This post is part of a continuing series by The Washington Post on D.C. and legal issues.
As spring approaches, school lets out, the days get longer, and every American starts looking forward to a brief period of sunshine and months of completely glorious spring weather. And many of us are especially looking forward to doing the following in Washington:
• Taking a once-a-year break from the grind of a workday and a multiple-hour, often delayed, commute to go take that sometimes long stroll along Anacostia River, waving to fish that are obviously unfamiliar.
• Having brunch at Georgetown’s esteemed cafe Zengo and spending a bit of time on Georgetown’s incredible new bike path.
• Sipping happy hour coffee at happy hour coffee shops around the city, stopping to savor the fact that, in the distance, all of your colleagues probably aren’t in the same place at the same time.
• Having a goodhearted chat with our friends and neighbors about our fears and concerns.
• Being able to understand fully, just by virtue of knowing you’re actually here, that most of the other tourists all have no idea what this city is about.
But for many of us, these nice moments of “sunshine” often are just one little slice of our lives. And when we feel like it’s warm enough to take a walk and sun on the bridge, it makes us think about safety and security and what we can do.
Now, for many residents of Washington, the buzz of “I’m a U.S. Citizen” that clatters loudly against the door of the window that has already opened, announced that that.
It’s a way of coming to grips with the fact that you are, at this time in our history, the target of multiple organizations, groups and persons that are out to get you. Yes, you may be a citizen of the world’s most powerful nation with a rational, legal system and countless protections to fall back on, but that doesn’t stop individuals from committing crimes in your name or making false claims on your behalf.
So here are some suggestions on what you can do right now:
1. Read up on the history of the American government.
2. Make sure you know all of the laws protecting you, including what authority the government has to enforce those laws.
3. Put together a family plan in the event that you or one of your loved ones is the victim of an egregious act of violence.
4. Reach out to local local lawyers to take the case pro bono.
5. Talk to your religious leaders and ask them what they’re teaching in their homes.
6. Open yourself up to new forms of communication to help you stay informed. Download apps that will alert you whenever a new Congressperson or Senator is elected.
7. Plan at least some harmless but fun things that will make you feel proud to be American.
8. Never forget the principle that no one in this nation, at any time, deserves to be the victim of a crime, no matter what their race, gender, religion, or national origin.