So there have been a lot of responses to Trump’s election. Unfortunately, a small chunk of the population has chosen to respond with an increase in hate crimes and hate speech targeting racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, other non-Christians, the LGBTQ community, women, and more generally, people perceived to be supporters or members of those communities, whether they are or not.
A similar thing happened following the Brexit vote earlier this year. In response to the Brexit hate crimes, other people in Great Britain started wearing safety pins as an expression of solidarity and support to the people being most affected by hate crimes and hate speech. The safety pins were a pledge to not commit those crimes themselves, and to act to support and defend those who might be targeted. In the days following Trump’s election, many Americans are also taking on the safety pin as a symbol.
Symbols have the power we give them as a society. If the safety pin as a symbol is not followed up by concrete actions when something happens, it’s an empty symbol, and it will fade out. If, however, you take the safety pin as a promise and follow through with it, it can be a powerful symbol of love, support, and acceptance.
I’m baptized in the Episcopal tradition. Part of our Baptismal covenant, or sacred promise, is the promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. We also promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We promise to persevere in resisting evil, and to proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ. I was baptized as an infant, and my parents made those promises on my behalf. As I grew into adulthood, I repeated those promises every time I repeated the Baptismal Covenant. And when I was confirmed, I took those promises on myself as an adult in the church.
For me the safety pin is a reminder. A reminder that I have already pledged to act with love towards my neighbor, to strive to create justice, to respect every person’s dignity. It is a reminder that to act in line with the safety pin promise is to live out my faith, day by day. To strive each day to be better at being true to those promises. So yes, I am wearing the symbol. I hope to give it great meaning and power.
But even if you don’t find the safety pin a useful symbol, I hope that you can follow through with its meaning. Because the meaning is more important than the symbol.