Some immigrants are luckier than others. We were embraced by complete strangers when we came to the States. “Welcome to America!” “God bless you!”

Then there is the Iraqi man in Texas who went outside to look at his first snowfall and was shot dead in front of his home. His welcome wagon was, shall we say, a little less festive.

What makes one person a target and not another? Was it simply that the color of his skin was darker than ours? Or were we lucky to be dealing with people slightly less crazy than the ones in Texas?

When we lived in Idaho, our neighbors pointed their many guns at everything else that moved–the squirrels, the birds–but not at us, at least as far as I can remember. Not that there was any love lost between us. They didn’t like us because we had an accent and spoke to each other in our native language. Actually, they were drug dealers, so they were paranoid and didn’t like anybody very much.

I was told when I came to America that I should fear the big cities with their muggings, but the scariest time I’ve experienced here has been the five years we spent in Boise. Still, we didn’t get shot. Since America is portrayed around the world as the country where people get shot, this was a big deal for us.

I guess this rambling post is to reflect on the randomness of fate. What decides which human beings live and die? Whether or not you look like the type of person who gets killed. And if you do, whether or not you are doing something “suspicious”. Whether or not you live somewhere where weapons get waved around in public, or a more civilized area like the one I currently inhabit, where the residents keep their weapons hidden in their homes. Whether or not the nutjob down the street finally reaches his tipping point. So many things can go wrong.

Some of us just happen to be lucky.

As we continue to grapple with the dilemma of Prism and the NSA observing our lives (or perhaps not–I haven’t heard too much discussion of this lately), the problem of privacy vs. security continues world-wide.  Great Britain has now announced that it will opt out of over a hundred EU regulations, at least for the time being.  One of those new laws has to do with creating a single European DNA database.  On the surface, this sounds good–it will make chasing after criminals across the borders of EU countries easier.  On the other hand, here is yet more opportunity for possible abuse of power, and a single institution having access to a lot of information about its citizens.  Also–and this is what Britain is balking at–it means additional chipping away at the sovereignty of individual countries within the EU.  Especially in connection with something called the European Arrest Warrant, which would allow any EU country to demand the deportation of an accused criminal from a different member country.

Britain says it wants to consider its options before agreeing to these regulations, and I’m thinking it is probably wise to do so.