I want to express my thanks to Brent Brown for his "Lowlife Scum" cartoon in the June 27 Mountain Xpress. If you'll permit me, I'd like to address the Lowlife Scum directly, and explain the historical precedent behind the severity and deep immorality of this particular crime.
In the Old West, stealing a horse was sometimes deemed a capital crime, literally "a hangin' offense." The reasons for this are important to understand. In that time, in those places, stealing a person's horse very likely meant stealing their ability to make a living. In some cases it could even add up to threatening their life (imagine being stranded in an arid New Mexican wilderness with only the clothes on your back).
So it is with stealing a musician's instrument, or a mechanic's tools. The person you are stealing this tool from, without a second thought on your part, very likely relies on that tool to make a living. Furthermore, for many of us it took years of hard work and diligent saving to get up enough money to buy a real professional-quality object with which to produce the very best product we are capable of. In my own case my instrument is the most valuable thing I own, worth more than my vehicle (regardless of what your fence offers you for it). If you steal it I cannot replace it. Do you understand how profoundly sleazy that makes your crime, and you?
This is a very personal subject for me, as I lost a bunch of expensive musical equipment [when someone broke into my car] in Charleston (in broad daylight, in a residential neighborhood on a Wednesday afternoon). I understand you may be hungry, and I do sympathize. Ask me for help on the street. I'll probably buy you a bag of chips or an apple, even if I think you might be a drunk or a crack head. But if you steal my guitar and the judge asks my opinion, I'm going to recommend the hangin'.
— Jon Dana (aka Zen Cohen)