Sometimes what you think is true, what you think is safe and good, is actually evil in disguise. Evil is so enticing, so deceiving, that you don’t know it’s evil until it’s wrapped you up and caressed you as a lover. You gaze into its eyes, enraptured by the pretty words whispered softly in your ears, realizing too late that the pretty words were all just twisted lies. —Quinn Loftis, Beyond the Veil
From birth, children are taught what looks good. They happily respond to the soothing voice of their caregivers; the caregiver’s smile comforts them, and they see that smiles are good. Smiles mean safety. They draw us in, allowing us to put our guard down. As beneficial as this reflex is in the right relationships, it is equally dangerous when we come across the soft–spoken guy with the puppies, or the guy with the lost kitty, or the individual behind the mask of a computer screen presenting himself or herself as a youth so the targeted victim is willing to meet in person.
I believe one of the largest injustices we can commit in this day and age is teaching our children a stigmatized version of “stranger danger”—the version in which we caution them to steer clear of the greasy–haired, yellow–toothed creepy guy who must intend great harm, or the white van version in which vehicles like that snatch children who are never seen again. Why is teaching them this a great injustice? Because individuals who intend to do harm have evolved so that they often don’t look like bad guys. We must do the same in our teaching of what to look for in a bad guy.
One thing I learned from my time on the streets is that most of the time, a bad guy will not act like a bad guy right away. Bad guys spend more time looking like good guys so that they can create the opportunities to be that bad guy. Smiles, eye contact, clean–cut faces, and kind voices are the façades of these individuals. After all, our children and even adults are busy steering clear of the beer–bellied, snaggletooth bad guy with creepy eyes. Their prey is unaware; their opportunity is primed.
Like an animal that lies in wait for its prey, today’s bad guys are deceptive, cunning, and intentional in their actions to do harm. Instead of black ski masks, they wear masks of smiles and charm. Instead of guns and knives, they bear weapons of manipulation and coercion. They are human predators, seeking, waiting, and hunting their prey.
“Love your neighbor, all of ’em.” -Christine Clarity McDonald