Culture of Fear

It’s hard to ignore the news about the tragic theater shooting of Aurora. The stories honoring the victims whose lives were cut short are everywhere. Just this evening as I rode the subway a man read a paper in Chinese, filled with images of mourners and the aftermath.

I woke up Friday having left Denver barely 24 hours earlier. I did my usual morning routine of checking the news on the internet to make sure the world was still spinning when I saw the terrible headline. Instantly I was on the phone to make sure my family was okay, because my nephew, a young fan of superhero movies, was looking forward to the new release. Fortunately, they had not been there, and the theater was located across town, and not a likely destination for them. Still, it’s these type of nightmare situations that make everyone stop and realize they must appreciate every moment spent on this planet.

I was reminded of living in Los Angeles eleven years ago and waking up in a grumpy mood to a phone call from a friend telling me to turn on my television. I saw the Twin Towers on fire and watched in disbelief as the events of 9/11 unfolded, wondering of the fate of my New York friends. It set a precedent in my life, where hardly a day goes by that I don’t log on to local, national, and world news to make sure I shouldn’t be extra prepared when I walk out the front door. It’s seems sad in a way, and I wonder if it is the influence of age and cynicism, or if we truly live in a more dangerous world than when I was a kid. It’s easy to have selective memory of what were the good old days, because in reality there’s probably never been a time in human history when wars, crime, and violence were not present somewhere in the world. Tragedy and hardship may always be affecting someone, somewhere.

Still, for nearly ten years we’ve passed the airport security checkpoints barefoot and beltless. We have come to question the institutions which used to be perceived to be cornerstones of our security. Are children safe to be left with priests, scout masters, and football coaches? Will public gathering places like schools, concerts, and sporting events, become maximum security crossings?

The Holden Caulfields and Travis Bickles of the world who stew privately and sometimes act out publicly walk among us. They may be our neighbors, our friends, our family, and everything may seem fine on the surface. Until we learn how to “profile” them, all we can do is make sure the people in our lives can stay on a positive track. Life isn’t always easy, and it definitely isn’t always fair. But do what you can to help those around you in need, and prevent them from falling into traps that make them believe the world is against them.

It was about seven years ago that a friend of mine committed suicide. I had not known him more than a couple of years, and we weren’t extremely close, but I still considered him a friend. He had two young children and was going through a divorce, and at the time was living with his good friends. Attending the funeral was painful to see all the people whose lives were affected by his passing, especially those close enough who had not realized the extent he was struggling with his demons, and had been helpless to prevent his actions.

Whether people take their own lives, or the lives of others, the effects are felt among the living. These traumas can be difficult to overcome. Reach out to those people in your life who matter. Remember those who you may have lost touch with. Remind them that they do matter to you. I didn’t write this to bring people down. Like many, I find this tragedy upsetting, and writing to me means many things, and this time it’s most important for catharsis. It is unavoidable that this tragedy will be talked about for a long time but we must resist the urge to create a culture of fear and continue to live and enjoy life.

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