The American public, as a collective victim demographic, is an easy crime target.
Though violent crime is down from the the era of the 1970's and 80's, and in fact since 1993 has fallen dramatically, we have seen a troubling surge of "mass" shootings (which were all but unheard of before the early 1980's). What should be of grave concern to all of us is the fact that we as a society have made it easier for violent acts--terrorism included--to take place. Terrorists, like the Boston Marathon bombers, don't care about cameras, because they don't care about being identified afterwards. They care solely about being detected before or during the offense, and thwarted. The odds of this intervention happening, I submit, are much lower today than they would have been thirty years ago.
Why? Because of our victim profile. Publicly, we suffer from two very detrimental behaviors:
1) We are distracted, almost on a constant basis, by our electronics. Observe people on a train, at a park, at a restaurant, walking down the sidewalk, or even in their cars, at a stop light. We aren't noticing what's going on around us. If someone puts the "suspicious package" down near or around us, there's a poor chance of anyone noticing. We've got our faces plugged to a rectangular screen. "The addiction is real," writes Alice Walton in her December 2017 Forbes article. We've even got our ears plugged up, with headphones. See something, say something? We can't say anything, if we've seen nothing. Tough to prevent crime that way, isn't it? Tough, too, to be a witness, after the fact, to anything. We're becoming a witness-less society.
2) If by chance we are not busy downloading music, laughing at a video a friend sent us, or thoroughly engrossed in a social media text exchange, and we do have our eyes and ears actually operating our awareness, we are hampered by a psychological barrier. We--especially the last couple of generations--have been taught, "don't judge!" Carried along by a tsunami of political correctness and fear of insulting others, we've been told not to assume, not to profile, and not to assess others, lest we should be wrong, or heaven forbid, offend someone. We've been told that our innate senses about what is right and wrong, what belongs and what does not, is bad, and should take a back seat to the avoidance of a grievous sin: coming to a conclusion based on the appearance or behaviors of other people. Should we "not judge"? If you are a parent, will you "judge" the guy who rolls up one evening to take your daughter on a date? I challenge you not to. If you care about your daughter, your natural protective instinct will have you sizing him up: his clothes, his car, his look, his attitude, because you care deeply about your daughter's well being, and this unknown who is walking up to your front door damn well better do the same. That natural protective instinct isn't something our parents or society has taught us. It has existed in our amygdala, for millions of years, and it's there to keep us safe. In milliseconds, it assesses threats, it readies the body--it judges, and it fuels us with the necessary tools to take action of some kind.
I read an article once about prejudice. It described by a young man of particular ethnic persuasion, who, upon stepping onto a city bus, saw an old woman immediately look at him and clutch her purse close to her side. He said her reaction was racist.Was it? It turned out she had been robbed of her purse twice already on that bus, by young men of similar appearance. Should we condemn her for protecting herself?
I call for the return of our human nature. I call on all of us to be aware, truly aware, of what is going on around us, and to teach our children not to be afraid to speak up if something troubles or worries them. No one teaches you to have the "hair on the back of your neck" stand up. That happens because millions of years of evolution put it there. Stop telling people to never judge, and to always be tolerant.
Judge, when it serves the safety of yourself and others around you. And be intolerant of those who seek to harm you, regardless of what they look like. The best thing we can do is be human, and the worst thing we can do is be muzzled--and blinded--by our own self-indulgence, and our own self-doubt.