I work with a man who has a light disability. Every week I see him and he is an absolute delight. He has a cognitive disorder, but he can recite Bible verses and still reads several versions of the bible. He is about as independent as one can be.
He and I often meet in his apartment, which is a small converted bedroom in the basement of a house near where The Patient Wife and I live. He has a simple lock on his doorknob, and that’s good enough for him. The man is completely unafraid of the giant world that could take advantage of him because, according to him, “it won’t change a thing.”
His landlord, however, is another story. The landlord owns the house and lives in the upstairs portion. I call him The Terrified Landlord because, well, the man is clearly a step beyond paranoid. He is TERRIFIED.
On the outside of his garage are two battery backup motion-sensing 150 watt floodlights linked to four different motion sensors placed around the front yard. If anybody enters the front yard or driveway, the lights turn on. If anybody blocks the perimeter sensors, then the ones built into the lights will activate.
Above the door, there is another flood light aimed at the front stoop along with a motion activated camera linked to a viewscreen inside. Beneath the viewer is a panic button which will ring a loud, bullhorn shaped alarm which is also outside, above the front door.
Inside, The Terrified Landlord keeps two VERY aggressive and trained German Shepherds. They maintain silence when I ring the doorbell and turn the knob, but as soon as I step inside they start jumping, barking, and clawing at the barrier. If I approach, they grow more hostile and will begin growling and frothing at the mouth, but they are silenced at a single command from The Terrified Landlord. They are kept behind a just-tall-enough barrier at the top of the stairs.
Upstairs, next to the television with a burned-in Fox News ticker on the screen, is the gun cabinet. On the bottom level are 6 different pistols. Above the pistols are 3 different rifles and 4 different shotguns. Ammunition is kept in separate drawers labeled by caliber. 30.06, 9mm, .40 Caliber, you get the idea.
On the bumper of his SUV, there are stickers proclaiming his hatred of non-English speakers in America, “The Socialist Agenda,” his support of restriction of voter’s rights, and his angry declarations of the desire to own assault weapons.
In his yard, there are gigantic posters supporting various fear-based political strategies, railing on those who receive government benefits, support of nuking certain middle-eastern countries, and obscure political candidates.
I’ve had a few chances to speak with The Terrified Landlord and subtly asked about the fortress defense he has. He’s surprisingly “normal” sounding, well spoken, and clean.
“I’m just protecting my home,” he says.
Upon inquiry, The Terrified Landlord says he has never been robbed, mugged, or burgled. He doesn’t hunt and rarely spends time outside of his city. He was not in the military, he’s never been in jail, and he doesn’t do drugs. In fact, he can’t even articulate what or whom he’s protecting his home FROM. He is simply AFRAID.
It must be draining to be that terrified all the time. I’ve been there with anger and fear and I tell you, hardening your heart and quaking in fear is EXHAUSTING. I imagine that it’s even more so when he has a constant reminder of his fear everywhere inside his home. There isn’t a single safe place anywhere in his part of the home.
Yes, I know there are scary things happening on the news. I know that political issues can be stressful. I even know that it can be intimidating to meet people who are new to this country. But try taking a deep breath and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Give your neighborhood a chance. Talk to someone who has a strong accent. Say “What’s that? I didn’t understand,” and realize that it really isn’t that scary. You just might be surprised.