Safety Pin

Wearing a safety-pin shouldn’t be required to tell someone you’re “safe”. This apparently is the new thing to show solidarity and opposition to those of us that target and spread hate to marginalized people. Americans in particular seem to be polarized the last year or so because of the amount of hate that has been witnessed by bystanders that decide to take video of violence instead of stepping up and trying to stop it from happening in the first place. I’m not saying that every situation is appropriate for someone to step up, when guns are involved for example, but I’m willing to bet that most situations don’t involve guns. There are so many ways that hate can be spread to others, most people will just watch and hope that it doesn’t involve them personally. We’re in a sad state of things if we’re just letting this sort of thing happen and continue to consciously choose to live in our bubbles of complacency.

Doing nothing is just as bad as the bully spreading hate.

I’ve read several blog posts about the meaning of the safety-pin and even found one that stepped you through what to do and when to step in during a situation where someone is being a bully to someone else. I use the term “bully” to represent Islamaphobia, racism, anger, hate, etc. to make things easier for this post. We don’t live in a perfect society, there will always be bullies around us. Our reactions to bullies is what matters though as it is the attention that gives them their power. I used to be that person that didn’t understand what racism, bigotry, hate actually were and how they manifested themselves. I admit that I have not always been the best person I can be, but that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of learning how to be a better person; learning to embrace difference; learning how important it is to treat others the way they deserve to be treated. My path to learning hasn’t been easy and certainly hasn’t been without mistakes, and to the ones that I offended and lost in the past, I’m truly sorry. You will never know how those events helped me to truly grow into a better person.

You need to want to know me before you can judge me.

My experiences have taught me up to now that to be effective and stand up to bullies, I do not need a safety-pin on my shirt. What I do need is a more effective radar to know when to step up and when to just let it play out. That involves the ability to read the situation carefully and to know when or if intervention is required and whether it would be welcome or not. I’m not naive to think that my appearance alone is enough to make a situation worse rather than better; a middle-aged white male. I’m also not naive enough to think that I won’t be judged on my appearance prior to me saying or doing anything once I decide that I need to intervene. In my 40 years on this Earth, I’ve only stepped up 3 times to bullies, 2 of them for my own personal benefit (they were my bullies). The third time was several years ago and unfortunately didn’t end well for the person I attempted to help or myself. It’s not relevant for this post as it was the beginning of my journey into tolerance and understanding that I’m still on now. My own realization that I had been the stereotypical “white male” made me furious. I was even more determined to cast out what I knew and replace it with what was important to know to be more open-minded and embrace rather than reject our differences.

In order to be enlightened, what you accepted of the world around you is more than likely wrong.

I’m sure there are people out there saying that I am privileged, I could never understand what real suffering is, I can’t begin to understand what it means to be black, brown, yellow, whatever. To those people I say, you’re right. I would never say that I understand your suffering or how it means to be anything other than white. None of this changes how I feel about a bully mercilessly attacking someone else just for being Muslim, black, brown, a woman, a transgender, gay, lesbian, etc. All I see is a human being attacked by another human being based on appearance or perception out of fear. Yes, fear. Fear that has been passed from one generation to another. Fear that has been perpetrated by hundreds, if not thousands, of years because of a difference from what is considered “normal”. Fear of the unknown actions that could potentially hurt you. Fear that, if it were to go away, would mean that the false sense of superiority, elitism, and privilege you feel would go away too. Well, f**k that. I’m tired of being the one that stands on the sideline. I’m tired of my eyes being closed when I think they’re open. I’m tired of the BS that continues to define what it means to be white, what it means to be black, what it means to be brown. I’m choosing to be a human being that loves their fellow human beings. I’m choosing to see race as just another trait that makes someone unique like eye color, hair color, or nationality. I’m choosing to understand before being understood; to listen before speaking; to love instead of hate.

If you want to do the right thing through understanding, listening, and loving; you already know wearing a safety-pin is a hollow gesture.

What does safe mean to you?

Do you think this person feels safe?

University of Michigan student wearing a hijab was threatened with being set on fire, policy say

A University of Michigan student was approached by a stranger who threatened to set her on fire with a lighter if she didn’t remove her hijab, police said.

The incident occurred between 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday just outside the campus in Ann Arbor. Police said the woman complied and left.

“We do consider this a hate crime,” Diane Brown, public information officer for the university’s Division of Public Safety and Security, told The Washington Post. The Ann Arbor Police Department is heading the investigation.

How about this person?

Veteran in dispute with Chili’s over Veteran’s Day meal incident

In the meantime, people on behalf of the company have expressed some regret about what happened here.

Video of a Chili’s manager snatching the meal Army veteran Ernest Walker received as part of the restaurant’s Veterans Day tribute sent shock waves across the internet.

CBS 11’s story on the incident drew hundreds of comments and thousands of reactions on Facebook, but Walker says the response he wants is from Chili’s.

“I personally have not heard from them, no,” Walker said.

I recently read King’s pursuit of positive peace on Learning to Speak Politics and have been motivated to write a post on a subject that I think needs to be written about. It’s often a question that is hardly ever asked and can often be assumed based on circumstances or your environment. The answer to this question from a complaining white liberal would be drastically different from someone being bombed on in Yemen by the Saudi’s. I’ve had a tough time with this and the post is going to reflect my internal processing of this question.

Starting with the easy point, anyone involved in war would potentially say that being safe means not being involved in war. War is a classical example of how human arrogance and ignorance can escalate exponentially into something that is hard to stop once started. As if we didn’t learn our lessons from World War One, we had to fight another one that we unceremoniously called World War Two. Then came the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War v1.0 (where we didn’t invade Iraq), and the Gulf War v2.0 (where we did invade Iraq). I’ve never been a soldier and honestly could probably never be one that made a difference. This is the reason that I have unwavering respect for anyone who serves to protect our country. During a war, there is no safety, no comfort; just pain and suffering. No one actually “wins” in a war and the fact we fight them is a testament to our inability to seek first to understand then be understood. What do you think anyones answer to this question would be from Honduras, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, or Yemen? Yeah, there’s that many, and the United States was involved in some way with all these countries and making them living hell for the people living in them.

Our species has fought hundreds of wars throughout our history, sometimes for obvious reasons, sometimes for not so obvious reasons. A common thread amongst most armed conflict is the oppression or control of people who decide they’ve had enough, or at the very least, people that are made to feel inferior to others that think they’re superior. You can look back through history and see these waves of prosperity (highs) in between waves of conflict (lows) that would look like a roller coaster. We continue to ignore our own past and have consistently not learned anything from our conflicts to keep them from continuing. The interesting thing is that the majority of the population is essentially peaceful and would normally avoid conflict in most cases as logic dictates that conflict is often not efficient or conducive to solving problems.

I’m going to use a science fiction reference now because I think it supports my thought process at the moment. In the episode “Genesis of the Daleks”, Davros is a scientist for the Kaleds, who are fighting a 1,000 years war with the Thals. Both sides had been fighting the war so long they had forgotten what they were fighting for or about and instead kept attempting to overpower the other. Davros, seeing the nuclear war they were fighting was causing mutations, found a mutation for the Kaleds that resisted the effects of nuclear radiation. The resulting mutation required a mechanical mechanism to allow them to move and interact with their surroundings. Davros felt that emotion was the cause for weakness and war and he genetically removed every emotion apart from hate. The resulting creation, Dalek (an anagram of Kaled) viewed themselves as the supreme race in the universe, intent on purging the universe of all non-Dalek life. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Germans of WWII perhaps? In a world full of Daleks, no one is safe.

My own definition of safe is slightly more obtuse as I don’t see it as something tangible. Rather, I see it as something emotional in that we have the ability to “be” safe as well as being physically safe. Physical safety is owning a gun or locking your doors at night, looking both ways before crossing the street, paying attention to a sign that says “Hot” and not touch. Exercising physical safety is logical and generally the guidelines that dictate physical safety are accepted and aren’t usually ignored. Being safe is much harder to describe in broad terms and I only have my own experiences to draw upon. I used to “be” safe by not questioning what was going on around me as it would have threatened my belief of safety. There are so many queues around us that things just aren’t as they should be, but the majority of people choose to ignore them or see them and not talk or take action against them. This leads to complacency, a false sense of safety, and an inability to accept atrocities even when they’re right in front of you.

There are thousands of people in this country and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people in the world that don’t feel safe and probably have never felt safe. The real problem is that when you don’t know any different, you don’t know that you’re not safe. That isn’t living, its torture. The worst kind of torture because you don’t know that it can be better, so much better. The hardest part for anyone to admit in all this is that in order to support someone elses right to be safe, their right to live as a human being, we need to sacrifice our own mental safety for a period of time to effect action that benefits everyone. We took a huge step on November 8th as a country and chose to surrender our safety as a people and elect someone who has the potential to be a rather poor decision for President. The bull that media, elites, and the Democrats fed to us for so many years was enough to finally show people who their safety was being threatened in a larger way than if they elected the other person. The fact that people were voting for Trump and saying they voted for Clinton on exit polls is a huge indicator that they were afraid. Afraid of other people’s reactions, afraid of being labeled.

The piece that inspired this post is well worth the read and I encourage you to watch the “I have a dream” speech that is linked to her post. It would be wise for all of us to remind ourselves that people before us have fought and died for their beliefs in equality and to a lesser extent, living with a relative feeling of safety in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to read several of the speeches from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and even Barack Obama. All have had points in their speeches that just make logical sense and serve as reminders that it takes a village, not an individual, to make things change for the better. I’ve connected with like-minded people (Learning to Speak Politics, R.R. Wolfgang, In Saner Thought, John Liming’s Blog, etc.) so that a connected and cohesive message can be spread through the written word. It’s up to all of us to keep that going and spread that to the people in our lives that are open and receptive to differing points of view.

An open mind is a terrible thing to waste, so go find a few, step up, and speak.

Human first, American second

I’m not feeling Three Things Thursday this week. Having been absorbed into election coverage, reactions, and getting over my own brief shock yesterday morning, I have a renewed sense of purpose and see an opportunity for us as American people to stand together. This country is divided, decidedly so, but what’s done is done and the 45th President has been selected through one of the last vestiges of democracy we have left in this country. We have spoken, loud and clear, that we’ve rejected mainstream media’s attempted manipulation of this year’s election. Almost all news leading up to the election proclaimed an almost certainty that Clinton would win, ignoring the level of anger and rage people have had building up across the country.

I have chosen to accept our next President despite the fact that I didn’t vote for him. He is deserving of the same level of respect and open-mindedness that I grant to everyone. While I do know quite a bit about Trump already, becoming the President is just about the biggest life change any one person can have. I’m skeptically hopeful that he realizes this and uses this opportunity to become the President that this country desperately needs and uses his position to guide the government so that the American people come first, not the socialist elites. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he won’t treat this like another reality show and media circus that his primary and campaign ultimately turned into.

I have chosen to be optimistic of our future for the sake of my daughter, who turns 10 next month. She has been asking a lot of questions about the election and has heard some really crazy statements from her friends at school. Some of the parents that I see and talk to on a regular basis have not been so optimistic and their children are feeling the negativity and anger of their parents without the context to completely understand. I took the time to sit down with my daughter and teach her about democracy and freedom in a way that she can understand and opened the dialogue for her to ask questions without fear of repercussions. We have had a few of these conversations with her friends over as well, and I’ve been careful and aware of the words that I use and how I explain things so that it’s heard without bias (not always easy). We have four years until the next Presidential election, it’s going to go a lot faster if we’re working together.

I have chosen to not be as opinionated when talking with people who already have strong opinions. I now understand that strong opinions often cause a knee-jerk reaction to dig your heels in and not listen to what is being discussed. My approach has been more subtle and fact based with sources cited as often as possible. I’m trying to encourage people to do their own research and start to understand the system that’s in place right now. You really can’t begin to change anything if you don’t understand it completely first, which is something that I’m still struggling with daily. Although I know a lot more now than I did 6 months ago, the system we currently have has been four decades in the making and mostly hidden behind mainstream media spin and misdirection.

This piece, written by a Canadian, is more American in spirit than how most Americans are their entire lives. It’s a call to arms to reject the hateful and disrespectful practices of the past and finally fight collectively for human rights. Human rights regardless of who, what, why, how we are. I have had a difficult time understanding how someone can be angry at someone else for something that happened before both their lifetimes. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and it’s as true today as when it was originally spoken. We moved past British oppressive rule and created our own country in 1776. We ended slavery in 1865 and the Civil War ended. We survived the 1960’s and appeared to have moved past racism and hate in this country; we elected an African-American President in 2008. I’ve always treated others as I’ve liked to be treated, but am offended when I’m judged by others that don’t know me except for my external appearances. I don’t trivialize or dismiss the pasts atrocities and do not pretend to know what its like to live anyone elses life. Without civilized communication and mutual respect, we’re doomed to continue repeating past injustices.

The air is thick with anger. It’s up to us to come together and work through our differences once and for all. It’s up to us to figure out how to accept our differences because it’s the differences that make us stronger as a species on this planet. Let’s do this!