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We are Safer when we are Vigilant of Danger

How do we balance freedoms and security in today's world? I don't mean "we" as the United States government; I mean "we," as individuals.

We live in a society that, despite the blade of weekly news stories, is incredibly safe. Statistically speaking, we are more protected from the threat of danger than we were 10, 50, or 100 years ago. And, technology continues to chip away at those remaining threats, well outpacing threats created by that same technology.

However, we still live in a world in which people are injured or die as a result of the negligence or intentions of others (or have fear and stress of these things). The threats are real, but the chances of them hurting or killing us or our children continues to trend toward remoteness. While the unlikelihood of injury or death is improbable, it still creates unnecessary anxiety for much of us.

While technology plays its part to further control the human element, we must be vigilant of danger. Vigilance is not paranoia. It is not confrontation. It is operating with eyes open for potential threats. It's not enough that there is a small percentage of us who are police officers or just have this heightened level of alertness and readiness. We do not adequately address risks of danger when even ten percent of us are looking for it. We should all develop this skill.

When I think of vigilance, I think of my family members who have had careers as police officers. They are the ones at the family outings who are shouting "watch out!" seemingly seconds before a child loses her balance and falls into the pool, or telling us to "watch out for that guy on the road" as they sit as an uncomfortable passenger in our cars. Ready for society's worst, they are there to protect as nobody else really can. This makes logical sense. This is the group who has seen the worst, heard stories about the worst, has shielded the rest of us from danger. To the experienced police officer, the rest of us can't seem much more than naive about danger.

They would be right. As a society, we relish in the idea of care-free living. Yes, we look both ways when we cross the street and we don't let go of our little ones' hands in crowded places, but we do not expect a crazy driver to plow down the sidewalk in an attempt to kill us. We don't expect a bomb to go off at the finish line of a marathon. Until it happens. Then we are scared. We all have heightened levels of anxiety, anger, and helplessness until enough time and news stories have passed to help us forget.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we should all be as attentive as our professional crime stoppers. If you spend time with police officers outside of their shift, you know they tend to be ready for the worst to happen. We don't all need that level of attentiveness. Rather, I think the proper level of vigilance is eyes open, ears open, observant. Conscious of our surroundings. Identifying unsusual behaviors. Cars in the road. No unattended backpacks. Kids safely playing poolside.

There will be a time in which technology will mitigate the need to be vigilant. Computers will independently identify suspicious activity. An alarm will sound before your child loses her balance. But we all are safer and we all live more happy lives if we become more vigilant today.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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