Thursday, August 4, 2016

I shall not live in fear

I don't live in fear.

Not that I don't have fears. Not that I don't take precautions to better ensure my safety. But I don't live in fear.

Yet, so many people in the USA live in terror - of people that aren't of European descent, of Muslims, of teenagers, even of the government. There's no basis for their level of terror. Over the last 20 years, crime, including violent crime, has plummeted. Even with the incidents of murder committed by extremists claiming to be Muslim, you are still far, far more likely to be killed by heart disease or a car wreck. Or your spouse. People in the USA have never been safer, yet so many don't believe it.

I don't fear Muslims any more than I fear Christians. Maybe it's because I was such an active pro-choice activists in the 1990s, when doctors were being shot and clinics were being bombed by extremist Christian terrorists. Maybe it's because I grew up in the American South, where I heard Christian pastors and their followers say that women should be forced to carry all pregnancies to term, that women who used birth control and had sex before marriage were whores, and that the Bible should be "the law of the land." In other words, I heard Christians around me saying the same things that Christians now say they fear Muslims will try to implement (substitute "sharia" for "Bible"). Or maybe it's because I've been to at least six countries with either majority Muslim populations or a very large percentage of their populations are Muslims, and I have experienced nothing but kindness from those Muslims, a level of kindness and helpfulness the American South prides itself on offering but doesn't always.

I've known people who survived war and genocides and are now working in humanitarian aid and development. They have seen family and friends dragged off by armed groups of their own countrymen. They have seen people killed and mutilated by their own countrymen. They have seen people raped by their own countrymen. Perhaps they themselves have been raped. And these people I've known, that I've worked with, have not lived in fear. They have delighted in their new circumstances and all that's good in their lives now. When something good happens - a marriage, a graduation, a new job, a birth, a reunion, or even more simple things, like dancing and dinner parties or a new tech toy - they revel in it. They savor it. They let themselves be consumed with delight of the moment. It's jaw-dropping and glorious to see and be a part of. They aren't saints, they aren't unbothered by dark memories, but they refuse to let what's bad in the world consume them and their daily lives. I strive to be like them.

Yes, I lock my doors, even when I'm home, and we have alarms on our doors and some of our windows. I look around a LOT before I walk to my car and unlock it. I'm super cautious when alone in a parking garage. I won't get on a subway or light rail car if it's empty or there are only a group of young men on it. I carry my purse over my neck and shoulder. I don't use ATM machines at night. I've taken karate and jujitsu classes. I imagine what I would do if attacked.

I also talk to strangers, and will even get into conversations with such. I make eye contact. I know all of my neighbors. I take mass transit. I walk around my neighborhood by myself. I go out at night. I wear whatever I want. I go to the movies or events by myself. I use social media. I smile and laugh in public. I travel. I travel to countries with millions and millions of Muslims. I think about and plan for the future, a future full of possibilities.

I live. I laugh. And I choose not to live in fear.