safe, part one

Unless you've been living under a rock the past few days[1] you've probably noticed  that safety pins are making a comeback in a way we haven't seen since the 80s, and that people have Very Strong Opinions on the matter.

The basic idea is that by wearing a safety pin on your shirt or jacket or bag or whatever, you're stating your commitment to being an ally to anyone who needs one.

I like this idea a lot. As a Jew, I have a sacred obligation to participate in tikkun olam - literally, "heal the world." Tikkun olam means working for justice. It means helping people, freely and without ulterior motive. It means loving my neighbor. It means creating peace between all the people of the world. It means making the world whole.

I also completely understand why people are criticizing it. (Edited: I'm now hearing two main themes of criticism, and I'm going to explore both of them. The only reason I'm doing them in this particular order is that I've had longer to think about the first one, and I'm going to break it out into two posts because this first one is long enough already. Here's part two.) This morning I saw someone who finds the safety pins hurtful and divisive say that they wanted a symbol that represented everyone working together in unity. 

Safety pins are literally a tool for holding things together. That's what they do. That's their only function. They hold things together.

We are living in a world torn apart. We are struggling. All of us. We are afraid and angry, for countless reasons. We are exhausted and we keep shouting louder and louder because it feels like no one is listening, and it's tearing us apart.

We need something to hold us together. To make us whole.

And here is a symbol. A very utilitarian tool, something we all have floating around the house in our junk drawers or sewing kits. Something that exists solely to hold things together.

That's why I'm wearing one. It's not about us versus them. It's not about who you voted for, or who won the election, or where you live or who you love. It's about trying to hold the world together. It's about love for your fellow human.

By wearing it, I promise you this: I will be a safe space for you. I will speak up for you. I will listen to you. I will stand with you. Even if we disagree. Even if we voted for different people. Even if we don't understand each other. I will help you build a bridge.

I belive in symbolism. I believe in talismans. I don't believe that they're magic cures - you have to do the work yourself. But anything that gives you strength by its presence? That is magic. 

Every piece of jewelry I wear is a talisman. A reminder of something that I need to carry with me. I've chosen them, one by one, over the years; there are some that I never take off, and there are some that I bring out when I need a reminder of something in particular. Let me tell you about a couple of them. 

My Star of David pendant isn't what makes me a Jew - that's between me and G-d. But wearing it reminds me of my obligations, and of all the people who wore the symbol before I did, generation to generation, including all the ones who didn't survive wearing it. It's a reminder. 

The bracelet I wear didn't cure my PTSD from being a rape survivor. But its presence reminds me of how much work I've done, how much I've healed. Of my capacity to keep healing, because now I can tolerate having something touch my wrist when for a decade I couldn't even wear a watch without my breath going ragged. It gives me hope.

The vial of tiny wrenches and glitter called your hatred, like a sleeping beast that I bought from Elise Matthesen didn't get rid of my brain tumor - the neurosurgeons did that. But wearing it helped remind me that I needed to survive, and it helped me find the courage to walk into the hospital and sign the consent forms and put my life into the surgeon's hands so they could cut the sleeping beast out of my body. 

Wearing a safety pin isn't magic. It's not going to fix the problems of the world just by being on your shirt. But it can remind you to build a bridge. To reach out your hand to someone who needs it. To be the change you want to see in the world. To heal the world.

We are a torn world. I'm for anything that can help us hold it together.

And because part of my work as an artist is to make talismans, I'm going to make safety pin jewelry. If you choose to wear this symbol, I hope you will join me in committing to work for peace and understanding. I hope you'll wear it mindfully, as a reminder that you need to walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk. I hope you'll wear it peacefully, and with the intent of healing the world.

Love is a radical act, and it's hard and scary sometimes. Go forth and love bravely. We need each other more than ever right now.  

Let's heal the world together. All of us.

Please also read part two.

[1] Budge over friend, I'm gonna join you under this rock just as soon as I'm done packing up orders.