Shifting Burden of Fear
Those sitting and socializing in the sun keep an informal watch on Portuguese villages. (Photo by dnoticias)
When my son was in secondary school in central Portugal, I would often drive his friends to their home after a visit to our house, a session with a Math tutor or some other activity.
I would wait until his friend left the car, unlocked their house door or until someone let them in, even better if I saw a relative and could wave at him or her. I had played the part of the responsible parent delivering my son’s friend safe and sound.
We live with them, although I tell myself that I am better at not making assumptions after 27 years of living outside of the United States and paying attention to the cues of other cultures, where the rules are bound to be different.
Still, I did not think that there was anything awry in my car drop-off etiquette. I was wrong.
Finally, one of my son’s friends told him that it was creepy that I waited for him to get inside the door. Other friends echoed this opinion.
What was going on?
I had held on to my safety habits from the States, where random violence is a fact of life. After all these years, I, finally, recognized the stress of living in a powder keg, where violence can break out at any time.
Two mass shootings there within days of each other prove my point. Like most others, I was still reeling from the eight dead in spas in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16, when, on March 22, 10 were killed in Boulder, Colorado, in a supermarket.
This spree of shootings followed the killing of Sarah Everard, 33, who disappeared in South London. A Metropolitan Police officer was arrested on March 9 in connection with her death. A vigil was held for Everard on March 13, which led to an aggressive police response and four arrests. Women’s explosions of anger about their compromised safety resounded across the pond.
I live in a Portuguese village of 250 people. Everyone knows everyone. I can shift the burden of fear from my shoulders.