Some years ago when I was an undergraduate student I stayed late on campus one night to do some research at the library. It was getting dark and I was getting tired so I packed up my books to make the trek through campus and through the large parking lot where my car was parked at the far side.

It was probably around dinner time and there weren’t that many people around. As it happened, a young woman was walking ahead of me, quite a distance ahead, though I didn’t really take notice until she started glancing behind, looking in my direction and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought to myself: Do I know her? I don’t recognize her. Why does she keep looking behind in my direction?

I was in a hurry to get home and I must have been walking fairly quickly because it seemed that I was starting to catch up to her. It was then when she turned around again that I could see fear on her face. She started walking faster to get further away from me. I realized she was scared because I was a man and I happened to be walking behind her. It just happened that we were parked near each other and that’s the only reason I was following her path. I felt terrible. But I also felt angry that a woman could think I would hurt her just because I’m a man.

Here’s a worse example which happened to someone in Detroit recently (as reported in the Detroit News). A girl at an elementary school told her teacher that a man stopped his car and got out to wave at her from just outside the school yard. The school teacher called the police and a manhunt for a “would-be child abductor” began.

The girl had seen a man waving to someone in the playground, but he wasn’t waving to her. He was waving to another girl in the schoolyard — his daughter.

Police admitted the incident “stoked fears about pedophiles.” It’s a sad world we live in if a man can’t wave to his daughter in the school yard without being questioned by police. Here’s how the Detroit News reported the events:

A five-county police lookout for a would-be child abductor ended Tuesday morning with a nervous phone call and the realization the suspect was nothing more than a father waving to his own daughter.

In an incident police acknowledge stoked fears about pedophiles, the manhunt began when another 9-year-old at a playground at Lafayette Elementary School said a man motioned to her about 11:15 a.m. Monday, then fled in his vehicle as she ran to tell teachers.

Police said the man never noticed the other girl and her reaction, but realized the mix-up after watching reports about the incident on TV.

In reality, he was simply passing by, saw his child and stepped out of his pickup to motion hello.

“I think we are just in a society of fear right now. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t know if we want to be less cautious either,” said Lincoln Park Lt. Ron Szalay.

The man was too nervous to call the school himself and tell them that it was he who was seen at the schoolyard that morning. I can’t blame him. He didn’t want to be falsely accused. His wife called the school to clear up the misunderstanding.

If the man had called himself, would they have believed him? Would they have taken his word that he was there waving at his daughter? These are probably the questions that were going through his head which is why his wife called the school because they both knew that everyone would trust her word, but maybe not his. We live in a world that does not trust men.

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