On Friday I set out for a pastoral visit and, as is often the case when I do so, I brought along my camera. It’s amazing how much I manage to see when I’m keeping my eye out for photo opportunities.
This past stroll highlighted a trend I find worrisome in our little town. More and more homes are bearing signs which read, “This home is under 24 hour surveillance,” “Protected by…(insert security firm here)1,” or “No Trespassing.” Each little sign broke my heart a bit more.
I get why people feel the need to announce their home is protected. When folks hear stories of burglaries, or home invasion, they tend to become afraid. Heck, the idea of being robbed gives me pause as well. What I don’t like about all these little signs is the mentality they expose. We are living, more and more, in a “fortress culture.” People’s fears are driving them to put up walls of surveillance, warning, and even monitored alerts in order to feel as though they were protected.
The irony is, I’m pretty sure that sense of safety comes at the expense of freedom. The deeper we dig into our safe-rooms, the more threatening those on “the outside” become to us. More and more we treat strangers as threats which have yet to reveal themselves, rather than potential friends and neighbors. The deeper our mistrust, the aggressive our posturing becomes. We have to make certain everyone knows both our person and our space is not to be encroached upon in any way. What begins as a the fear of the unknown mutates into a certainty the unknown is hostile. Our personal territory might become secure 2, but at the expense of neighborhood plots which have become Balkanized against one another. There may be no open hostilities, but there also is no friendship.
I can’t live that way.
Yes, I find large gatherings of other human-beings terrifying. But I also know I cannot, in any way, live in fear. The truth is, there is no fortress which can keep “the bad guys” out. And slowly strangling the openness of our territory does little more than keep us cut off from potential friends and neighbors. Think about it, if you were moving into a new neighborhood would the house which announced “no trespassing” or “this house is under 24-hour surveillance” be a door on which you felt comfortable knocking to make introductions?
The best security from “the bad guys” isn’t in the threats and warnings we post to keep people away. It’s in the breath and movement of a living community. No it’s not full-proof, no security system is, but it is something better. It’s redemptive.