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Editor's column: Safety hard to come by these days

April 20, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, safety is not. Safety is not an opinion or a judgement, and it's no longer a given, not even when we know Homeland Security has our backs.

At best, safety is an assumption.

Days after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, we've resumed our lives; we work, pay bills, pick up and drop off kids, feed the pets, make plans, look ahead. We continue to take everything we have for granted - almost as if nothing happened a few days ago. Some would call that leading a spoiled life compared to what people in other countries go through on a daily basis. We call it being an American.

But we're shaken Americans. With each tragedy that occurs in this country by the hands of evil, our feelings of safety take a hit, and with it, we ask the same questions over and over again: Are we safe? Are our children safe? Is anyone really safe anymore?

To live our lives to their fullest, we convince ourselves we need to have short memories, but is that the right thing to do? No, it's not. Putting behind us tragedies - and now manhunts - we watch unfold on TV like some movie might be the easy thing to do, but in the end we're fooling ourselves if we believe we've seen the last horrendous event. We want to believe we won't see another mass shooting at a school, but we're naive to do so. We want to believe we are protected out in public like the spectators and runners at the Boston Marathon thought they were, but as we have witnessed from afar, that belief, that assumption doesn't prevent death and injuries. Some would argue it makes us more vulnerable. But we refuse to live our lives in fear, so we forge ahead. We don't purposely forget the bad things that happen to others just to feel better, it's simply human nature to have those memories fade.

So what are we left to do? Keep assuming? Assume our government will protect us? Assume because there's a police presence all will be well? Let's not kid ourselves. Law enforcement, our military and all those security guards dressed in yellow jackets honorably choose to live the life of our protectors, but as heroic as they are, they can only do so much.

So our nation's leaders urge us to be vigilant, and while we may practice vigilance now more than we ever have, it has become increasingly clear that true and complete safety is out of our hands.

That's the real scary part.

But ultimately, that's all we can do if we want to keep living our lives and enjoying things we always have enjoyed. And when bad things do happen, we need to continue to watch out for each other and pick each other up - if any positives can come out of tragic circumstances it's that they bring out the best in ordinary people. Seeing strangers helping strangers makes us feel good, and we need all the good feelings we can get, because we live in a dangerous world filled with dangerous and disturbed people who want to hurt others.

The thought, "It could never happen here" shouldn't even enter our minds anymore, because it can happen here. It can happen anywhere. The proof is on the front page. Still, that's the phrase we hear from the mouths of people who live through devastation in their hometowns. That it "could never happen here" has sadly morphed into a clich, one of those assumptions we all carry.

We walk a fine line in this country when it comes to protecting ourselves. Truly, in today's world who can blame anyone for wanting to carry a gun? Who can blame the principal for keeping a pistol in his office? We do need gun control. But we also need guns. This frightening catch-22 has become our reality, if it wasn't already. It would be nice to find some middle ground between the NRA and the folks who just want to feel safe with a small gun in the house, but we never will. The U.S. Congress can't even figure it out.

As we mourn the three lives lost in the Boston bombings Monday, we do so while looking ahead, because that's all we can do. At next year's Boston Marathon, the media will focus on heightened security, and our memories of what happened this week will return from wherever they went. There will be tributes, there will be a moment of silence, and thanks to the bombings there will be fear and anxiety, although not everyone will admit it. There will be an unavoidable pall over one of the world's most celebrated sporting traditions.

And then another race will begin.



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