So I come to this new year without formal resolutions. No bucket lists. No goals to be scratched off to-do lists at the end of each month or calendar year.
I’m just not up to it.
But I am not without purpose.
Every day, I wear a safety pin – a public proclamation that I am willing to stand up for those who do not feel safe in this political climate of intolerance and openly expressed prejudice.
Haven’t heard anything about the safety pin campaign?
It started last summer in the United Kingdom after the Brexit vote, when the people of Britain decided to leave the European Union. At issue was a sense of regained nationalism and frustration in a global economy – and let’s be clear, it also was a protest against the rising number of refugees in country. In the days and weeks, in the months after the vote, there was a decided backlash against minorities, especially Muslims who were targeted and bullied.
For many, the violence was more than acceptable; it was justified.
An American woman in London, frustrated into action by such behavior, started the safety pin campaign in response. Its premise is simple – and to me, deceptively profound. Wear a safety pin as a statement that you are an ally for those who are being bullied, those who are maligned because of their ethnic heritage or religion, those who are targeted for being different.
Why a safety pin? Again, the reason is simple.
Almost everyone has a safety pin somewhere in the house to wear.
After the presidential election in November – a campaign during which the president elect mocked a reporter with disabilities, made disparaging remarks about ethnic and religious minorities, and bragged on the record about sexually assaulting women – Americans quietly began to put on their safety pins.
Obviously, we were not the only ones who let our discontent be known over the tenor of the times. There were public rallies in the aftermath of the election. Protesters went to the street to let everyone know that the president-elect was not their president. People never before political discovered a newly found activism and spirit, determined to make a change in the system and elections to come. People who never paid much attention to the news turned into political watch dogs – and became gadflies.
And then there are those of us who put on our pins.
Critics say that the safety pin campaign isn’t enough; that it isn’t “doing” something; that it is merely symbolic. But I disagree. I think the simple act of wearing a safety pin is immensely powerful, a strong stand – and it is something one person can do. It doesn’t need a committee or a headquarters. It doesn’t need membership dues or an organization or by-law.
Besides, all it takes is one person to inspire change; to make a difference in another
I have been in situations where I was privileged to be an ally. It was pre-safety pin campaign days, but I have been in both public and private spots, where I was able to stand up for someone who was vulnerable in society. My presence created a safety zone. It bridged the gap between “us” and “them.”
The first time I wore my safety pin, a woman checking me out suddenly stopped the cash register in mid-purchase and asked me why.
“What gives with the pin?” she asked.
I’d waited all day for someone to ask, but no one else had. I thanked her for noticing, and then I told her what’s been on my mind since the presidential election in November. I do not; I cannot condone the political tone of hatred and division.
But I do not want to go into the new year being AGAINST something or ANTI someone. For me, it is an important distinction to work FOR a cause; to be positive on behalf of my fellow (and sister) human beings.
So I wear a safety pin.
It lets others know that I am willing to stand up for them. It identifies me as someone who will not tolerate prejudice or bullying. I will not allow someone to mock the vulnerable. I will not stand idly by if someone is disrespected or discriminated against because of religion, race or the person he or she loves.
In other words, I will not stay silent.
And there is nothing more powerful; no more noble cause.
Susan Harrison Wolffis is an award winning writer known for her engaging writing style.