Wearing a safety pin is just a way for white people to feel good about themselves.
I read those words a couple of weeks after the election, while a silver safety pin graced the collar of my jacket. I’d been wearing the safety pin given to me by a friend as a symbol of love for and solidarity with family, friends, and strangers who felt betrayed and frightened by the rhetoric of the victor. So many people who looked like me — white men — had voted decisively against them. I was angry, embarrassed and honestly crushed that so many people who looked like me voted for the candidate who publicly disparaged women and minorities. I wore the safety pin not to feel better, but to somehow say to others, “I’m not one of them.”
The more I let those words roll around in my heart, the more frustrated I became. The author, a self-proclaimed progressive, didn’t know me. He had no idea what my heart, mind or actions were saying. He was judging my simple, positive symbol of solidarity as not enough.
Instead of saying thank you, and now here are other ways you can help our cause, his words told me that I was not welcome in his cause unless I did more. How much more did I have to do on the Checklist of 100 Things That Make You a Progressive? If I made it to 99, would he remind of the 1 thing I failed to achieve?
Did we lose this election because we’ve become so wrapped up in so many causes and yelling so many -isms that we made many good-hearted Americans throw up their hands in desperation? A progressive friend described the left to me as a circular firing squad, and he’s got a point. We’ve forgotten that not everyone has to support every plank in the platform to be included in the party. Not everyone has to join every protest, sign every petition, or adorn their profile picture with every cause du jour to be a part of growth and progress.
I’ve never allowed an election to affect me the way this one has. I’m exhausted from my state of high alert, my alarm growing with each announcement from the incoming administration. The threat to our democratic institutions and the civil rights progress we’ve made is palpable, and resisting that threat will take the combined efforts of millions.
I’m a person, who needs to take care of his health and well being in order to be of help to others. I’m a father, a brother, a son, and a boyfriend. I’m an employee and volunteer. Once you’ve counted up all the minutes it takes to be those things, I’ve got a slice left to give the cause. I may not be the biggest slice in the world, but it has to be enough.
I’ve retired my safety pin because it became a symbol for me of what’s wrong with our cause. I’ve replaced it with two bracelets that read LOVE CONQUERS HATE and ALLY. Those aren’t for others; they’re for me, a constant reminder of the principles I want to live by.
I will live a life that exudes love and solidarity, in my own way, on my own terms. Some days it will be little more than a warm smile to a stranger or simply a commitment to do better tomorrow.
It has to be enough.
This will be my last post of 2016. All I feel on a regular basis is stress and agitation about the state of our country. For my own health and happiness, as well as those around me, I’m stepping away from constant pull of social media for the rest of the year. I’ll be back, more determined than ever, but I don’t want to regret missing these moments of connection, collaboration and celebration.
Be well, my friends. Love and peace to you all.