Thief

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Tuesday January 10, 10:38 p.m. From my window that overlooks a street in Hamra, I witnessed the capturing of a thief.

He was probably trying to rob a nearby shop when he was chased out, and being so utterly dumb, he tried to hide in a building’s underground parking lot that has only one way out: the entrance the thief went through. Around twenty men teemed at the parking lot’s entrance, pacing back and forth in front of the hideout like hungry lions. Surprisingly (rather astonishingly) the police arrived on the scene just a few minutes later. They went down the parking lot and ten minutes and a few screams later, the officers went out trophy in hand: they had caught the thief. I could discern that he was a twenty something man, dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a sweater; he didn’t match my image of an outlaw. I was expecting a bigger and buffer thief of the criminal-type we see on T.V., with tattered clothing perhaps, a gun in hand, a head band, a mask? Granted, I wasn’t expecting Captain Jack Sparrow to exit that underground parking lot, but the sight of a human being so ordinary looking surrounded by angry law enforcement officers triggered an unexpected reaction in me: pity. I mentally took back a step and cocked an eyebrow at myself: “are you really pitying the THIEF Mother Teresa? He’s the bad guy! He was trying to deprive another man of his hard-earned cash. He should have went and gotten himself a job instead”. Yes, yes, I know all that. I am not taking the side of the criminal.Granted: he has committed a terrible act and deserves to be punished. And, had it been my house or shop he had attempted to break into, then no,I wouldn’t have written this blog post since I would have been too busy cursing him and his family to hell.

Yet still, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pity as I saw that dragged to the police car, slapped and kicked and cursed at while crammed in the back seat. I could only imagine the horrors waiting for him at the police station.Why did the plain clothes police officers have to start the torture right there in the middle of the street in plain sight of the whole neighborhood? To teach the rest of us a lesson? Or to showcase their superhero abilities? Or was it to shake us out of a cruel comfort zone? Incidentally, my husband and I were making fun of the slogan of an infomercial that was being aired just a few minutes before this incident happened, the infomercial is part of a campaign that raises awareness about torture in Lebanese prisons. The slogan in Arabic goes “L3azeb mish ra7a”  which literally translates into ‘torture is not comfort’, a play on the common Lebanese saying “3azebak ra7a” or in English “I would gladly be ‘tortured’ for you”. We were laughing at how the ad simply states the obvious, and then ‘the obvious’ manifested itself right under our window. No, that didn’t look comfortable at all. Couldn’t they have just put him inside that police car and took off like we see happens in movies that depict life in civilized countries? That is, countries other than this jungle we live in?

An speaking of the jungle, what makes people steal and thus break the social contract? Is it poverty? Loose morals? Lack of sufficient legal deterrents?

And who gives the right to a police officer to insult another human being’s whole ancestral lineage using all sorts of genital organs and types of feces in one long string of curses while he beats the heck out of him? Well, I have no answers for this one, but I’m sure they didn’t read him his rights.

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