Aspiring to safe and sound

Dear President Trump,

The phrase “safe and sound” came to mind this morning as I was doing my loving-kindness meditation for everyone (including you). I’d not stopped to consider its meaning before and wondered what was intended by the “sound” part. My first thought was that it’s not enough to be safe in a physical sense, that one also needs to be of sound mind such that whatever is going on is not driving one crazy. If our minds and psyches aren’t safe then we aren’t wholly safe.

Because Google is right there and it’s easy to look stuff up, I checked to see what the standard meaning of “safe and sound” is and found that it’s focused more on whether someone comes through a situation uninjured, whether her body comes through whole and sound. “The children got home safe and sound, they were unhurt” is one of the examples offered. I don’t want to push the issue of this one little phrase too much, but the emphasis on outwardly observable safety is troubling and unfortunate. It’s kind of like the misguided sing-song “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Yes, being hit with sticks and stones will almost certainly harm my physical body, but words can certainly harm me too and to pretend otherwise just layers on more psychic harm. As I see it, the logic is thus: since I’m supposed to be strong and impervious to whatever anyone can dish out verbally (or that doesn’t leave me physically injured), if I become mentally unsound in the face of whatever verbal abuse is meted out, then it is a sign of my weakness and not of a messed up situation or system.

This morning I saw that someone, almost certainly a parent, had written in chalk on the path to their front door the words “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” It made me sad. I get it, though. We want to shield our children from what’s going on in the world, from the super heating of the planet to the abject untrustworthiness of our president, but I think we risk driving them and ourselves crazy if we pretend that we are coming through this safe and sound and don’t need to worry, that we should just be happy.

May we be safe from words meant to destabilize and tear us down.
May we be willing to accept that words matter and not give bullies passes just because they aren’t using their fists.
May we insist that our whole selves be treated in ways that support our health.
May we insist on a peace that is more than skin deep, that holds us all safe and sound.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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