Van Beek: A weekend of fear |

Van Beek: A weekend of fear

When we see images of bloodshed at the hands of someone who looks perfectly normal, we begin to question our own safety. Are those who live around us capable of equally horrific acts? 

There was a mass shooting in Walmart … does that make our local store a target? They say that the shooter hated diversity; does that place our Hispanic community in danger from another murderer of similar beliefs?

We cannot begin to understand what goes on in the mind of someone who wakes up one morning, determined to kill. In one instance, a young man drove to a local pub with his younger sister, then went back to the car for his weapon and killed her, along with others nearby.  Who does that?

In Walmart, the shooter said he hated Hispanics, and he was labeled a White Supremacist, but then writings were uncovered that he hated White Supremacists, too. Basically, this was a very disturbed person who apparently hated everyone, mostly himself.

We speak of mental illness, but in reality, anyone who takes the life of another is not in their right mind. How do we recognize the threat? We all know people who talk a mean game but would never actually hurt anyone.  At what point do we take them seriously?

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In a free society, hate speech is protected but hate actions are not. In a community like ours, we are more aware of the idiosyncrasies of our fellow neighbors and friends due to proximity, yet we are shaken by the randomness, and unpredictability that we hear from those who are familiar with these shooters … could we be missing something crucial in the subtle actions of those around us?

Opening the discussion is a start.  There are numerous theories of why this is occurring, but all of the analysis in the world won’t make us feel safer.  We simply want to protect our loved ones and the community in which we live.  

It’s important to speak up when we notice erratic behavior, which becomes increasingly threatening.  By doing so, you could be saving a life … someone else’s or even your own.  

Meanwhile, it is also important to keep things in perspective. Fear takes over because of the extreme volatility of each horrendous incident. Car accidents, street attacks, etc., we must not let our fear inhibit us from living normal lives.  

Most importantly, we must not raise our children in an atmosphere of fear, for it will limit their potential for the rest of their lives. What can we do? Be aware. Notice anything that seems unusual. Go with your instinct. Speak to your children about how some people may seem friendly, but we must still be cautious and never go with a stranger. Tell them that there are some people who may not like you, for no reason at all, and that’s OK because not everyone will, but we must stay away from anyone that makes us feel unsafe.  

When we enter venues where a large group of highly diverse people is in attendance, we must be more observant, particularly when it is in an enclosed venue. There are differences in behavior for sure, but not every variance is a danger. Yet, it can be a target for those with dangerous intent.  Just be aware, but not to the point of paranoia.  

We have all survived dangerous situations throughout our lives — this is no different. Contrary to what we hear sensationalized on television, we are not living in a war zone, but there are dangerous people in all societies, and we should remain aware.  

Remember that we have dreams to fulfill, families to enjoy, careers to build, a community to connect with, and that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We must not let others rob us of our joy.

Please contact me or any of the law enforcement offices if you are concerned. Together, we will continue to thrive, and as a community of athletic daredevils, we will confront our fears and remain determined to enjoy every minute of life!  

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him

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