American Survival Guide - - LAST WORDS -

Vi­o­lent protests and ri­ots seem to be oc­cur­ring in greater fre­quency now than in the decades since the 1970s, adding yet an­other cred­i­ble and grow­ing threat to our list of things to watch out for. With peo­ple's pa­tience be­ing tested on so many lev­els— and so­cial me­dia, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions, and main­stream news out­lets fan­ning the flames of vi­tu­per­a­tive op­po­si­tion that re­duces open dis­course to name-call­ing and hate speech—many fin­gers are al­ready firmly on fig­u­ra­tive trig­gers. Where we used to learn and grow and maybe even con­vert the oc­ca­sional lis­tener with the give and take of hon­est and open di­a­logue, shar­ing an opin­ion to­day is of­ten the first step down the path to­ward a heated ar­gu­ment … or worse.

“Tra­di­tional” anx­i­eties about the world in which we live are com­pounded by es­ca­lat­ing con­cerns about our na­tional and per­sonal safety, fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and the ero­sion of ba­sic rights. With all these fraz­zled nerves, we’re liv­ing in a sort of do­mes­tic, or even lo­cal­ized, “Cold War.” Many peo­ple are wait­ing for the small­est sign of some­thing they feel vaguely threat­ened by or don’t like as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to strike out on one level or an­other.

This so­cial fric­tion makes it eas­ier to gather like-minded peo­ple to­gether to protest ac­tions and is­sues that bother or threaten them; hence the in­crease in these events. And the in­creas­ing ten­dency to "think" with one’s of­ten mis­guided and mis­in­formed emo­tions—in­stead of em­ploy­ing logic in these cir­cum­stances—makes it more likely that these gath­er­ings will dis­in­te­grate into episodes of civil dis­obe­di­ence and law­less ram­pages.

Be­cause most of us spend a fair amount of time away from home, this sit­u­a­tion can have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on how we make our way through the day. We need to be more mind­ful of the top­ics that are caus­ing strife in the ar­eas we travel through and to.

Do­ing this will help us be­come more at­tuned to the warn­ing signs for po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous gath­er­ings and sit­u­a­tions. It will also en­able us to en­sure we leave home with the ap­pro­pri­ate gear and mind­set if we have to ven­ture into po­ten­tial hotspots, as well as prompt us to seek al­ter­nate routes if we have no choice but to en­ter ar­eas of con­cern.

In sce­nar­ios such as this, we can’t over-em­pha­size the im­por­tance of be­com­ing a “gray” man or woman. As you read in “Re­duc­ing the Risk of Ri­ots” by Larry Schwartz, stay­ing be­low the radar—ev­ery­one’s radar—will be es­sen­tial for your safety and abil­ity to get home at the end of the day. In ad­di­tion, know­ing the ar­eas you’ll be mov­ing through, as well as the op­tional routes and rel­a­tively safe places avail­able along each path, might make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence and a suc­cess story.

As you eval­u­ate your sit­u­a­tion and your op­tions, re­mem­ber the lit­tle things that can have a big im­pact on your safe move­ment.

I have got­ten into the habit of sug­gest­ing that peo­ple peel those cute stick­ers off their ve­hi­cle win­dows that show an in­ven­tory, as well as the gen­ders and po­ten­tial ages, of the fam­i­lies that ride in­side so they don’t pro­vide these de­tails for mis­cre­ants. If park­ing your car “nose out” for quick egress would draw at­ten­tion, find a spot in the lot or garage that gives you an ad­van­tage of an­other sort—such as against a wall or fence or near and be­tween the el­e­va­tor and stairs.

As al­ways, the best so­lu­tion will be to know your po­ten­tial en­emy as com­pletely as pos­si­ble so you have a de­cent chance of an­tic­i­pat­ing and avoid­ing their ac­tions.

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