Daily Bread: Safety

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The concept of safety seems to be on the minds of many Americans (and arguably the world) lately. What exactly does it mean to be safe in 2013?

Conversations that involve the word "safety" usually revolve more around somewhat of an antonym of the word - in the form of fear. School shootings, online predators, drug and gang violence, financial insecurity, health issues, sexual harassment and workplace conditions have muddied the waters of what the perception of safety really means. Because we look at what it means to be safe using so many different lenses and with countless sets of eyes, we should remember we will have conflicting ideas and opinions, which may be based on our personal values and fears.

A New York Times article on the subject of airline safety reported that airplane deaths are at an all-time low.

"This week, the United States has set a record of the most consecutive flights without a fatality. In the last five years, the death risk for passengers in the United States has been one in 45 million flights, according to Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at M.I.T. In other words, flying has become so reliable that a traveler could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash, he said." (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/business/2012-was-the-safest-year-for-airlines-globally-since-1945.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

Interestingly enough, after learning about this new record, I found myself thinking that I would still feel more at ease driving in a car than taking a flight. Even though I know, statistically, driving has been proven much more of a risk than air travel, I still feel nervous every time I fly on a plane. It all comes down to how we feel, and feelings vary from person to person; and not all are always rational.

To look at this issue under another scope, one can also refer to the current debate on gun control laws at the state and national level. Many Americans strongly support our right to own, carry and use firearms, and they have been fighting tooth and nail to keep this right unblemished. Those who hold an opposing viewpoint on gun control argue that guns cause violence and death, and they are all together unsafe for the average American to keep in their home. They focus many of their current arguments on the possession of automatic and semiautomatic weapons.

At times, I feel that both sides are arguing for the same thing: safety. The center of the gun control argument is deeper than whether or not an American should have the right to bear arms. It poses the question of what exactly it means to be safe in our homes, jobs, streets and country. Many feel we need guns to protect ourselves and to keep our families safe. People who believe that guns cause violence feel that, if we work to get rid of guns, we will ultimately be safer. The question comes down to what makes each of us feel a sense of personal security.

When deliberating something that is as multi-faceted as the notion of safety, no viewpoint seems innately correct. Each of us has been conditioned with different fears and ideas of what we need to feel secure. My personal challenge is to constantly and consciously understand the reasons I make certain choices. We should remember that, many times, two sides of an issue such as gun control actually have the same underlying fear: the lack of safety for our country, our friends, our families and ourselves.


Daily Bread is a column that blends current events with social and political commentary. Sam Rosenberg has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in English. He currently works as a middle school language arts teacher and adjunct professor at a local four-year university.