By Dana Bragg
There are legal wrongs that have become commonplace, and perhaps we have become desensitized to many of them. Many people don’t even bother to report vehicle break-ins anymore, and perhaps it isn’t even worth the phone call to your local law enforcement detachment to report that someone made off with the lawnmower you left outside for a night.
The anger and frustration, and perhaps even hurt, that we feel over what has come to be known as petty crime are completely warranted and justified, but we are always being encouraged to take the position of, "Oh, well, that’s the day and age we live in."
To a local resident who had his outboard motor stolen three times in a single summer it is no petty thing. To the carpenter who uses his toolbox to make a living and has had his power tools lifted from his truck more than once, it isn’t irrelevant. For any one of us to purchase something, with money we work to earn, and then to turn our backs and see that it went out the driveway the night before in the hands of a thief isn’t inconsequential.
In fact, it’s appalling, regardless of the magnitude or value of the thing taken.
In the dark
Is any crime against a fellow human being petty or insignificant? What about when there is an emotional component to it? What about when the dirt hasn’t settled on your grandmother’s grave and vandals trespass on it and swipe from it?
Imagine vowing to your dying grandmother, because of her adverse feeling toward total darkness, that you would never leave her gravesite completely dark. Now imagine taking the time to find the perfect solar lights that will charge by day and illuminate the otherwise blackness by night. Now imagine going back to visit your grandmother’s grave in order to feel close to her, and finding that the lights you had promised her were ripped from their bases.
This is a crime of heart-wrenching proportions and it is happening everywhere. There is a blatant disregard for the sanctity of life and death. Those of us with a conscience can’t fathom walking over the grave of someone’s mom, someone’s brother or sister or their child in order to vandalize it.
Responses such as, "It happens everywhere," "Nobody is exempt from stealing," and "Not much you can do about it," should no longer hold water with those of us who believe that if you want something or need something, you should work for it.
A promise to a loved one
Is it time for law enforcement and the courts to recognize the human element in all of this? I know the laws are set to be objective, but in reality it isn’t a $50 solar light — it’s a promise to a loved one. A basket of flowers hanging on a wrought iron post at a graveside isn’t for decoration; it’s a testament of what someone means to you.
As a society we need to rekindle our diligence in making known our desire to protect what is close to us. I’m not suggesting any kind of vigilance — there’s no room in a caring, mutually respectful community for that. But I am saying that we need to follow up with the police, even and our MHAs. We need to write letters to the papers discussing our opinions regarding crime that isn’t petty, we need to raise awareness of what is going on in our towns, and we need to be ever more watchful over our property and the property of our neighbours.
I’ll put the solar light back on my grandmother’s grave, and I’ll continue to do so for as long as I am able, but I won’t accept the mindless, reproachable theft of graveside comforts as petty, and I won’t accept the notion that there isn’t much I can do.
As likeminded, decent-living human beings, there is always something we can do.
— Dana Bragg wrote this letter in the days after discovering that lights placed on her grandmother's grave were stolen. Her grandmother, the late Eva Ash, passed away May 3 and is resting at the United Church cemetery in Victoria. Bragg writes from St. John's.