If you haven’t already heard or seen, many people are choosing to wear safety pins to show their support for people who feel fearful and marginalized by the recent election. While I want all people to live in safety and peace, I won’t be wearing a safety pin. Here’s why.
The safety pin is meant to assuage the fears among homosexuals, minorities, women, and Muslims that their lives and freedoms are now in danger due to this election. In order to be a reasonable fear, you have to assume that there are people out there in your community who have not yet been violent but will somehow see this election as a license to hurt. You have to believe that your neighbors, your co-workers, the guy in the grocery store parking lot represent a threat, and furthermore, that law enforcement and decent people around you won’t stop it. You have to believe that the people around you want to remove your liberty.
I understand fear. It’s not wrong to acknowledge fear. It is wrong, however, to allow fear to grow and take root. Frightened people are dangerous people, and if we continue to allow this “us versus them” mentality, people will be hurt by actions that spring from misunderstanding or panic.
I like symbolism. Symbols reach us when words can’t. But the problem with wearing a symbol is that it can easily lose its meaning. If someone wears a crucifix, are they Catholic or are they making a fashion statement? There was a time when the answer was clear, but not today.
A safety pin signals, “I am not a homophobic, racist, misogynistic bigot.” There’s another underlying message – “the lady over there without a safety pin quite possibly is.” People will wear safety pins not because they want fearful populations to know they are safe, but to signal that they, too, are virtuous people.
Without a safety pin, how will people know I am safe? By my words and actions. Wearing a safety pin doesn’t mean you are kind and compassionate any more than having dark skin or long hair or a tattoo means you’re dangerous. Ted Bundy taught us that looks can be deceiving, which leads me to the next reason I won’t be wearing a safety pin.
Creating Dangerous Situations
If we assume the worst, that this election will embolden those who want to injure those they hate and fear, then trusting someone wearing a safety pin is dangerous! Safety pins are cheap and can be picked up anywhere. You don’t need a license. You don’t need a background check. Someone with ill intentions could easily wear a safety pin to signal that they are safe when, in fact, they are dangerous. That’s what predators do – they camouflage and mask and deceive.
Wearing the safety pin most recently came as a response to Brexit from those who wanted to let immigrant and the Muslim populations know that they were supported. But the roots of the idea appear to have come from the Norwegian Resistance in WWII. When the Nazis occupied their country, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing buttons with the likeness of their king. Free speech was silenced – protests could bring imprisonment or death. So they started wearing paperclips on their lapels, in their hats, or strung together as bracelets. The paperclip symbolized unity, national pride, and resistance to an occupying force by people who had no voice.
The recent election was not about an occupying force. It was as fair an election as elections are in this country, and citizen voters who happen to be your family members, friends and neighbors made the decisions.
People here are not without free speech. There seems to be nothing but speech — hate-fueled, vitriolic, divisive speech – everywhere you turn. I don’t see people hiding their positions for fear they will be imprisoned. They shouldn’t! I do see people refraining from speaking because they don’t want to be caught in a war of words or torn apart by friends or strangers who would make broad assumptions about their character based on their political positions.
Wearing a safety pin indicates that there is a moral equivalency between the state of marginalized people in the U.S. today and the people living under a cruel and murderous occupying force. There is no equivalency. Argue all you want about feelings, argue all you want about your fears for the bleakness of the future. The very fact that you can argue loudly and openly proves my point.
Wear a safety pin. Don’t wear a safety pin. It’s a free country. I reiterate – it is a free country. Wear your hijab proudly, Muslim women. Fly your rainbow flags with pride. But don’t judge a person’s position, moral character, or threat level by the presence or absence of a safety pin. And if you still fear for your safety, lawfully and judiciously exercise your 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Find an NRA-certified instructor near you to help you learn about safe and responsible gun ownership. Most of all, if you want to live without fear, reject it. Free yourself. Look for the good in people. Courageously love others. Bravely be kind and compassionate. Accept that while evil exists, it doesn’t have to thrive or take away your peace and joy. I wish all my fellow citizens safety and liberty.