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Trust and Safety: It all comes down to you

Joined: 8/22/2011
Posts: 53

When we speak of “public safety,” images of terrorist attacks, September 11, and nuclear warfare fill our minds with fear and apprehension. Big governments, heavy taxes, enforcement of airport security, restrictions on immigration define our sentiments of insecurity amidst the beginning of the 21st century. Yet, the true perils to societies actually lie within the trivial-seeming misdemeanors that communities often choose to ignore. Specifically, those occurring among the pool of misguided youths.

It might not be all too infrequent when a random crowd of teens get put on news for bullying, drinking excessively, getting pregnant, or practicing violence. But until this is happening right next to you almost without your notice, it doesn’t seem all that important. The school I attend has a county-established program for linguistically talented students. Therefore, we are never short of a handful of brilliant, disciplined minds. Yet, on the other side of campus lies an array of less-affluent communities plagued by teen violence and drug abuse. Inarguably, school administrations have taken measures to ensure safe, quality education for the high-achievers. Yet, rarely do students at the lower end of the spectrum receive much attention. And when they do get noticed, schools try to evade putting such issues on the table under a simple rationale: students smoking before school on the parking lot, harassing someone in the restroom, sending obscene photos over cell phone occur too often to be curbed.

Being a part of the magnet program, I would not have recognized such things had it not been for an ex-best-friend/neighbor. When we first met, our parents recognized us as almost twin-like. Our dress code, our prudent hair style, even our ideologies about academics were always in unison. Every morning when we stood shoulder by shoulder at the bus stop awaiting a brand new day, we ruminated over our dreams soaring across the horizon. Sometimes she’d go on and on about becoming an international movie superstar, while I occupied myself with daydreams of tiptoeing across the floors of Carnegie with my violin. Yet, sometime after we entered 7th grade, things changed in an unsettling direction.

While clique division became more distinct in our school, disasters struck her family. Financial issues, coupled with her sister’s unexpected medical condition, turned her parents utterly ignorant towards their second daughter. Desperately seeking a place of belonging, my friend found so-called genuine support from a “decent-looking” guy. Contrary to my anticipations, my friend did not reemerge as the old amiable, dedicated girl after their encounter, but a volatile individual who can no longer make rational judgments. At one point, I began counting the times she was absent from class. Every time I finally saw her in her seat, some new trivial detail about her hair, clothes, or make-up always took me aback. Then came this morning when she purposely didn’t respond my greetings. My eyes followed her as her long bangs swung side to side in sink with her footsteps. Finally she stopped in front of a locker with that “decent-looking” guy grinning strangely. They interlocked fingers and went downstairs. A few minutes before class, I looked out the window absent-mindedly. There, my friend, facing her boyfriend, notched a cigarette between her fingers and blew into it. When I reported my observations to a counselor later this afternoon, I got a cutting response that there are simply too many such incidences to even bother. Some weeks afterwards, my ex-friend’s mother stumbled tearfully into our dinning room. In sobs, she cried about how her daughter went missing. For five days.

Fortunately, my ex-friend eventually came back. Yet, what returned was someone completely unknown to me. In our last mini-conversation before my family moved, she forged an indifferent smile from start to end. Nowadays when I glance across her facebook profile, albums of obscene pictures still evoke some discomfort.

Determining whom to trust has never been easy, especially for teens. Like all things in nature, any random reshuffling of order may transform an originally trustworthy sanctuary to a devil’s den. Yet, the important thing is that we never lose trust in ourselves. Even if institutions act as inert bystanders in front of looming dangers, so long as we remain determined in remaining on the right track, such social ills can never bog us down. Dangers only destroy those unable to resist them, while those who retain faith for life, regardless of all they must endure, ultimately walk out unscathed.
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