Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Safety Dance


The day I arrived at college there was an orientation seminar. How to talk to your professors, how to get along with your roommates, how not to be that girl at the party who does 15 tequila shots and has to be taken to the hospital.

How not to get raped.

There were elaborate rules laid out for young women, meant to keep them safe. Don't walk alone after dark, call a friend to come and walk with you. Don't go places with strange men. Don't let people buy you drinks. Don't go to parties without at least one friend knowing where you are at all times.

Don't ever, ever, ever take the dark path down by the lake to the dormitory after 9 p.m.

Sensible advice. Reasonable advice. But deep down, it was just one more "Don't want men pawing you? Don't dress like a slut" lecture out of the male-female dark ages. If you walked alone at night, you were asking for it. If you had the temerity to venture out on the streets where you lived, you should have expected something bad to happen to you. If you let some guy pour you a beer, what, did you want to get assaulted?

Raped? Wouldn't have happened if you'd just followed the rules. It's all your fault. Again.

That seminar came back to me recently as I thought about our present national security "debate."

Don't take liquids on airplanes, it isn't safe.

Don't make international phone calls, or we'll have to wiretap you, it isn't safe.

Don't leave your backpack sitting on your seat while you get up for a pack of cigs at the bar, or we'll evacuate the building, it isn't safe.

Don't pay cash for your airline ticket, it looks suspicious, we'll have to strip-search you, even if you're 80 years old.

Don't act this way, that way, any way, because it isn't safe.

Somewhere in the past six years, as we've debated national security with slogans and signs, we've focused all our energy in discussing the individual's safety, instead of society's. How can I be safe, instead of how can we be safe ... Click here to read the complete story.

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