By Lindsey Collins
For 18 years, I have lived a mere 15 minutes from the Washington, D.C. border. For years I heard my mother call the area we live in “ground zero”: a place of great importance that was surely to be under some kind of attack most of the time.
Growing up in D.C., I always knew we were a key target area for terrorist attacks of any kind. Washington, D.C. is the nucleus of the American cell: the control center, source of power and, therefore, the most heavily guarded place in the country.
For 18 years, D.C. has been my home and never in that 18 years have I felt so unsafe.
To put it simply, I am terrified to go to this year’s inauguration despite living in D.C. my entire life and having attended past inaugurations.
The Metro area has been riddled with issues since the day I was born. I have lived through some of the most iconic attacks in D.C., including “The Sniper” and 9/11. External terrorist attacks are always a possibility; however, it is internal terrorism that I am now worried about.
It is no secret our country has issues with gun violence. According to The Washington Post, in 2013 there were roughly 357 million firearms in the U.S. — 40 million more guns than people. America alone owns 50 percent of all guns in the world.
My views on gun violence changed greatly in my first semester of college. My first semester, I was lucky enough to have Emma, an Irish foreign exchange student, as a roommate, and her views on American culture changed the way I saw guns. It was a shock to Emma every time we saw a gun—even if it was on a police officer. In Ireland, most police officers do not even have guns. In fact, The Washington Post states only 20-25 percent of police officers in Ireland are approved to carry a firearm. This seemed absurd: how can they protect the people in the country? The answer to that was simple: if no one has guns, there is nothing to fight against.
When I first learned this, it saddened me greatly that Americans have such a dependence on guns. It was hard to imagine a place so safe that even the police did not need guns. Mass shootings have been more and more frequent in the past decade, slowly spreading terror through our country. No matter where you are—shopping malls, clubs, college campuses, elementary schools, airports, movie theaters, etc.— you are not safe from mass murder.
It was the most recent shooting that stuck with me as we head toward the inauguration. A mass shooting occurred at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6, near the baggage claim in Terminal 2. Five people were killed while six others were injured in the shooting. About 36 people sustained injuries in the ensuing panic. A mere two weeks before, I had traveled to Florida myself and was shocked to hear there was a shooting at an airport. How did security not realize this man had a gun?
The more I read into the story, the more terrifying it got. The gun and ammunition were brought into the airport completely legally, and furthermore, it is a common occurrence. The airport security stated guns were often flown in and out of Florida in the same manner. The idea that shooting a gun in an airport was as easy as going into the bathroom and loading a gun is terrifying. If it was that easy to legally bring a gun into a place of such high security, who is to say there could not be a similar incident at the inauguration?
Gun violence is not the only thing that worries me so much about this particular inauguration. The results of this election have left the country divided, almost 50/50 with polar opposite views. When the popular vote elects one candidate and the Electoral College elects another, it questions the principles of our democracy. Should we keep the Electoral College? Is the truly democratic way through just the popular vote? This we may never agree on.
Racial tensions and women’s rights have also been shoved into the forefront of this election. Police brutality cases have created mistrust between citizens and both the legal system and the police force. Funding for women’s programs, such as Planned Parenthood, are under scrutiny. The LGBTQA+ community fears the revocation of equal marriage rights. Immigrants feel insecure in their own homes. Muslims feel as if they cannot openly practice their religion. Each candidate had strong and opposing views on these topics.
With the inauguration as close as ever, I fear for my safety as a woman, child of a half Middle Eastern woman and citizen of the United States. When intense social issues have been pushed to the forefront, I believe people are most likely to act.
Almost every American can find a reason to feel threatened: gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and more. Like a cornered animal, when we are pushed with our back against the wall, we are most likely to fight. The threat to our safety provokes us to take extreme measures in order to survive. We often feel our voices are not being heard until we protest in extreme ways, often with violence.
For 18 years, I have never felt threatened by D.C., never felt that violence may start around me and never expected to be afraid of the place I call home. To many, this inauguration symbolizes the divide on more than just political issues. Gender equality, racial tensions, police brutality, discrimination based on religion, climate change—there is an issue for everyone to be passionate about and a divide for inciting violence.
Featured Photo Credit: Lindsey Collins attends President George W. Bush’s second inauguration in 2005. Courtesy of Lindsey Collins.
Lindsey Collins is a freshman multiplatform journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.