I was sitting on the local benches with a handful of my pals last Sunday, masked up, pulling on a Crisp Pilsener and shooting the shit. I raised the question about the various crises, in particular the fires out west. We all immediately agreed how dangerous the whole mess is.
We got onto the phrase “Stay Safe,” which seems to get bandied around a lot today. An old Brooklyn friend explained his understanding of its origin. He said at work it gained some legs amongst his black fellow workers in the 80s. Street crime then was a real issue, and there was the genuine worry about people being able to make it safely from the subway station to home without something awful happening to them.
But later, the phrase joined the popular vernacular, and yuppies or hipsters would sprout it out as they were departing the pub. It became part of the current lingo, relatively meaningless, like” Ciao” or “See you later.”
Today, I read dispatches from California, Oregon and Washington State. The writers all make a point of wishing each other good luck. “Stay safe” is now for fellow hospital emergency room workers, protestors on the barricades facing down police with their teargas and rubber bullets, anybody else who gets on the wrong side of an armed right wing vigilante, those caught in the inferno, and the victims of the epidemic.
There is a certain real solidarity amongst that community, our community. They care about each other, even if their contact is only via chat emails on social media, or at the protests, or at work, or being in a fire evacuation zone. They presume correctly that they are all in the same boat, and that the threat of harm is real.
So when somebody tells you today to stay safe, think about it before brushing it off. We need each other and we cannot afford to lose any souls. There appear to be plenty more ways to die these days.