I write to you from the shortest day, the longest night of 2016 and as you well know, there have been so many long dark sad nights this year.
I started the day as I usually do, waiting to pick up a screeny device until I have my second cup of coffee in hand. Ideally, the second cup has been carried upstairs and I've been followed by the cat, who will join me for a few minutes of reading and lounging (I read, he lounges) before plunging headlong into the day. I look for cheerful family and friend news on one social platform before turning to short blasts of news on another. Today the short blast of news platform directed me to the online version of a local newspaper, where I read a few articles before choosing a Letter to the Editor.
Prefatory note: I've been following for some months the SafetyPin topic. If you aren't in the know, choose the google box of your choice and see what various voices are saying about the idea of wearing a safety pin in an obvious place on your clothing to identify yourself as a person of character. The childrens' literature crowd did it best of all, drawing their beloved characters with safety pins as a way to reassure their audience that there are grownups who care and are protectors. If you want to see the best of these, go visit the Book Riot blogpost featuring some of these wonderful illustrations: http://bookriot.com/2016/11/14/childrens-book-authors-and-illustrators-respond-to-election2016-with-kidlitsafetypin/
On the other hand, I have seen equal amounts of dismissal of the SafetyPin idea from people who experience racism and they make the clear point that white people have a lot more work to do than just putting on a pin. See relevant comments here from April Reign and Ijeoma Oluo (and follow them on twitter).
So, what's a middle aged white female librarian to do? Safety pin or no? I've been turning this idea around in my mind for a little while, but this morning's reading made me want to go get the biggest shiniest safetypin I can possibly find and put it on my coat next to an equally large Black Lives Matter pin.
Here's where the original post is as of today:
In case it gets deleted or the web address changes, here is the gist of this article,
"It is my way of saying, “Not on my watch.” It requires of me a vigilance to remember that wherever I go, I am accountable to my brothers and sisters of whatever backgrounds to be available if they need me. I know that some may not ask or even notice that I am wearing my pin. But I know. And I will do my best to live up to my promise.
We are one human family and I am determined to be a compassionate presence no matter the circumstances. I hope you will join me."
These beautiful words were written by a pastor. A pastor! Rev Kristi Denham of the Congregational Church of Belmont. How could anyone take issue with such a thoughtful reminder from a pastor, during the holiday season, to be vigilant about the safety of the people in our community and to step up to the commitment that wearing a safety pin implies.
I am certain I will never need Botox, because my eyebrows are still sitting close to the top of my forehead after reading what commentors wrote. A few choice excerpts:
Commenter 1: "I have a similar item I use as a symbol I like to wear to give me strength. My fashion statement is a red "Make America Great Again" baseball hat. It is my way of saying that we will no longer accept the redistribution of wealth, corrupt politicians and the attack on our private property rights."
This actually makes no sense considering who the PEOTUS is appointing in his cabinet, so I'm don't know what I could say to this individual. I do worry he considers a Trump hat to be a fashion statement when it is actually the new dunce cap.
Commenter 2: "Rev. Denham - your remarks are disgraceful. Your remarks are offensive to all the decent folks who have been shot, run over by vehicles, raped and assaulted by people who entered the country illegally.Your words, Rev. Denham, encourage illegal behavior and are dangerous."
Ok, this is worrying. Calling a pastor's words dangerous? Wait that sounds familiar...
Commenter 3: "I wear a pin on my lapel too, it’s the American Flag. It’s not a “fashion statement”, it represents my gratitude and commitment to our great country."
Commenter 3 continues in this vein for awhile and then also invokes the " criminals who were not supposed to be in our country" rhetoric. I'm not sure if this commenter is objecting to the safetypin idea or is just promoting Patriotism via pin wearing (c'mon, the only person who really rocked this concept is Madeleine Albright, so until you up your game to having brooches in your jewelry box for representing political concepts appropriate to multiple countries and cultures a little bitty probably not made in American flag pin is just kind of silly. See: Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. Melcher Media 2009).
and here's what I wrote
Dear Reverend Denham, thank you for your thoughtful post. We are all accountable to each other and must leverage awareness and compassion to bring forth a better world. This is a time to find connections with everyone around us. In this holiday season, may we all find the best ways to reach out and communicate strength, faith, and generosity.
Happy holidays, reader. I hope to write more frequently in the New Year.