It Will Take More Than A Safety Pin, But It’s A Start

Peter Reynolds Illustration AuthorIt has been an amazingly challenging week. The election has brought out the best and the worst in people. I have never felt so confused, angry or frustrated. I am not just talking about the results of the election, although it did not go in my direction. I am talking about the aftermath. I am talking about the rhetoric, the violence, the overarching lack of respect for discourse that is fanning throughout the country.

Everyone has been voicing their opinions. My Facebook and Twitterfeed is blowing up daily on one side or another. One of my favorite blog posts of the week was this one by Tim Urban on his blog Wait But Why?  He brings a little reality to the situation, we are in some ways screwed, but we will survive this. Since I never heard of this blog before, thank you Facebook feed for this connection. He inspired me to post my own thoughts this morning.

Here is my response and plea to you my friends as we move forward as a nation.

  1. Stop saying you are moving to Canada.

I am beyond annoyed with people who are screaming to the rooftops that they are moving to Canada. Seriously? Things don’t go your way and you are leaving the country? That type of response is exactly why we are in this mess. You can’t pack up your toys and go just because the vote didn’t go your way. We have serious issues to face in this country, beyond your being frustrated. Check out this video montage I created that highlights letters my students wrote to the Future President. Do you see these issues? Do you care about our future as a nation? I do, and I am not leaving, we have work to do.

2. Did you vote?

When you look at the numbers, it is astounding.

Voter turnout for 2016 Presidential Election

Voter turnout for 2016 Presidential Election

We had the lowest voter turn out in 20 years, 20 years! With everything at stake, that is our response? I am not sure what is more horrifying, the daily rhetoric since the election, or the fact that over 55 percent of eligible voters sat this one out, and continue to do so. We talk about the popular vote vs. the electoral college, and I pose this for your consideration. The popular vote according to this data was to not vote at all. That my friends, is a much more serious issue than what can happen over the next four years.  We as Americans sat this one out. Literally sat this one out. There are more protests this morning and nasty memes on my feed, but where is the outcry about the number of people sitting this out? Why is it that over half our nation, who live in a democracy based on the ability to choose our representation, choose not to? I know I had many discussions with people who said they disliked both candidates, and so therefore were not going to vote. By the way, in my home state of California we had more initiatives on the ballot than ever before, so if you sat this one out on principal, you sat out on a lot of other legislation that will directly effect your day to day life. But not voting? This trend in my opinion will be the demise of this country much more than whatever happens over the next four years. How do we bring people back to the table and the conversation? How do we encourage civic responsibility? How are more voices heard in the next election?

3. Stop vilifying the other side.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is a horrible human being. We are pretty split down the middle when it comes to this election. Today I will host a football party with my friends and I know that there are a variety of votes that will be sitting at my table. They are not horrible human beings because I disagree with some of their views. We have been friends for decades, had political discussions and they are not racist, homophobic, misogynistic people. They have concerns about the future of their children, the economy, the state of the world just like I do. If we continue to draw these lines that I am 100 percent right, and you are 100 percent wrong, we will never get anywhere. Why has it become that common ground is the enemy? I am not saying there are some pretty horrible people out there at the moment saying horrific things, but I am saying that is not the majority.

4. Violence and Hate Speak will not be tolerated in my world. I will speak up.

To deny that some are using these election results to promote hate and bigotry would be naive. Just this week a student at my university was targeted.

No Hate at StateThe perpetrators chose her based on her religion, stole her wallet and her car. The things they said to her during the robbery clearly made it a hate crime. Luckily she was not physically hurt. Our university community acted swiftly and with compassion and determination to support this student and denounce the vicious act.  How we respond to any and all racism and intolerance is critical to creating a country we can be proud to call home. That takes courage and I believe that the millions of people who live and work in our great country are better than the pockets of people that promote hate and violence. We just need to stop sitting on the sidelines and waiting for someone else to answer the call. In case you’re wondering who will fix this mess, look in the mirror. Collectively, we need to look in the mirror.

Yesterday I had quite a discussion with a friend of mine from the other side of the political spectrum. What I am learning is that I will not be silent and disrespected, but I will not be disrespectful. I was trying to explain what it means to create a safe space for students and people in general. I told him “I  teach in a safe space school. I believe in creating safe spaces in all areas of my life. It baffles me why you think compassion and support for others is a weakness. There seems to be growing thought in this world that respect for differences is a limited commodity, that by supporting someone means I hate another.”

Peter Reynolds Author Illustrator

A great drawing by one of my favorite author/illustrators Peter Reynolds.

I have mixed reactions to the safety pin symbol that is popping up all over the newsfeed.  I think it could easily be viewed as a simple hashtag, a trend that says, “hey, I  am here for you for now, because yeah, it’s on Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc…”  I’m not saying wearing the pin is a bad idea. We need to vocally and physically create places for people to feel safe and supported. If you really want to help, don’t just wear a pin. Do something. Say something. Use your privilege and experience in this world to make it better for someone else. That does not mean however you model the same intolerance in your own views. Listen. Really listen to things and views that are uncomfortable to hear. Respond. Act. Be responsible.

And finally, Be kind.

Yes, I said it. There is power in choosing kindness. It is not weakness to highlight the positive things happening in this difficult time. It does not negate the real work that needs to be done. It does not allow me a free pass to ignore the difficult conversations that need to happen as we move forward today, tomorrow and the weeks, months, and years to come. But it does provide grace. And I think we can all use a little more of that.

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