My Safety Pin Dunce Cap

“Lean into your discomfort.”

I read the phrase this morning in an article urging white people to do more than wear a safety pin. The phrase was used as part of an argument for us to get outside our comfort zone by talking to people of color and delving into the media, opinions and art of marginalized people.

But how do I lean into my discomfort when it feels like the back of my neck has been seized by a populace accepting of a racist, sexist, xenophobe and my head forced  into a toilet?

Like so many white people, I always thought of myself as a helpful ally of people of color. Over the last eighteen months it has become increasingly clear that I have been unaware, cowardly and lazy. I realized that while my ideals may be more aligned with people of color, I will never fully understand their suffering because my background is so different and, yes, privileged. I will never label myself as “woke” because every time I think I get it – what it’s like to be marginalized – I am once again made aware of how truly clueless I am.

Case in point: Safety Pins. I know, you’re probably sick of hearing about this but it’s a prime representation of the willingness of white liberals to give the least amount of effort to improve the world (because god forbid we actually change how we live or have a confrontation). When I first heard people were wearing safety pins to identify themselves as “safe” to those who feeling harassed and scared I was totally, 100% on board. I found a pin, stuck it on my backpack and waited for someone to see it and nod their head at me conspiratorially. It was like a game: I was a part of a secret society of revolutionaries who were going to change this country and the terrifying direction we’re headed in. I wanted a damn safety pin tattoo!

While I had no intention of stopping with safety pins and sitting on my laurels, congratulating myself on my bravery, it at least felt like I was doing something, albeit the smallest, most useless thing I could possibly do.

Now I’ve read several articles and listened to the opinions of a variety of people, I’m embarrassed about leaping on the safety pin bandwagon without looking at it from a different viewpoint. Is wearing a safety pin harmful? No. But it is typical of the sort of thing white liberals do when we think we’re being helpful. Remember #oscarssowhite? The industry’s response was to pair black presenters with white presenters. Ugh. No apologies, no discussion, no pledges to do better from now on.

While talking to a Latina colleague this morning she noted that many of her white friends were more visibly upset than her friends of color. I thought about it for a minute and then said: “Maybe it’s because this is just another day in this fucked up country for people of color but for white folks on the left we suddenly feel very unsafe… It’s just occurring to us that we could lose many of the rights we thought could never be taken away from us.” Basically, our comfy lifestyle that we’ve gotten used to could come crashing down around us.

Personally, this election has made me fear for my job, my health and the welfare of the planet. I have a daughter and I feel like I’ve failed her. I’m so fearful of the future she will be growing up in.

In my more zen moments I think of this as the ebb and flow of the world. No nation lasts forever. Sometimes we can’t move forward until we have moved back. Very, very far back.

But I fancy myself a person of action. I have spent the morning folding leaflets reminding others they are not alone. I have donated to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I’m signing petitions. I’m writing, writing, writing so my voice can be heard.

I will never stop fighting.

Yes, It’s probably because of the happy life I’ve been privileged to lead so far, but I will always have hope that with enough effort we can change this world for the better. After a(nother) good cry of course.

And I will continue to wear that safety pin. Not so much as a message to others but as a reminder to myself that I will never be able to do enough or empathize enough.

I don’t want to move to Canada.

I’m terrified. I feel like I’m going to have an ulcer by the time this election is over.

At this moment, the majority of people likely to vote in this country would prefer a narcissistic salesman with no concept of how the government works to a woman who has actual political experience.

That seems to be the main concern voters have with Hillary – she is part of the establishment. Nothing epitomizes people’s disgust with the establishment more than the the political diarrhea Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s emails spewed on Bernie Sanders. The emails confirmed his supporters belief that the election system is rigged and it’s hard to argue with them.

These weren’t Hillary Clinton’s emails but it will be assumed she was complicit in the attacks. After all: emails = Clinton. amiright? No, of course I’m not. But why should truth matter?

Under normal circumstances (i.e. a rational, qualified Republican candidate), I would understand the many Sanders supporters who refuse to vote for Clinton. But this is not a normal election year. This election is completely and totally bonkers. And the future of this country and this world is at stake.

In 2000 I voted for Ralph Nader because I believed there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Boy was I wrong. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret my vote.

I understand the anti-establishment sentiment but let’s not throw experience completely out the window. The baby and the bathwater so to speak. Remember when California voted Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor? He promised to fix everything too. He did not. Things sucked until Jerry Brown, a career politician, became governor. He knew how to use his political experience to make real, positive changes in the state.

Will Hillary Clinton be able to do that? I don’t know. I hope so.

People call her a liar and she certainly has been somewhat less than honest about a few things. But I’ll tell you this: I’d rather have a competent liar in office than an incompetent, bottom-feeding blowhard. 

And here’s what I like best about Hillary Clinton: She won’t make the planet explode. I can’t say that about the Republican nominee.

My husband’s family is from Canada and we’ve jokingly talked about moving there if things go badly here in November. But I don’t actually want to move. First of all, I hate the cold. Secondly, I like it right where we are. Perhaps I might consider a move to New Zealand though… I’m sure the politics are not divided there at all.