Small but important
There were fears that, if Donald Trump lost the election last week, his supporters would riot. Fewer people thought the opposite would happen – either that Trump would win or that those who opposed him would riot.
Nightly protest marches after the election were largely peaceful, but some were not, notably in Portland, Ore. It would be informative to learn if any participants in these street rallies were among the 45% of Americans of voting age who didn’t bother to cast a ballot. It would be galling in the extreme to find that people who couldn’t take a few minutes to vote on Nov. 8 were spending hours on the following days marching against the results of an election in which they didn’t think it necessary to vote.
But something more predictable has happened as well. Given the tenor of Trump’s campaign, and the glee with which his victory was met by such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, other white supremacists and those who go by the neologism alt-right, the Republican victory seems to have unleashed among some Americans a spurt of acting out. There have been countless recorded incidents of antisemitic, anti-black, anti-Muslim and anti-gay slurs, graffiti and even physical attacks. It was predictable that Trump’s hateful rhetoric would have an impact regardless of the election’s outcome, but the validation he received from more than 50 million Americans appears to have legitimized, or at the very least, inspired, some people to act out in antisocial, racist and violent ways.
In response, online articles, videos and infographics have been created demonstrating how to intervene and de-escalate a point of conflict. Also, a movement has emerged in which individuals demonstrate solidarity with individuals and groups who feel threatened.
A safety pin. A simple safety pin affixed to a garment is a new signal for people who may feel threatened in a situation – on a subway, in a classroom, at the mall, anywhere – that the person wearing a safety pin is a person who can be relied on for support.
It’s a small thing, but it isn’t. For an individual feeling threatened because they are identified as a target because of their ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, a tiny signal of solidarity, support and refuge could be a lifeline.
We are in Canada, of course, not in the United States. But we would be naïve to think that what happens there doesn’t impact the social fabric here. There is racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim bias, homophobia and other forms of bigotry under and at the surface here. The idea that we could provide a place of safety for individuals feeling threatened – or indeed that we could find ourselves looking for such a place – is as realistic for Canadians as it is for Americans.
Now that Remembrance Day has passed, we will remove our poppies, the symbol of respect for those who fought and died in the past for democratic and civil rights. Some of us, if we feel inclined, will replace it with a safety pin, evidence that we are committed to upholding these values today and in the future in whatever small but meaningful way we can.