Locking Our Doors Makes Us Less Safe

I was born just four days after the launch of Sputnik, a seminal moment in the US/Russian Cold War.

That was not long after the end of the Korean War and only a dozen years after World War II; my dad served in both as an Air Force bombardier.

My mom and dad grew up during the Great Depression—emphasis always on "Great" when being reminded to clean my plate at dinner or care for others less fortunate.

It's not hard to understand, then, why my parents wanted to create a "safe space" for me to grow up. We lived in a small, white Milwaukee suburb, I went to a Catholic grade school and a Jesuit high school, and everyone we knew was pretty much the same.

And while no one ever spoke a prejudiced word in my household, it was understood that life within our safe space was normal, while what was happening in the rest of the world (what we saw on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite) was not. 

"Lock the front door before going to bed. Sweet dreams."

The folly, of course, is that isolation is never a safe space in a world of diverse people and increasingly divisive views.

And yet—from well-meaning college students who wish to shield themselves from hurtful speech to self-serving politicians who seek to barricade our borders—we continue to erect walls that have only succeeded in inflaming the conflicts we wish to resolve. 

Safe zones are neither safe nor smart and we cannot resolve problems by seeking to repress free speech or suppress innocent refugees.

Locking our front doors only makes us more vulnerable to the hateful polarization that continues to divide our world—and makes everyone’s space less safe.