Monday, July 22, 2002

James Alan Fox cuts through the Bullshit - His Boston Globe editorial looks at all the sound and fury of the Samantha Runnion kidnapping. Yes, it was a horrible crime, and if they've got the right man, he's a sick son of a bitch. But there is no trend here, and the odds of this actually happening to a child you know are astronomical.

Please don't misunderstand me. Anyone who loves a child feels an ineffable pang of terror at the thought of losing them, particularly to a monster like this. But I have always believed that, once you've taken appropriate precautions, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to refuse to live in fear. Statistically, a lost child is safer running up to a complete stranger and asking for help than waiting for an adult to approach them and ask, "Are you okay, honey?" When we take the time to understand the world we live in, then our false fears (someone's going to break into my house and kill me while I sleep) calm down enough that we can hear the warnings that real fear can give (this parking lot is too dark, and there's cigarette smoke coming from behind that dumpster).

Read some Gavin De Becker. He's a security consultant, and he's a big fan of fear, but only if it's the kind of fear that helps you live your life, not the kind that prevents you from living it.

If you're interested in the topic, you might also look into Richard Rhodes' Why They Kill. He describes a four-stage process of "violentization" wherein people (usually children) are first on the receiving end of violence and are coached in the use of violence, then resolves to use violence as a problem-solving strategy, performs violent acts successfully, and then receive respect and deference as a result of these violent acts. The criminologist who came up with this theory, by the way, was Lonnie Athens, himself the product of a violent home, as were Rhodes and de Becker.

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