Behind the Gates

The perception that modern day crooks, in addition to having figured out how to manipulate the law to their advantage, are ostentatious came to me overnight. I suppose it’s a consequence of tracing how and by whom some of our so-called “gated communities” were acquired and developed to hide what are surely ill-gotten gains.

Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that medical doctors, when they are lured into purchasing building lots on the edges of marshes and meandering streams, nature’s nurseries for crustaceans and fish, are investing ill-gotten gains. But, even as their participation in a scheme, where manicured laws and exotic vegetation are maintained via chemical additives and toxins, is going to have a negative consequence down stream, much of today’s profitable medical enterprise is largely a consequence of our natural and man-made environment having been poisoned by industrial pollutants long ago. The chronic illnesses and cancers being “managed” by doctors to put money in their purse didn’t just blossom out of nothing in the last two decades.

There is lots of culpability to go around. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that the crooks are looking for safety behind walls and electronic fences and fenestration that no longer opens to the no longer fresh air. “Gated community” is an oxymoron. Or would be, if it weren’t for the binary brain’s inability to comprehend modifiers. Just as a “commons” or common area in these enclaves doesn’t make them a community, the gates don’t specify. Rather, the gates represent antagonism towards the outside world and the “commons” stands for the segregation the residents enjoy. Perhaps “enjoy” is going too far. But, this self-segregation by the monetarily affluent, who get into their wheeled cages in their garages and, strapped and locked in, drive out on their private roads, is obviously designed to make them feel secure.

Now, while insecurity may be endemic, the ostentation displayed by the promoters and denizens of these secure enclaves suggests that they have reason to feel insecure, to be wary of the pitchforks of a resentful public, even as they can’t resist crowing about what they’ve pulled off. What leads me to that suggestion?

We need look no further than Hamilton Landing on St. Simons Island to find evidence of ostentation on the part of people whose expressed intentions are secretive. If they really wanted to be secluded, they wouldn’t put pictures of their interiors on the internet when it comes time to sell. Perhaps mere words are not persuasive enough:

Marsh-photoThis immaculate custom built Hamilton Landing home offers breathtaking marsh and water views. This property is a rare find as it offers frontage on Dunbar Creek , it’s own private dock with elevated deck to enjoy the views, a floating dock for easy water access, large covered porch, open patio and a beautifully landscaped yard all in mid-south SSI.

Perhaps the superficial optics are supposed to distract from the fact that the asking price, $1,650,000, seems just a tad out of line with the $528,000 assessed market value suggested by the county. Is there evidence of ostentation in the asking price? Perhaps; perhaps not. After all, the house next door was bought by a U.S. Senator for $900,000 just three years ago and, surely, that alone accounts for an increase in value. That the Senator acquired his house from HSBC BANK, in what was likely a foreclosure sale may also be relevant, or not. The Senator is obviously a shrewd buyer, having picked up two other neighboring parcels, which sold during the top of the bubble for $845,000, for a mere $482,500. Two for the price of one would be better, but this is close. How much is having a Senator in the neighborhood worth? Sometimes the gilt by association translates into real money.

It could turn out to be a real godsend. After all, according to the Georgia Secretary of State, the property is home to Life’s Answer Church, Inc., which C. Conrad Mershon, Jr. organized in 1997. Perhaps accessing the church in the gated community proved inconvenient for the congregation and accounts for the desire to sell and, undoubtedly, donate any profit to some worthy missionary cause.

We expect thieves to be secretive. Perhaps that’s their advantage. They perpetrate their schemes in plain sight, even waiting, perhaps, until somebody notices. Ostentation, it seems, ought not to be dismissed. On the other hand, there’s no point being envious, either. If they’re ostentatiously securing themselves, they’re probably doing us a favor, these job creators.


Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."