A young man I cared about was going to a “Not Our President” rally in New York City. I gave him the standard advice to avoid getting pinned in by a crowd: stick to the perimeters; beware of your exits; don’t unquestionably follow directions given by people who give off the impression of being in a leadership position.
I suggested that he might think about how much he wanted to get arrested and what a hassle that could be. I stopped there because I felt I was being overly protective, even condescending.
I thought about the uniqueness of these gatherings, not to protest the “powers that be,” but the “powers to be.”
You are most likely to get your head bashed in if you are upset with the power that controls law enforcement. If you are marching to send a message that things could get worse when that power shifts, you are in a safer position.
Later, this young man let me know he had stood up for what he believed in safely, by texting me an image captioned by the words, “My favorite sign.” The sign read, “Fuck Orange Hitler.”
Clever, I thought, but not very poetic. Ironic, I thought for this gathering to affirm the right of oppressed groups so they are not mistreated because of an identity, or called derogatory names.
I let this young man know I was thankful he was safe and was proud of his activist actions. I decided not to share my views on his favorite sign.
I have since read about the symbol of a safety pin and the safety pin pledge. I like the sound of it better than “Fuck Orange Hitler.” Maybe it is because I am old and a senior citizen.
I’m thinking about wearing a safety pin. I know I have some around someplace. They might be a little on the small side, but I may be more comfortable that way.
The pledge is a pretty tall order. It includes, “If you are ‘Trans’ I will go to the bathroom with you,” and “If you are a veteran I will take up your fight.”
Would I really believe somebody who saw my pin and asked me to accompany them to a restroom, was who they said they were? If I felt I had encountered a vet who was in the midst of having PTSD symptoms, how much fighting for them would I actually be willing to do?
Maybe the last line of the pledge, “If you need me, I’ll be with you. All I ask is that you be with me, too,” is all that I’m willing to sign up for.
If someone feels they are being picked on because they believe they fall into some oppressed class, I pledge that I won’t join in on the oppression. I won’t take your parking space while you are distracted by being victimized. I’m just not sure how far I’m willing to put myself in harm’s way to help you though, particularly if you don’t appreciate the full extent of what you are asking. I am just being honest here.
Oh, and what about me. If I as a straight white man get in a fix, will you be there for me? Or do you believe there is too much there for me already?
I guess I want some symbol that identifies me as someone who wants to better understand people I don’t understand and that I would be willing to help them if the situation feels right.
Perhaps a “Fuck Orange Hitler” pin, with a circle with a line through it, over the word “Fuck.”
I believe that whoever our president is, they can’t do as much as we can to help each other, particularly if we are more honest with each other.
Photo credit: Getty Images