Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Worldwide Caution

When I first arrived here, I registered with the U.S. Embassy.  I wanted them to know I'm here since I'm so important that they should roll out the red carpet for me.  No seriously, I just wanted to register to let them know I'm here so that big brother can rescue me if something should happen.  I'm not one to worry about those things, but I'm also not one to ignore protocol and this was one suggested precautionary step that took me less than 10 minutes to do on the website.  Initially, I got an email thanking me for registering, and I've received nothing since, until today.

This afternoon I got an email with the subject: Message to US Citizens: New Worldwide Caution.
Seriously?  I'm unimpressed.  The big long email message talks of course about terrorist plots against American Citizens all over the world blah blah blah.  (Does anyone else hear the word "terrorist" in a very thick W Bush-Texan accent every time they read it?  No?  Just me?  Oh well.) 

I'm not taking this lightly.  No seriously, I read the whole email and took it all to heart. 

Examples of targets could include: "high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays."
"public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure."

 We're taking action to:
"maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness"

Thankfully, the section outlining appropriate vigilance for those of us in Europe was only 3 short and extremely vague sentences about plans & past events blah blah blah.  This was followed by much more specific and "credible" information about the Middle East & North Africa, Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia.** 
(**Surely we can find a better way to classify these hugely diverse portions of the world!  Seriously!)

This makes me wonder:
1. Where are South & Central America in all of this mess?  Do they get a separate email since they face different threats than the rest of the world?   
2. If the point of terrorism is to make us terrified, than isn't this email really evidence of our defeat? 
3. Is my increased "vigilance" really going to keep us safer?  Should I seriously be staying away from the public transportation system, holiday celebrations, and tourist areas?  If so, we are really going to have to change our lifestyle here. 
4. Doesn't the fact that I signed up for the email and registered with the embassy imply some form of vigilance on my part already? 

Thankfully, the embassy here has a blog that I can check for regular updates.

Look, I get it.  I have friends that live in places that are a whole lot scarier than here: Cairo, Kampala, Tokyo, NYC, LA, San Francisco Bay Area, etc. (All scary for very different reasons, but very scary in my eyes nonetheless.)  Keeping safe is a real issue.  I remember to lock our doors at night (mostly out of the fear that Ani will try to escape as she has done in the past).  I don't walk around at night with my headphones blaring Springsteen's "Born in the USA."  I carry my cell phone and make sure that I know the emergency numbers to call (a surprisingly complicated question in Germany by the way).  But what more can I do as an individual citizen of the United States living in Berlin to stay safe from an al-Qaida attack?  I will not live in fear of the unknown and uncontrollable.  Surely my taxes pay for someone else to do that for me.  Oh yes, they surely do!  Whenever I start to worry out loud about something I can't control, my lovely mother in law reminds me not to "borrow trouble."  I love this phrase, and wish I could send everyone that received this email the wisdom of these words.  When I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins living in Oakland, CA a little more than a year ago, I asked them when they stopped worrying about earthquakes.  I really appreciated my uncle's take on the whole thing when he told me that eventually he stopped worrying about what he couldn't control.  He made sure his family was as prepared for a disaster as possible, but other than that, he just let go of it.  I think I'll take the same approach.    

So, thank you U.S. State Department for the nice scary email reminding me to stay vigilant.  I'll try to keep on my toes and hold down Fort Melch.   



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