By Alex P. Vidal
“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”—Isaac Asimov
AS a daily commuter in New York City’s subway, I feel “safer” now even if close to a year ago, the video showing I was being verbally attacked by an emotionally—and, perhaps, mentally—disturbed male black passenger inside a running subway train went viral at the height of the Asian Hate Crime attacks in the United States.
Safety in the New York City subway was again brought up in the conversations over the week following the killing of 40-year-old subway passenger, Michelle Alyssa Go, on January 15 morning after being pushed onto the subway tracks at about 9:30 a.m. at the 42nd Street Times Square station by another mentally deranged black man.
We feel safe only if we’re awake and not dozing off especially during a long trip.
In my case, I had to travel daily via subway on R or Q train for more or less two hours from Queens via Manhattan vice versa when I used to work in Brooklyn.
In my new workplace in Manhattan, distance is no longer a major concern; F or E train brings me to my destination from Queens vice versa in less than 20 minutes, barring unforeseen incidents.
I feel I can now handle the lunatics and racial haters; I’m no longer intimidated and scared of them, not after living in the Big Apple for seven years now.
My horrible experience during the turbulent waves of Asian Hate Crime attacks last year has taught me one lesson: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” (This is actually a phrase from the 1933 inaugural address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.)
Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”
My instinct reminds me to be always alert and, as what we referees in professional boxing always tell the two ring titans before the bout, “protect yourself at all times.”
If we are tatanga tanga and complacent, we will only have ourselves to blame if one day we will again be featured on CNN and other news networks after being tormented and terrorized by another episode of violent physical attack—while sleeping inside the train.
But even if we are awake, random attacks could still happen anytime and anywhere—in and outside any public transportation.
It pays to be alert and vigilant all the time.
We can’t be paralyzed forever by irrational fear, or the disturbing thought of being mugged and physically violated anew by losers and haters who blame us not only for the spread of Covid-19 virus, but for being “successful and productive immigrants.”
What I fear most actually is being “trapped” in the tunnel (the train crosses underneath the rivers) when the train sometimes suddenly stopped or “malfunctioned” (it happens from time to time but rarely).
It’s “easier” to tackle an attacker inside the train (running away is the best option if we can’t land the knockout punch first in a worst-case scenario), but to be “suffocated” when the train’s engine stopped while crossing the tunnel and the lights went off is real hell; I could die of a panic attack (I have a fear of close spaces).
When he recently made an ocular visit, New York City Mayor Eric Adams admitted on January 18 that even he didn’t feel safe on the subway.
Adams, who has been mayor for a little over two weeks, has noted that a perception of danger could drive more people to eschew the subway, complicating the city’s economic recovery as it tries to draw people back to offices, tourist attractions and more.
“We want to continue to highlight how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system,” the mayor said.
“To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system.”
A high-profile killing at New York City’s busiest subway station has injected fresh unease into the perception of whether the lifeblood of the nation’s largest city is safe.
Mayor Adams, who has been in office for just over two weeks, made a point of taking the subway to City Hall on his first day to work and had announced plans to boost the presence of police officers in the subway and reach out to homeless people in the stations and trains as part of a mission to combat “actual crime” and “the perception of crime.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)