Monday, July 16, 2007

DC Roundup

This weekend KZ came down for a visit and in discussing it over at Jewschool Mobius asks:

Is it any wonder I’m looking for work in the DC area right now? This place is hoppin’!

Another reason to live in DC is the generally sociable demeanor of the robbers. This story in the Washington Post (h/t dmitri) offers an example:

A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.

"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.

The five other guests, including the girls' parents, froze -- and then one spoke.

"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, blurted out. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"

The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, "Damn, that's good wine."

The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.

Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.

"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said, looking around the patio of the home in the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue NE.

"I'm sorry," he told the group. "Can I get a hug?"

Wow! Positivity, perhaps, is at its most powerful exactly when it is the least liekly emotion to experience.


At 7/18/2007 , Blogger Eli said...

Thanks Zach for this story! It inspired a post on my blog, which runs as follows:

I think about it in the context of prison work. After all, if this guy is caught, he could face ten years in the slammer - probably in a max-security. In Soul on Ice, (New York: Dell, 1968, p. 58), former prisoner (and revolutionary-turned-Republican) Eldridge Cleaver put it this way:

"One thing that the judges, policemen, and administrators of prisons seem never to have understood, and for which they certainly do not make allowances, is that Negro convicts, basically, rather than see themselves as criminals and perpetrators of misdeeds, look upon themselves as prisoners of war, the victims of a vicious, dog-eat-dog social system that is so heinous as to cancel out their own malefactions... Rather than owning and paying a debt to society, Negro prisoners feel that they are being abused, that their imprisonment is simply another form of the oppression which they have know all their lives. Negro inmates feel that they are being robbed, that it is 'society' that owes them, that should be paying them, a debt." [Quoted in Ted Conover's Newjack, New York: Random House, 2000, p. 207]

The Washington Post didn't identify the attacker's skin color. But the point holds. Those who are marginalized - whether by their race or their poverty or whatever - believe that they owe nothing to society. In fact, society owes them. And if society won't cough it up, they'll simply take it.

Thus, inviting the would-be robber to partake in that everlasting symbol of privilege - a glass of red wine - mollified his criminal intention. It deprived him of his motive, which was not just to enrich himself, but to be counted and recognized. It makes perfect sense that he asked for a hug. Sharing their feast of plenty, he felt like one of them. As the Washington Post reports, "In the alley behind the home, investigators found the intruder's empty crystal wine glass on the ground, unbroken."

At 7/19/2007 , Blogger Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

The story reminds me of two things:
The first, REcorded in Jaffa Eliach's Talesof the Holocaust, entitled,
Good Morning Herr Mueller," about the power of greeting one's fellow, and the second, a folk tale about a woman in India whose town was being ravaged by apower group of bandit warriors who would come and take everything, andif anyone resisted, kill them. When her house recieved notice that it would be next (that's how powerfulthey were, they were sending out warnings ahead of time) she decided to do something different: she prepared a large meal,and offered it to them, calling the head robber, "brother," and offering all her jewelry except the piece thatsignified her marriage. The robber, touched by her hospitality and being called brother, not only didn't rob her thattime, but protected her later from soe other sort of unrelated trouble.

And actually, I do think that there is something to all this.
Something to think about during the nine days.


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