How Safe Do You Feel These Days?

What Can We Do Together About It?

I no longer feel as safe as I used to.

How about you? Do you think that the worlds in which you live are becoming more dangerous? What threats might you perceive? What could enhance your safety?

What do you, dear reader, do when you don’t feel safe? Reach out to friends? Or do you deny those feelings, retreat, and try to hide under the covers? What threatens your feelings of security?

Fear seems to be growing in the United States, even in our beloved Sonoma County, Northern California, where I have lived and worked on a farm in the countryside for the last 24 years.

This article intends to express some feelings and pose questions to stimulate both deep feelings and thinking. If the questions get too much, you can skip to the final section: A better world is possible.

What enhances feelings of safety? Internal and external factors seem to combine to create either more or less safety. Among the factors that enhance safety can be friends, family, a good job, and living with or near people whom you love and trust.

Near the end of 2016, I began to feel less safe. I became deeply concerned about what is happening here in the United States, as well as elsewhere on this Earth.

Unless one closes their eyes and tunes out information, ignoring the signs of dramatic pending change, feeling less safe is likely. What do you, realistically, expect your future and our futures to be like? Better or potentially worse? What would you suggest we do to get from here to a better world?

Selecting the best place to live and creating a network of close friends would help enhance safety. As would moving beyond denial and accepting that our early 2017 world is more unpredictable than even a couple of months ago.

This seems to be an especially unpredictable time for more vulnerable groups — he poor, dark skinned, immigrants, and those of non-Christian religions.

I migrated from a large urban setting to rural Sebastopol in l992, partly because a big city was feeling increasingly unsafe. I’ve felt pretty safe on my farm with its immediate access to food, water, good people, and meaningful work.

Now I hear more people considering moving away. Some to Canada. Others further away, especially to Latin America. Born in California I plan to stay, try to understand what is happening and how best to cope with it both personally and beyond myself.

Groups doing good work enhance my feeling of safety. Among them are the Grange, farm groups, some churches, and neighborhood groups.

Some places offer welcoming safe havens, or sanctuaries, to all. Some groups are more hostile, based on factors such as skin color, race, religion, country of origin, sexual and gender identity, politics, and other factors.

“Perilous optimism” is a concept that I read about in Santa Rosa author Richard Heinberg’s book The Party’s Over. What in our current historical moment gives you less optimism for our futures?

“The Times They Are A-Changing” musician and poet Bob Dylan wrote, decades ago. The pace of those evolving and pending changes seems to be quickening.

What threatens you? Members of your family? Governments—local, national, or foreign? Who do you turn to when you feel unsafe or threatened? Who or what would you avoid? How are you preparing for potential changes?

“My experience is that most of my growth takes place when I am uncomfortable and shaken out of my illusions of safety and forced to confront the challenging parts of myself, of life,” my friend Scott DuRoff commented after reading a draft of this article.

“When I think of safety in general, one of the first things that pops up for me is the desire to keep my freedoms safe,” a close woman friend responded.  “Our worldly freedoms are definitely being compromised.”

“A sense of innocence infuses U.S. culture, like a Happy Face running away from the nation’s transgressions” commented author and psychologist Chellis Glendinning,” who moved to Bolivia a number of years ago. “But that does not represent the world we’re living in–particularly as downturns in the economic, ecological, social, psychological, and spiritual realms become so entangled we don’t know which will do us in first.”

A Better World is Possible

After expressing my feelings in the rough draft of this article, receiving feedback from friends, and listening to the good news of protests around the U.S. and the world, my feelings changed drastically. As one friend responded to my draft, “We need to understand our fears in order overcome them.”

By expressing and thus discharging them, I became excited about the apparent start of a mass movement to improve our safety and deal with the sources of our fears. The last time I had such an elated feeling was nearly half a century ago — during the civil rights and peace movement of the 60s.

After the last two months of feeling down and scared, I went to a Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday commemoration and later heard him on the radio. I heard him in person when I was a young officer in the U.S. Army headed for the American Wars on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. I decided to resign my commission and join those mass movements, willing to suffer the consequences, which included a limited time in jail.

In l968, a group of us drove from Chicago to Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta and then joined 42,000 marchers in Memphis to honor him. Given our out-of-state license plates, we were targeted and literally stoned. Much was accomplished by our direct actions during those years. Mass non-violent movements drew us together and seem to once again be growing into a millions-strong response. That makes me feel safer and thus willing to take risks in the company of others.

When one feels down, engaging in action with others can break down the isolation. This has been happening at Standing Rock by Native Americans and their allies and at protests around the U.S. Join them.

Stand up and fight back!  A better world IS possible!

Shepherd Bliss ( is a retired college teacher who has contributed to 24 books. Read other articles by Shepherd, or visit Shepherd's website.