As an adult now I look back at many preconceptions I had about feeling safe. I felt safe when I was inside my house, or when my father was with me. I guess my family did a great job of sheltering me from ever feeling unsafe, or maybe I truly never had a reason not to feel less safe. My family decided to move to the US from Colombia for many reasons, but one of them was because it was safer than in our violence stricken country. Was that a huge misconception? Is the US truly a safer country?
I saw the effects of violence first hand in a couple of instances. Without retelling painful story, lets just say I know what a bullet does to flesh. I also saw what an explosive device could do to a car. Maybe I was too young and naive, 9-11 had not happened when I moved to the US, but when I moved to the US I felt a lot safer.
I have visited Colombia twice since moving up here. In both occasions I grew up quite a bit. My first trip back when I was around 20 made me realize that life is a struggle no matter where you live, it is just the environment that changes. My second trip made me realize that a sense of safety is accomplished by peace of mind and not something that you can buy.
Understanding violence is a tricky thing to do. The dictionary definition of violence is “exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in effecting illegal entry into a house.)” At first we all want to relate violence as the physical expression of anger or
frustration, but at times we forget that violence can also come from desperation, insanity or simply monetary gain.
The United States is a very violent country, but I think a lot of people fail to recognize that. When comparing the US to Colombia we automatically would put Colombia as the most violent country of the two. Compare their people though, and you will see a huge difference. Many people in the US support the war in Iraq, I don’t have specific figures but I would venture to say that less than 5% of the population in Colombia support that war, and even less will support the revolutionary guerrilla fighters inside the country.
When talking about visiting Colombia many people think of kidnappings. Yes it is true that kidnappings do happen in Colombia, some politically motivated and some economic. The average tourist visiting Colombia does not have to worry about being kidnapped if they have common sense.
Colombia, like most places in the world, has places where you should not go. The Unites States has plenty of these places, some racially unfriendly, some unsafe to someone of a different economic status. There are towns where a person of color would not be welcomed, yes even in our times. Some other places, a person with an expensive car cannot drive into. I was very surprised to hear that there are places in some inner city neighborhoods where even the police don’t go.
One thing that the US is missing in most big cities is the sense of community. I remember when I was a kid someone tried to steal a bike in my neighborhood. The guy did not even make it a couple of blocks before people from our community caught him. While it is not right that he got a little beat up, he learned his lesson of not stealing in our neighborhood. I am not 100% sure, but if someone came to the neighborhood where I live and there were people out in the street, some will run inside to see if they can get a camera, but most would run inside and call 911 instead of catching the perpetrator. Granted the US is a “sue happy” community where thieves are at times protected by the law and you would get sued if you pummeled a guy for stealing a bike. I do have to tell you that knowing that I had those kinds of neighbors back in Colombia did make me feel safe.
One story about 4 years ago tore me apart. A young girl was raped by
some of her classmates in a very affluent neighborhood. While something like this could have happened back in Colombia, I have never heard of such a thing. I also have heard of many serial killers, not sure if it is just the media but people do seem to lose it a lot more in this society.
The 911 tragedy brought terrorism back into my life, something that I thought I had left back in Colombia. Slowly I started to realize that while I have a sense of safety here in the US, it is a false sense of security. So is the US really that much safer for the average