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.

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!