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Erasing violence and spreading love: A 2:30 a.m. phone call

Say the word violence: What do you think of? The Middle East, off the top of your head. Or maybe your mind went to abusive relationships or a city that looms large from the many reports where turf wars rage. Violence, by itself, can be found anywhere we make it happen, even inside of us.

When I readied myself to travel to Mexico in the fall of ’15 for a writer’s residency, I received much encouragement. “You’re writing a book! That’s so awesome!”

And to the left-hand side of me was another person asking my husband, “Are you letting her go to Mexico herself? Aren’t you afraid for her?”

To his credit he would smile and say, “No, she’ll be fine. She knows the language and her way around.”

People worried I would be kidnapped by the cartel and never be heard from again.

I don’t live my life that way.

If you want to state facts, then of course, Mexico has a history of violence. The growth of the cartels and the people they pin under them is formidable. It’s also a place where you can visit beautifully cultured towns that have art and music to yank the fear right out of you.

If I had a dollar every time someone told me that if you travel to the beach resorts in Mexico to “never leave them or go into town,” I would be a rich woman. That’s like coming to the United States and only visiting the Statue of Liberty and not stepping a foot into the actual heartbeat of the city. The best parts of a country do not lie on the beautiful sandy fringes.

Last week I received a call at 2:30 a.m. from my daughter. She was attending a music festival in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; she is a seasoned world traveler. Fuzzy from sleep, I heard her tears before she spoke.

“Mom, there’s been a shooting at the club. We escaped out the back door. People are dead!”

Your heart drops, and you are glad and infuriated at the same time. Your daughter is alive. Others have died. Violence, too close to me, has now occurred. Five people died including three security guards who tried to stop him and 15 who were wounded.

The press didn’t give this much coverage, possibly because it wasn’t in a place where terrorists were likely to hit. Also because it was cartel-related. Trending news stories are everything in media, and terrorism is what people want to watch and tsk-tsk their tongues to, looking at each other in relief and thanking God they’re safe inside the United States.

She and her boyfriend described to us how it felt:

“We heard the shots and looked at each other, wondering what the noise was. Then the music stopped, and we heard rounds firing. It was as if we were under water, frozen in time, and we made our way behind the bar to hide with tons of other people. We were all tangled up together waiting out the horror. We yelled at people to get down, to keep their heads low, and when the time was right, we escaped out a back door, pulling several people up that had fallen so they wouldn’t be trampled.”

She’s already had people asking why she would travel to Mexico, and she simply laughs and says, “I will not live my life in fear of what might happen. I will go back to Mexico again and again and again.”

And this is the crux. We are not safer here more than any other place in the world. Violence, it seems, can be found in a movie theater in Colorado, a school in Connecticut, an outside café or parade in Paris, a church in Charleston, a nightclub in Florida or Istanbul, and even an airport in Fort Lauderdale on a mundane day. Across the world, as well as our country, violence occurs daily. Words that say we should stay safe inside carefully constructed borders fall flat.

I choose to live without fear in my home on state Route 39 or in the farthest reaches of unknown lands. Traveling and seeing other ways of life bring an alliance, of sorts, with those who are different from us.

A favorite quote by Mark Twain says, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

We can make the violence smaller by exploring our own country and backyards as well as other countries, spreading love and erasing suspicion as we travel each mile.

Published: January 23, 2017
New Article ID: 2017701239987