Thieves and murderersBy
On Christmas Eve, Luca Zaia, president of the Veneto, received a visit — not by the Spirits of Christmas, but by four hooded men who broke into his country house looking for money. (He wasn’t there.) They pretty much trashed the house looking for a safe to steal; when they finally found it, it was empty. No happy ending for Mr. Zaia, at least not yet, and probably not for the four men, whenever the carabinieri succeed in interpreting the film from the security video cameras.
On the same day, thieves also broke into at least five other houses in the same area, and plenty of other places, I assume, and stole things. But all robberies are not created equal. Even I have to admit that, if not on a moral level, at least on a curious-human level, the theft of a Picasso from a palace is somewhat more interesting than the theft of some money and a few high-tech electronics from a suburban villa. And the fact that this misfortune struck an Important Person obviously deserves a few columns.
A few columns? For two days we’ve been served whole roasted articles about this event, as if it had never happened before, or that it somehow was worse for him than for the suburban villa-dwellers.
He, bless his shellshocked little heart, has given vent to some extreme emotions and opinions which, while you can understand them, lead you to wonder why he never had or expressed them in other cases in which he was not personally involved.
In fact, he was quoted yesterday as saying (and this looks great in a headline): “He who steals is like he who kills.”
Excuse me? Is he not clear on the essential nature of death? Because the Veneto is full of people every day — alas — who literally are killed, get buried or cremated, and leave behind suffering families and huge holes in their hearts and lives which can never be filled. There is a reason why the death penalty is considered justifiable for punishing murderers, but not thieves.
Mr. Zaia has had a fine time fulminating about robbery and retribution (which would make a great title for a novel, by the way. Where is Dostoyevsky when we need him? Oh sorry — he died of a lung hemorrhage, and not from having a couple of delinquents steal his cufflinks) — as I say, Mr. Zaia has given himself over to ranting, throwing out platitudes such as “Zero tolerance!” and “Fist of iron!” Now that it’s happened to him, thievery suddenly matters?
Correct answer: Mais oui, mon capitaine. Being a politician, no experience can be left unexploited for political gain, and being on the extreme right of the political spectrum, he would naturally be calling down brimstone on criminals of every sort.
Not that I’m defending criminals, but committing crimes is what they do and you should make some reasonable effort to prevent it rather than declaring jihad after it happens. When I lived in New York, I experienced break-ins in two different apartments. In the second, they carried off jewelry and a large load of recent wedding presents, and a whole set of family silver. (In case you think I didn’t know how to protect my stuff, in the second instance the thieves had obtained the keys.)
So Mr. Zaia has a large, beautiful, obviously expensive house in a fairly isolated position in the country, which clearly was empty on Christmas Eve. The security system consisted of video cameras. What do you think could possibly happen? He claims that the Code of Country Life has always meant trust in one’s neighbors, peaceful coexistence, leaving the keys in the car, whatever.
He didn’t consider the possibility that some passersby might not be neighbors, and may not have been informed of the Code. So now he’s mad.
Me, I’d be embarrassed for people to discover I was so naive. But as I say, if you’re a politician, you tend not to say “How stupid could I be?” That would set a Dangerous Precedent.
So what we’ve heard for two days is the sound of the doors of the horseless barn being closed. It is, as always, a very silly — regrettable, but silly — sound.