As I settled into my seat at the movie theater and muted my phone, an unwelcome thought sneaked in, “Is going out to the movies risky behavior?” I stifled it quickly, “A crazed gunman in the old-fashioned Edina Theater? That’s silly.” Worrying about my safety at movie theaters never used to cross my mind. I resent having to consider it now.
It’s disturbing to realize so many of the ordinary things I do put me in the kinds of places where mentally ill people or terrorists choose to murder and wreak havoc. However, I have no intention of curtailing my activities.
Shopping at malls – I don’t spend much time in malls, but while there, I have never worried about my safety. However, the shoppers in the mall in St. Cloud, Minn. or near Seattle, Wash. probably didn’t give it a second thought either.
Tutoring at the high school – I love the work I do tutoring adult immigrants and have never felt remotely threatened by any of them. The students I know are hardworking and determined to learn, get better jobs, and live the American Dream. But schools and colleges have been the scene of mass shootings in recent years. Perhaps I should be worried, but I refuse to be.
Visiting international cities – I enjoy traveling overseas, but because of the history of terrorism in London, Brussels, and Paris, I will have to consider my safety in airports as well as in the cities themselves when I go. Losing my luggage or getting pickpocketed seem like more realistic threats than terrorism, but I can’t help being aware of the potential for an attack.
Often, public places happen to be the settings where a personal grudge is played out—I might not be the target—but I still could be injured or killed by a stray bullet. The issue is not that one middle class white person has to think harder about her safety. It’s that no matter who you are or where you live in America, you are at risk of mass shootings, because of our gun laws and cultural tolerance of violence.
Equally troubling is that zealots with knives, trucks, and bombs threaten people across the world, not just Americans.
I remain defiant. There are no easy solutions to gun violence and terrorism. But part of the solution has to be resistance—resisting the impulse to hide and resisting the impulse to shrug and say, “Oh well, what can you do?” We have to keep fighting for change.
Although terrorism and acts of mass violence are now part of our reality, I refuse to give in to fear. I’ve never been a daredevil, but I have no intention of giving up activities I love like movies, shopping malls, tutoring, or traveling.
I admit I’ve had similar thoughts every time I go to the movies, which isn’t often. I took my son to see Secret Lives of Pets in August and I thought, if a gunman comes in, I’ll throw myself over Christian and tell him to pretend we’re both dead. I even went so far as to wonder if I should carry fake blood on me to make it seem like we’re dead. Which I know is a totally insane thought to have, but have it I did. It’s a scary world we live in, but you’re correct that it’s also important to not let the bad guys win by not living our lives fully anymore.
Thanks for adding your thoughts. I’m pretty fatalistic (if it’s my turn, it’s my turn), but it was weird to realize those worries had crept into the back of my mind. As for planning what you might do, the writer in us means we have really good imaginations — too good sometimes!
I live in a capital city and these thoughts cross my mind, too, although Canada’s history and gun laws are much different than those in the US. When I was little, the big fear was nuclear apocalypse and air raid test sirens were the norm up until I was about 7. Man, those scared the bejaysus out of me. Stay safe, Ellen and continue to enjoy life.
I appreciate your comments, Susanne. I don’t spend much time worrying about my safety, but it was odd to realize that maybe I ought to.
Here’s to your continued safety…and defiance. May all we practice daily deeds of daring.
Thanks! You too