Living smart in the country

Friday, January 27, 2012

The recent series of vehicles thefts that plagued our area for several weeks offered a vivid reminder about living in rural small towns.

We enjoy the peacefulness and the slower pace. We become part of the rhythm of the place and develop expectations that come from our day-to-day experience.

Consequently, we live a more relaxed life than in other parts of the country. We become impatient with small stretches of heavy traffic. And we do little things like leave our doors unlocked and, on occasion, maybe even leave our keys in the car.

When someone comes along and breaks our peace, of course, we complain about the violator. It may take a little while for the realization to settle in that living in an unguarded manner has its risks.

Police call thefts and break-ins of unlocked homes and vehicles "crimes of opportunity." It's easy to stop them. The more time and effort a perpetrator has to invest, the greater the risk of getting caught. Often it's easier to just move on.

In our post 9-11 world, Americans still haven't come to grips with how much inconvenience in the name of security is really too much. There's a point where paranoia takes over and obsession turns into a new kind of madness. At some point, our nation will dial back from this edge, but it's especially hard to turn back a bureaucracy created to conduct a specific task.

A society shaped by bureaucracies also becomes conditioned to do as it's told. It takes more effort to embrace our freedoms and responsibilities.

We are free to leave our doors unlocked, but we're also obligated to be smart about it. There comes a time to be careful, even in our world.

The mutual relief shared by the end of a crime spree should not lull us back into complacency. We've had our wake-up call. We need to remember and be smart.