ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
There’s an old saying that the first rule of the universe is to take care of yourself so you can then take care of others.
In today’s world, there’s an even more pressing rule that would tell us that first, we have to stay alive before we can even begin to take care of ourselves.
Some might say that those two “rules” are the same thing. Well, they could be…however, sometimes no matter what a person might do in the taking-care-of-yourself department, they might still end up not alive,
and that would be the end of their story.
“…And he was cut down in the prime of his life — a great athlete, a brilliant mind, an example to all those younger than he was…” and words to that effect that may have been said over many a soul who didn’t survive their teens or their 20s — not for lack of personal care or disregard for the important aspects of life, but because of something they were not expecting and weren’t warned about.
Generally speaking, most parents, care-givers, or authority figures in a child’s life will impart certain warnings and advice to children intended to keep them safe. Who hasn’t heard the advice that has warned us at one time or another to look both ways before crossing a street, to be wary of strangers and not get in the car with anyone you don’t know, to be aware of sharp edges and not play with broken glass, knives, pointy sticks and the like, to watch where you’re walking; and the list goes on and on.
But this is a new day — or a new kind of time in which we’re living. It is now not only a time of fear for the growing child, but for the teenager and the full grown adult as well. And all the warnings of the past, while totally fine for their time, do not go far enough to keep us all safe in today’s world. We need to be updated into a new way of seeing the possible dangers of everyday living and we need to really know and really understand that any one of these things can happen to us.
Perhaps the first rule we need to add to our new list of warnings is to get rid of that “cloak of invincibility” that so many men wear, whether because it makes them feel more macho, gives them a sense of superiority over those who might wish to harm them, or just expresses their own desire of wanting to appear stronger, more difficult to deal with, or just be in keeping with their belief that they’ll survive whatever comes their way so they can go on with their plans, whatever they are. They need to realize that even big, tall, strong men can die
at the hands of much smaller and weaker police officers, and no one is immune from death.
In today’s world, children even way younger than teenagers; old men and women; the handicapped; the young, strong, and law-abiding person even in military uniform, and virtually anyone in any category, of any
age, in any circumstance, could be caught in a situation that ends up in a tragedy if they are not prepared to deal with it in the best possible way to stay alive.
Years ago, I wrote a column based on a conversation I had with a Black man in which he told me how Black parents have to raise their children somewhat differently from how White parents raise theirs. And while
that column and what he told me would still ring true today, it would be a wise thing to expand that advice outward to all.
1. Always have your ID (identification) of some kind on you. If you are a child, have your own name, your parents’ names and your address and phone number on a wallet-sized card.
2. Do no wrong. Do not even give the appearance of doing wrong. Play no games that look like you’re breaking the law or hurting someone. (Is it really worth the possible outcome to steal a pack of cigarettes or a candy bar?)
3. Do not carry anything in your hand, if at all possible, that could be mistaken for a gun, including a cell phone.
4. Do not carry around an attitude or chip on your shoulder that is likely to start an altercation with a store clerk, a stranger, a policeman, or anyone. Public behavior is different from how you act around your friends. Remember, staying alive is the plan.
5. Speak civilly, and do not use foul language or curse words to store clerks, strangers, police officers, or anyone when out in public.
6. Make no threats, even if you think they’ll know, or should have known, you’re joking.
7. If stopped by a police officer for any reason at all, do not walk, run, or drive away. Listen to what the officer wants, and if they make a request, obey the request. (Remember, the plan is to stay alive. You can argue later or take it up with the judge in court, etc.)
8. Do not make any quick or suspicious moves that might appear as though you’re going for a weapon. And in addition, tell the officer or ask first before making such a move.
9. When in a car and asked to show your registration or some other item you keep in the glove compartment, tell the officer that you will be going in there to retrieve it. If you happen to have a gun in there, tell him that too.
10. If you do carry a gun, be sure it’s registered and that you’re registered to carry it. Have proof on you or in your car. Do not reach for it to show the officer; tell him or her where the gun is and ask if they want to check it out.
11. If you have a particular health or mental problem, not only let them know, but tell them, in your regular speaking voice, that you have proof of your condition in the form of a document of some kind from your doctor. (Be sure that you obtain this as soon as your problem or condition is discovered or known, and carry it with you at all times.) If you have a condition that needs immediate attention — like a heart condition that requires you take a nitro pill right away — get a medical card from your doctor and make several copies of it:
one to keep in your car on your sun visor, one to keep in your wallet, one to keep at home on your refrigerator, etc. If you have difficulty understanding orders, whether because of your hearing or language — or even your age — also have a card on your sun visor that lets others know you are deaf or hearing-impaired, 95 years old, or only speak Swahili, German, French, or such. And learn from someone who can teach you, the best way to make that known and how to know it is time to make that known. Then practice doing it before you need to do it.
12. Do not wear colors that are known to be associated with certain gangs (you will likely know what they are or be told if you ask), nor deliberately and defyingly get tattoos that threaten anyone or incite an attack upon yourself or others through racist words, remarks, or designs. If you must get tattoos that would incite anger, hate, or even attacks upon yourself or others, get them where they can’t be seen — but also remember, that if you do end up in prison, those tattoos could cause additional problems with the other inmates or even
be the end of you.
If anyone reading this has any additional warnings for people at large (and/or especially the Black community) please let me know. You can reach me at the email below. I thank you very much in advance.
Remember, the plan is to STAY ALIVE!
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.