Stay warm, everyone. Spring’s comin’. In FAR Future, it’s about here.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Spreading the Wealth
This has been all over the local media. A gang of suburban “mainstream” (i.e. WASP) teenagers have been stealing all sorts of stuff that’s easy to fence these days — bikes, motorcycles, solar panels, siphoning gasoline, etc. — and either selling them to pay their parents’ utility bills, or giving them to neighbors who need some help. The parents had no idea what was happening. “We thought we’d been put on an assistance program, and to be honest, we didn’t want to ask questions in case it was a mistake,” said one weepy mom.
Opinion is running every which way. The media always uses the phrase “suburban teenagers,” which brings to mind your wholesome, blond-haired, blue-eyed A student looking forward to starting a “good” college and then a professional career. “Robin Hoods” is another phrase being beaten into the ground. It sort of fits; they were going into the hotsy-totsy developments, the country clubs and so forth. Through the winter, they posed as the gutter cleaning or landscaping services; some of them wore makeup to darken their skin (since Hispanic folks do most of the work) so nobody paid much attention to them. They took ladders, went up and actually did the work, then scarfed stuff and tossed it in the panel truck they were using. They didn’t rob each house they went to, either — which was smart, they had a little more leeway before they inevitably got caught.
They spread the proceeds around pretty thoroughly; like I said, they paid utility bills, gave solar panels to people who needed them, and not just to friends and neighbors. The Atlanta civil rights groups are defending them, saying they only did what should have been done in the first place (“made sure that people could keep their houses warm and the lights on”). Their victims, obviously, disagree. Seeing that the patron class were the primary victims, Shotgun Sam and the others are trying to push the idea that they were a gang of rogue teenagers who were in it for their own enrichment. Things got a little interesting when one caller objected: “It turns out they helped my Aunt May with her utility bills. They were about to cut off her gas, and those Robin Hood kids went in and took care of the bill for her. She’d’a froze to death without them doin’ something for her.”
“Well, she obviously has family — you, for example. Why didn’t you help her?”
“I didn’t know how bad off she was; I’m in Columbus and she didn’t say nothin’ to us.”
“So that means it’s OK for someone to give her stolen property?”
“Them people that they took the stuff from ain’t hurtin’ for nothin’. Why ain’t they helpin’ out? They can afford to.”
Sam stuttered for a moment. “Well… they didn’t have a chance, they got robbed before they could do anything. You ever think of that?”
“Bleep. They ain’t gonna take their solar panels off their roof and give ’em to Aunt May. They’d’ve bought some for her, if they were gonna.”
Sam cut him off and went to a commercial break — a long one — then came back whining about the Wal-Marts that got closed. A few more people wanted to put in their two cents about the theft ring, but Sam insisted that they were on a new topic. When you’re losing the argument, change the subject. Another Wal-Mart closing is a topic that’s usually sure to get his listeners upset the way he wants them upset.
One of the TV stations pixellated one of the “Robin Hoods” and distorted her voice (I’m pretty sure it was a “she”) to get an interview. She said she’d do it again because it was the only way they could keep the lights on — for themselves and their neighbors. They know they’re in a big ol’ pile of trouble, but (she said) they did what they had to. They talked about quitting when the noose started to tighten, but then they saw that news piece about the people up north who died in the Arctic storm and decided they had to keep going to save lives. Some of the civil rights lawyers are offering pro bono defense, and one DA recused himself (it turns out the kids helped out one of his own relatives), so they might get a light sentence if they can find anyone who wants to be cast as the “Sheriff of Nottingham” and actually prosecute them.
What the country club set doesn’t seem to realize is that it’s their time to step up. If things get a lot worse than they are already, those guys will fall faster and land harder to get to the same level as everyone else — they need to start making friends before that happens.