And so it is these days.
When I’m out and about, I usually speak to people. Say hello. Compliment on a nice article of clothing or jewelry. Ask a question.
True confession: I don’t do it solely to be nice; I also do it for self-preservation. I want to know what you’re made of. If an active shooter walks into this place, will you keep your cool or lose it? Would you help me fight back if the situation called for it?
I do it at work. I size up my co-workers and all the security guards to see which ones would actually respond in an active shooter situation. After all, workplace shootings are fairly common.
I do it when I’m in public. I look to see who’s acting sketchy. I always make eye contact and say hello to the sketchy ones to see how they respond. I check for evidence of a firearm. If I don’t like what I see, I leave.
And so it is these days.
At this point some of you will call me paranoid. I see it as prudent, such as having my cell phone on me when I go downstairs to the basement so I can call for help should I fall.
It’s no secret that these dangerous mass shooters are usually male, and usually have hangups of some sort with people, especially women. And they don’t handle stress well, so when they’re fired, or the intimate partner they’ve beaten for years finally gets the courage to leave, they go off. I’ve had more than my fair share of verbal attacks by hotheaded men who can’t handle it when a woman passes them in traffic, or speaks her mind, or does her job. Easy access to high-powered weaponry may be legal but in the hands of these people it’s a safety risk.
After the mass shooting of 5 police officers, the country again argues about what the problem is. We are divided: is it guns, or mental illness, is the problem Muslim extremists, or is it just that everybody hates white people (yes, there are people who actually believe that).
Meanwhile, as you fight over what the problem is, thus ensuring no solution will be found, I will continue to live my life in a state of hyper-vigilance. So remember when strangers speak to you, they may do it to be nice, or they may be sizing you up to see if you can be depended on to act if the need arises.
And so it is these days.
13 thoughts on “And So It Is These Days”
On the one hand, I do understand your feelings. Things here in Brussels have changed a lot since the terror attacks of March. We do size each other up as well and you tend to avoid “certain people”. I can feel that people look suspiciously at my big camera bag as well; could it hide a bomb? Yes, Brussels is no longer the same. On the other hand, it is no use to blame mental diseases. There are exceptions, of course, but if a patient with such a disease gets the proper medication AND therapy, he or she can have a pretty normal life. Due to verbal and emotional abuse by my family and my ex-husband, I went into a severe depression. Yes, my brain chemistry is different from yours. Yes, the basis of a depression is latent aggression. Yes, I have been through some very dark times. Yes, I no longer see my family, because that is part of my treatment. And thanks to my doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist and meds, I feel a lot better. And so does my future husband, who also suffers from depression. And because of all that, we are not violent people. Anyway, hang in there!
Here in the US there is still a stigma with mental illness so many do not seek help, and for those that want help but lack money there is scant help available.
Such is the case in Belgium as well. It is a taboo here and it really does not help when the Belgian state labels you as a “severely handicapped person” (yes, that is my official status now). We do have mental health centers, where you can get treatment for a small fee, but not enough people are aware of this. Both Lars and I go to one.
Really? That’s how you’re identified? Wow! How callous!
Yes, it says so on my tax papers. Luckily, I don’t feel like a handicapped person!
I think the key re people with mental health problems is in Ingrid’s comment “if a patient with such a disease gets the proper medication AND therapy, he or she can have a pretty normal life”. The trouble is many don’t get that help. Mental health services are often the Cinderella branch of medicine , and ill people in stressful circumstances and access to weaponry make a dangerous cocktail.
My uncle was a firefighter until he died of lymphoma. He asked me once, “What would you do if this house caught fire?” I gave him the usual answers that everybody gives. “I’d save the teevee… I’d jump out the window… I’d save the cat.” The usual stuff. Here’s his reply.
“It’s not like in the movies, where the drapes catch fire and you have time for funny quips and heroic acts. It’s pitch black. That doesn’t matter, you can’t see anything anyway, because your eyes are burning from smoke and chemicals. You can’t hear anything except a roar. You can’t breathe. The temperature in the house shoots up into the hundreds almost instantly. Rooms are exploding around you. We fight fires from the outside. And in truth, we lose more of them than we win.”
My point is, none of us know what we’re going to do in any of these types of situation, until we’re confronted with them. And when we are confronted by them, we almost never do what we thought we would. Panic and fear are terrible decision makers.
I close this comment with my newest hashtag. #ShootingPerMinute.
We have, in the United States today, one reported shooting incident, every 60 seconds. People argue with me about this all the time, but I’ve fact checked it and verified it. It’s tragic, but it’s true.
I’ve learned not to try to advocate for sensible gun laws. I’ve learned that this tragic situation is not something that can be blamed on Republicans, the NRA or the 2nd Amendment. So, at this point, I just keep repeating this statistic and hope that people come to realize that this is unsustainable.
You raise some excellent points about being aware and self-protection.
I always seek out a place that I would hide in case of attack. I think that is smart and not paranoid.
It’s a sad state of affairs that “active shooter scenario” is a part of our daily lexicon. That said, I think you have a wise approach to a sad reality these days in US life. 😦
One thing is a very positive…..I never think and call you paranoid, Jen. Hugs
Yet more proof of how very wise you are. I always try to say hello and make contact with everyone, I like to kid myself that if someone is in a not so great place and considering something my saying hello will convince them not to do something and harm me as I am nice.