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THE DARK SIDE: Where have all the burglars gone?

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//June 20, 2012//

THE DARK SIDE: Where have all the burglars gone?

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//June 20, 2012//

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As a matter of policy, I generally avoid modern literature.

It was never a conscious thing. Just through trial and error, I’ve found that it simply isn’t relevant to my experience in the way that Dostoevsky or Goethe is relevant.

But I make an exception for author Mark Helprin. Don’t bother looking for him on a list of prizes for literature, though.

Helprin is a conservative and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. As such, he’s blacklisted from receiving literature awards in the same way that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is blacklisted from ever receiving an award from the American Bar Association.

Nobel and Pulitzer Prize judges, like ABA elders, don’t recognize anyone who doesn’t worship at their chosen altar of authoritarianism.

Helprin’s most well-known work is his 1983 novel, “Winter’s Tale,” the story of Peter Lake, a turn-of-the-century burglar who winds up becoming the lover of the daughter of an industrialist whose home he burglarizes. He also winds up traveling through time and bringing back the dead, but that’s not relevant to this column.

No, I bring the novel up for what it says about the state of burglary in our state today.

In the novel, burglary is a profession, a trade.

Helprin writes, “‘What did he do for a living? He was a burglar, and a good one evidently.’”

When I was practicing law in the 1990s, not much had changed. I represented many burglars. And by “burglars,” I mean people who burglarized for a living, in the same way that I practice law, or the butcher cuts meat.

When they got caught, they went to prison. The only question was: for how long? And they accepted that as a cost of doing business in their chosen trade.

Now that I’m practicing law again, though, something has changed. Burglary is not just for burglars anymore. Defendants charged with burglary may have committed all the elements of burglary, but they are not actual “burglars.”

They break into the house across the street because it happens to be temporarily vacant, or they steal metal from a home in foreclosure. They get caught because it’s their first time and they don’t know what they’re doing or because, duh, a real burglar doesn’t break into the house across the street.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to make any grand parallels between the quality of burglars today and the decline in the quality of world literature. It’s just an observation. You can draw your own conclusions.


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