Just like the traffic signal, this sigil of a saying has one purpose: To let someone know it’s okay to proceed.
When I worked in Hollywood, ‘green light’ was the ultimate phrase anyone anxious to begin a project wanted to hear. It was final approval. Few in the industry are allowed the privilege to confirm whether something is green lit or not. You either had the money to green light a project or you were the spokesperson delivering the message. No matter where you were in the hierarchy of the industry, you anticipated hearing the phrase, ‘green light’.
Some in my business never want to hear it. I know I don’t. In my line of work, it means someone in the hierarchy of the gang structure has given the okay to commit murder. I recently learned that members of the southern California gangs operating outside of California were given an automatic green light to get shanked.
A shank is a makeshift stabbing weapon. Prisoners make shanks out of anything that’ll maintain its shape long enough to be shoved into someone else. An inmate will use a glass shard to work off a piece of furniture, sink, toilet, or whatever else over a period of weeks, even months. They’ve been discovered in every hiding place you can possibly imagine, including rectums. For people who do not read, this craft is one they spend their time perfecting.
I’d been working an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) in an area just north of Dodger Stadium when I witnessed a sudden shift in the attitude of the officers around me. Since I was the only civilian, I questioned the nearest person in uniform. He proceeded to tell me that the Mexican Mafia had just given the green light to kill a police officer. I was suddenly relieved and comforted by the fact I would not be mistaken for one from any angle or distance.
Although the order was never carried out, we were forced to wear our bulletproof vests before traveling into that particular area for months after the incident.
Over the years, I’ve learned that everything good can easily be twisted into something bad. I now know what a simple, innocent catchphrase means in the minds of those hell-bent on wielding power over life and death. I am, however, keenly aware that I too wield power over my own life; the only one with any real authority to green light a positive attitude.