I am only asking, but is it possible this issue of trafficking is one of several factors in the new style United States that nurtures unhealthy fear? America is rife with what many people are calling social panic issues. It seems that Americans are expected to find traffickers under every rock, in our churches, on playgrounds, at work. Millions of dollars were spent, especially in the G. W. Bush administration, to train people to train people to train more people to find traffickers (their words). But doesn’t that sound insidious like a tsunami of fear!
Where are all those traffickers?
As it looks now we are expected to find traffickers among our scout pack leaders, in our churches, and as we walk down the street. Americans are becoming afraid of each other and the issue of trafficking is one of the reasons. What do you think?
I was once seated at a table next to three women in a restaurant who taught me a cruel lesson. One was talking on her cell phone. Almost immediately the other two made cell phone calls too. They were not only being impolite to each other but they very openly appeared to do that to avoid me. If they are on their phone they do not have to deal with the social problem of acknowledging me if I did something seemingly anti-social these days like saying “hello” to people at the next table. But how do you – dare – start a conversation these days? If I spoke to them they might feel forced to change tables for their own safety.
This may not be directly related to trafficking but it does speak to my personal feeling about fears people have of each other in daily life in ways I don’t remember when I was younger. Do you ever feel that kind of distance – distance is a good word for it – between you and other people these days?
Me? I just felt creepy.
This experience in the restaurant seemed so weird, but not unexpected in America these days, and I don’t understand that. But I think it is fear! This issue of trafficking adds to that fear.
Recently I saw a letter in a Dear Abby kind of newspaper column. A woman asked Abby (I think Abby) if she should take a chance and talk with a man she sees repeatedly in her neighborhood who says hello to her. The letter writer went on to say she knows that the only safe way to meet a man these days is if he is introduced by a mutual friend or if he is a co-worker. That attitude is the kind of change to my America that makes me cringe. Why does she think that? And why does she think everyone agrees? And do they?
Is this the new America?
And the issue of trafficking, as it is presented in our media, is dead center in the process of inculcating this incessant fear I feel in America. Do you feel that change too? And don’t bother answering if you are under, say, 35 because you might not be qualified to appreciate the difference over time I am alluding to. Just kidding! Speak up with your experiences and opinions.
In my case I remember feeling good when the bank clerk or the guy who washed my car windows at the gas station would give me a smile and say “hello” or make even a little small talk. Some sociologists call that “minor social contract” and it can be important to our mental health. Do you remember those days? Yes, I know, I use the ATM and the self service gas pump too. We don’t get those smiles any more.
I am reminded of Ralph Ellison’s famous book The Invisible Man, but just the title for now. Even a simple smile exchanged as I pass you on the street makes me feel like I am here in the world with you. I will smile back, no more. But I am not invisible. The movie Avatar brought tears to my eyes when the words “I see you.” expressed such deep meaning.
This post is about reasons we are afraid of each other. And I think the faux-issue trafficking, the fear we have been taught about traffickers in America is right there in the front row – along with fear of terrorism and fear of gun violence, and many more – this teaches us to be afraid of each other.