SO… Our home got violated by a very uninvited and unwelcome “guest” a couple of weeks ago. Until that happened, the concept of crime and punishment was something that flitted in and out of my consciousness without leaving any lasting effect.
We have grown calloused by reports of akyat-bahay which we see and hear almost daily on the evening news so that it has become quite commonplace for us. Actually, we don’t pay that much attention to it, maybe occasionally feeling a bit sorry for the poor victim who lost hard-earned money or belongings. Until it happens to us.
The intruder was evidently extremely skilled (as opined by the police inspector who finally came hours after we reported the crime). Robbers have learned to master the art of stealth to the point of magic. They can enter the home, go shopping, and leave without disturbing the people who are fast asleep. This part bothers me. The general view expressed by those whom I have told is this: “Actually, it’s a good thing that you guys didn’t wake up or the robbers would probably have killed you.” Kind of adding insult to injury, don’t you think?
It is equally terrifying to consider that a thief is just as easily a killer. How casually people react to this, and to the possibility of loss of life. Perhaps the cavalier attitude is because they have never been victims. Was I like that before it happened to our home? The ease with which a criminal activity is brushed off is troublesome. Have we grown to accept crime as a routine and acceptable part of daily life? Have we become accustomed to the thought that people can and will break the law? Have we accepted that at least once in our lifetime, we will be invaded, our privacy violated, our safety threatened? Have we accepted that we may one day be victims ourselves?
That’s very sad. And how the home invasion has changed me is sad. When I chose to live a simple life more than 10 years ago, I gave up all vestiges of luxury (except for my aircon and TV). No jewelry, no gadgets, very little money. So anybody who breaks into my personal space would have little to take with them if at all. No locks on my windows, door always open so my dogs can come and go as they please. No security guards.
Suddenly, every little squeak or step I hear (to paraphrase Sting) is enough to raise my heart rate and make me break out in a cold sweat. Suddenly, I’m double-checking if the windows and doors are locked. I’ve had floodlights and an alarm installed. Worst of all, I’m suddenly very comfortable with the thought of owning a gun. Me, the ultimate anti-gun person. And of feeling that I would not hesitate to use it to take a life if it walked in unbidden and invaded my space.
The thing that most people don’t realize is that what gets stolen goes beyond all the diamonds and gold, beyond all the iPhones and iPads, beyond the MacBooks. The knowledge that some stranger has entered your safe place without permission, where you believe nothing can ever happen to you except natural death, the one place where trust is paramount, is almost impossible to wrap your brain around. That this happened and that you had no control over anything is more than enough to make you want to throw up.
As a postscript, I learned something new. I didn’t know that if there is no one who can be pinpointed as a suspect, the only thing one can do is go to the nearest police station and have the crime be entered into the police blotter. The investigators will only come if you get belligerent and insistent. And only when they are available.
Whoever broke into our house has surely already converted all the electronics into cash (and I feel for my cousins who worked hard to acquire them). I’m sure they are somewhere already planning their next heist, which I hope will not be a second coming. Never realizing that they stole more than things.
They stole all my peace of mind. And there are not that many pieces of my mind left to steal.