eat away at the edge of the reasoning. That’s not glassware. That is bigger –bigger like a living room window – bigger like somebody outside of our locked doors wanting to get INTO our house badly enough to smash through.
The worst sound in the middle of a celebratory slumber is that of crashing glass.
As consciousness begins its meek tapping, one’s feeble brain begins to crank away at reality. Why is that glass shattering? New Year’s Eve left glassware on the kitchen counter. Is the cat walking across the counter? Is blitzing fluted champagne glasses onto the tile floor so satisfying that he can’t stop himself?
Something more sinister begins to eat away at the edge of the reasoning. That’s not glassware. That is bigger –bigger like a living room window – bigger like somebody outside of our locked doors wanting to get INTO our house badly enough to smash through.
These were my first conscious thoughts in the first hours of the first day last year. Someone WAS breaking into our house.
An inebriated young man, after a series of poor decisions, found himself wandering around our neighborhood with temperatures far below zero. He tried in vain to get into a garage. Thwarted, he tried a door on a different house. Extremely cold, reasoning impaired, he broke into a house so he could get warm.
Unfortunately, that house was our house. Unfortunately for him we were home. He soon found himself at the business end of my husband’s Glock 45 (years of training, not recommended for all users). We called the police and in the midst of a busy night dealing with drunks and accidents, they quickly swept into our driveway, secured the perpetrator and took him to jail. We were left with a hole in the side of our house and a general unease. After a short court appointment in which he apologized and made financial restitution, all was made right again.
Except our peace of mind was left behind. Never again will I sleep as soundly; never again do I hear a noise in the house and blithely wonder what it might be. Those walls and doors that keep the big, bad world out – actually don’t. Peace is an illusion.
No! Peace is a state of mind.
If you spend any time watching TV you begin to feel that this world is going to hell in a handbasket. Parents won’t let their children play outside because bad guys are driving around the neighborhood looking for children to abduct. We are quite sure that 80 percent of the people we meet on the sidewalk are potential rapists and thieves. Evil is lurking around every corner, waiting for the next victim.
However, I have run smack into some cold, hard statistics which fly in the face of our media-induced fear. The FBI has been tracking crime statistics from law enforcement agencies for decades. The facts from their website (www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats) don’t bear out the idea that most of us are potential victims who should live in a state of fear.
According to the FBI, the preliminary results for 2011 are that law enforcement agencies are reporting a DECREASE of 6.4 percent of crimes in the U.S. as compared with 2010. Contrary to my personal experience, reported property crime is down by 3.7 percent from 2010. The height of reported crime was in the 1990s, but since 1998 crime rates have been steadily dropping across the board.
No one is talking about this. We have to ask why. Who stands to benefit from a world in which everyone is frightened of their neighbor? Certainly sensational stories attract more newspaper readers, TV viewers, and Internet users. More clients means more advertisers, which means more money. But fear-mongering also affects whom we vote for and where we decide to put our money. We spend a considerably larger amount of money on our felons than on our children. Is that what you intended to do with the money you earned?
All of this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be alert and protective of your family, self and stuff. Do realize, though, that bad things have always been happening on this planet, and the onward tread of time doesn’t necessarily mean everything is getting worse.
2011 wasn’t a good year for me. The drunken kid breaking into my home on the first day of the year felt like bad juju. I have to work hard now to not be a nervous wreck. I think about security much more than I used to. But I realize that I can exist in a state of fear, fueled by the media. Or I can look at the facts, look at the faces around me and find hope.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota (and lives in Duluth). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.