Zipping along the freeway when it is dark — or daylight, really the time of day does not make a significant difference — I occasionally get apprehensive. Is the boob slightly swerving in his lane drunk? Texting? Oblivious and reckless? Will they veer suddenly into my lane and cause an accident? Am I going to die on my way home because someone else was irresponsible or distracted?
I don’t go to the movies often these days. The last one I saw was in the summer. It was about Mister Rogers. In December I attended a performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Civic Theatre in San Diego. I was surrounded by families.
In both instances I spent a few moments wondering what I could do, where I could run or if I would get trampled should someone decide to start shooting indiscriminately.
I ponder the same questions when I go to coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, a mall — anywhere there is a gathering of about five people or more.
When someone walks into a crowded venue and I am already there, I glance at their hands first, wondering if I will see a gun. The scan is almost automatic.
Passing schools I often wonder if parents have sent their children off for another day of learning, dread and hope mixed in with the love of another day’s embrace or a kiss.
Unfortunately, these days I sometimes wonder if a group of young, burly, shaved-headed white guys passing me on the street will call me a wetback or something worse and tell me to go back to Mexico. And if they’ll take violent exception to my ignoring them or popping off.
When a customer becomes visibly agitated with a cashier who is wearing a hijab or speaking Spanish to a colleague I hope it will not be the day I intervene and things end badly for me. Or the cashier. Maybe not even the bigoted jerk.
There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t stop thinking about if any one of the chronic diseases in my family history will be the death of me. Or if I will I die choking on water I swallowed and that went down the wrong pipe.
Most of those anxious moments are fleeting (except the family disease one, that angst-bearing goblin sticks around longer the older I get). I recognize them, do what I can and move on. I am not afraid. Merely nervous.
Something I have never worried about — ever — was someone’s immigration status. If they were in the country legally or illegally when or if they shot me, crashed into my car or chased me down to deliver a beating.
And yet, there are leaders and neighbors among us who perpetuate a fear of immigrants, undocumented or otherwise. They bang on a drum and use the rhythm of fear-mongering to justify building a wall along the border and militarizing our home during a time of peace.
Immigration policy is and has been a topic that needs addressing. But shutting down the federal government, living in fear and letting that fear dictate how we live is not productive to living in peace.