The Biscayne Times

Jun 18th
More police? No Thanks PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
November 2018

Risk-taking is inherent in an open society

APix_JayBeskin_11-18s we go to press, the formerly mild-mannered city known as Aventura has exploded onto the national scene as the home of Cesar Sayoc, the whack job with a long criminal record who sent pipe bombs to top Democrats around the country, including former Presidents Clinton and Obama. He claimed -- falsely, it turns out -- to be a Seminole. He has been constantly in trouble, in and out of jail.

As soon as the FBI lab developed a latent fingerprint on the package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters in California, they were able to match it to Mister Sayoc’s police file.

When they checked the file, his home address was listed in Aventura. In fact, his mother did live in Aventura and was even head of her condo board for a while. Her neighbors have only nice things to say about her. The son, on the other hand, is a clearly troubled individual who was presumably not welcome in his mother’s home, whether or not he had her permission to use hers as a mailing address. (I think most of us under those circumstances would be hard put to refuse that simple consideration to a child, however disturbed.)

Where he actually resided, according to neighborhood scuttlebutt, was inside his van, which he often kept parked at the Aventura Waterways. He blocked the back windows by pasting up pro-Trump posters alongside numerous stickers derogating the president’s critics. All in all, he harks back to the long and tragic American tradition of the demented loner, reeling inside the chaos of a disordered life until he or she begins acting out in a dangerous manner.

In a perverse sort of irony, one of the targets of Mister Sayoc’s mail bombs was Robert De Niro. He probably targeted De Niro for his harsh critiques of Trump (“He’s a dog! He’s a pig! He’s a con! He’s a mutt!”), but ironically one of De Niro’s great performances was as a demented fan of a celebrity in the movie…The Fan!

The 1996 film shows De Niro eerily merging his obsessions with knives and with the star baseball player he adores, played by Wesley Snipes. If you have trouble imagining a Cesar Sayoc type, no one can give you a better visual than De Niro did in that movie.

We’ll leave the rest of the sleuthing to federal law enforcement. No doubt each day will bring new details to fill in the blanks of our morbid fascination with what makes the latest Looney Tune would-be assassin tick. What I do think we need to talk about among ourselves is the question of security -- or insecurity, as the case may be.

Say you were shopping at Sarah’s Tent at the Waterways, or for some reason you were strolling what used to be a fairly nice shopping area there. This could have been a week ago or a month ago, or even longer.

You couldn’t help but notice the goofy-looking van festooned with a cartoonish version of an all-consuming partisanship. The door might have been slightly ajar with a shadowy figure inside “getting some air.” You pointed it out to your friends and they all reacted characteristically, one shrugging, one muttering “Fruitcake!” and another sighing, “It takes all kinds!” and someone else suggesting maybe we should call the cops.

It turns out the last one was on target, and that call would have been well placed.

But in harkening back to an experience of that sort, many of us would be tempted to shut the barn door so hard that the hinges would vibrate like a metronome. We should have security everywhere! No more open parking lots! They’re an invitation to every malcontent and misfit, every stalker and menace, every fantasist and conspiracy theorist, every anti-social crank with a grudge! We need to shrink further into our fortresses and block out the world with its weirdos.

There is little doubt that these voices will be raised in the coming days. We will be reminded that, indeed, even paranoids have real enemies. If you can’t trust a Floridian, who can you trust? If you can’t trust a guy with an Aventura address, who can you trust? All this sentiment will create a forceful bias toward being over-protective, over-suspicious, and way too fearful.

The truth is that while security is valuable, even critical, in housed facilities like schools or in overpopulated facilities like stadiums, the importance of freedom and relaxation in our open areas is critical to our functioning as a free society. You can build enclaves inside caves, but by definition you are forfeiting the opportunity to function within an open society. If you want to soar, you must have wings -- it is that simple.

We have an excellent police force in Aventura, and I take some pride in my role as a commissioner in the early days of the city, when we were building the force. From Day One, it has been an exceptional feature of our city, so we always feel confident that when a cop answers our call, we are dealing with a skilled professional.

It is comforting to know these guys and gals are always just a three-digit phone call away in time of emergency, and in most instances that is enough. Obviously, during public events we all want to see a police presence; but for the most part, none of us should be eager to embrace a more smothering version of “coverage.”

As they say, be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it. It would be miserable to contemplate an over-policed environment where we would constantly be called upon to show our identification before entering any place of business, signing in at Starbucks, for example. And, frankly, the heightened state of alert just makes people even more tense and ill at ease, leading to greater potential for conflict and alienation.

I know it’s not easy to take it easy. The reason why books are being written all the time to teach people how to relax is because our natural default position is not relaxation, but something akin to jitteriness.

What really “makes America great” and makes Florida especially great is our culture of easygoing productivity. This may be one of the very few places in the world where combining those two words does not produce an oxymoron.

All these shrill violent partisans would like nothing more than to keep us on edge at all times. Please join me in saying no to terror. Shake your neighbor’s hand, hug your kids, kiss your spouse.



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