Elections, Sanity, and Safety Pins

by Kassandra Lamb

We usually avoid politics on this blog, and I will attempt to do so in this post as well, in that I will avoid coming down on one or the other side of the political fence as much as possible.

But I feel the need to address the social and psychological ramifications of the election that occurred last month. And in light of the fact that tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, this seemed like the right time.

I Like Ike campaign button

An Eisenhower campaign button (photo by Tyrol5, CC-BY-SA 3.0 unported, Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve witnessed a lot of elections and a lot of presidencies. General Eisenhower was elected two months after I was born. He was the last president who came into office with no political experience per se.

I was eight years old during the Kennedy-Nixon campaign season. It was so divisive that we school children played in two groups, on opposite sides of the playground. The Kennedy kids and Nixon kids hurled insults back and forth at each other, even though we had no idea who these men were or why our parents hated or loved them. (Yes, this really happened!)

And America survived.

May you live in interesting times.
                                         ~ Chinese curse

We are living in interesting times. Right now, half our country is celebrating and the other half is scared witless. How well we survive these interesting times, individually and as a nation, will depend a lot on how we choose to respond, emotionally and socially.

Regardless of which half of the country you are part of, here are some thoughts to keep in mind, now and in the coming months.

“Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Part of the appeal of Donald Trump for a lot of people was his nose-thumbing at political correctness. Some people definitely get carried away with PC these days—it drives me nuts at times—but the concept exists for a reason.

PC is about not offending people or hurting their feelings.

I had a friend in high school who was of Polish descent, back in the days when jokes about how dumb Polish people were abounded. She would ask people what their ancestry was, then good-naturedly retell the “Pollock” jokes she’d heard, subbing French or English or Italian for Polish. We got the message.

So before you use that non-PC name or tell that non-PC joke, ask yourself how you would feel if it was aimed at you or your group. If you don’t like being called names, don’t call others names.

Also, if you are a Trump supporter and you value your relationships with family, friends and coworkers, DO NOT gloat. Your side won, now be a good sport.

The people on the other side of the divide aren’t just disappointed by this election. They are scared!

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

FDR signing declaration of war

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan, signaling U.S. entry into WWII shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th. (public domain)

These words struck such a chord in people’s minds during WWII, not because we as a country had nothing to fear at the time (we had everything to fear), but because the concept that fear itself was a greater enemy rang true.

For those who are afraid, try to develop a wait- and-see attitude. There’s really little choice at the moment. Getting oneself twisted into knots with speculation is not helpful.

And speaking of speculation, I’d also suggest minimizing your exposure to the news media for a bit.

Trump is an outsider. He has little loyalty to either political party. So how this is going to shake out is anybody’s guess at this point.

Try to get on with your life until we see what happens.

“Judge not lest ye be judged.”

You may be thinking, “Well, some people have a very legitimate reason to be scared right now.” Yes, they do, because sadly this election has brought out the bigotry still lurking in certain elements of our society. This is pretty scary for all people who are not white, straight and American-born.

But as one of my African-American Facebook friends pointed out, this is just business as usual in America. The bigotry never really went away, but now the white folks are seeing it more blatantly.

It’s horrible hate crimes have increased and that people are being victimized by these hate crimes. But having our denial shaken about bigotry is not necessarily a bad thing.

And before you judge your neighbor who voted for Trump as a bigot, keep this in mind. Many of the people who voted for Trump didn’t do so because of his bigoted comments. They did so in spite of those comments, because they are either loyal Republicans who believe in the ideology of that party or they are concerned about things like jobs and the survival of their families.

I’m not saying it’s okay to ignore those bigoted comments. I’m just telling you where that neighbor may be coming from. Put yourself in his shoes before you judge. Or better still leave judgement out of the equation, give him a friendly nod, and get on with life.

Hate thrives if we keep stooping to the haters’ level.

“We shall overcome.”

Social change marches on, for better or worse. It’s erratic sometimes, suffers setbacks, but it does move forward over time.

When I was a kid and teenager, premarital sex and having a child out of wedlock were two of the greatest sins. Young people were forced into loveless marriages, thrown out of their parents’ homes without a penny, or shipped off to some home for unwed mothers and then forced to put the baby up for adoption.

Today, the most conservative of families in this country hardly bat an eye when their children cohabitate or give birth without the benefit of matrimony. A very conservative friend told me recently how proud she was of her daughter who waited to marry the father of her child until she was sure the relationship was on solid ground.

Changes that are good, that are kind, that are right, eventually endure.

“Practice random acts of kindness.”

safety pin

photo by jcadamson, CC-BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

I’m wearing a safety pin these days. I ordered two of them from Etsy, one in gold and one in silver, to match all my other jewelry.

Trump supporters, these safety pins are not a political statement! They are not anti-Trump.

They are anti-hate. They are saying to those who are afraid, “I am a safe person to interact with.”

They are symbols of kindness and tolerance. They are an attempt to heal our divided society, not contribute to the divide.

If you find yourself objecting to these safety pins, ask yourself why. Why is it a problem for you if I tell others, through a pin on my lapel, that I am a tolerant person? Does that hold up a mirror to your face and show you someone you don’t like? Your side won; now be a good sport and get on with your life.

If you’re a white folk like me wearing a safety pin, here’s a short article, by a young woman named Maeril, with a great suggestion for how to intervene when you see someone being bullied, while avoiding confrontation or coming across as the “great white savior.” It’s illustrated with little cartoon frames. You move up next to the person being bullied and engage them in mundane conversation, while ignoring the bully until he or she gives up.

Check it out.

Note: With some trepidation, I’m leaving comments open. Please no tirades, blatantly political nor bigoted comments. This post is about trying to understand the other side and healing. Any comments that go beyond the bounds of civil debate will be deleted.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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16 thoughts on “Elections, Sanity, and Safety Pins

  1. Barb Taub

    What a great and hopeful post. I told one of my sisters that I was worried about the current atmosphere of fear and anger. Although as a lesbian, she has had a lifetime of living with prejudice and hatred, she wrote back with the following email. I love her message of hope and love:

    Hi

    I have been pondering how I can help others not despair at this time. Here’s what I have at this point:

    I will compare this stage of human behavior to a more simpler stage of human behavior – learning how to ride a bike.

    Perhaps if you can move yourself dealing with others, this country, and the world into the role of the adult handling a child learning to ride a bike. It is very scary to watch them because of one’s fear of how the child may be harmed. The child can fall off the bike, crash the bike into something, or get hit by a car and be killed.

    Your FEAR may cause you to speak sternly to the child to force them to focus, give criticism to correct their mistakes, restrict their ride to protect them, or remove the activity to keep them safe.

    Or……

    Your LOVE may cause you to encourage so they will try, be honest with feedback so they can improve, provide safe routes so they can learn, and support so they can experience their ride.

    The CHOICE YOU HAVE is will your actions be a cause of love or fear? This is what YOU do have control over.

    I encourage all to work on what you can do from your love and fight for that love. I believe it is more likely to take each of us and all of us to a better place. There might be a fall and a crash and there might also be a beautiful ride down the road. All you can do is your best. So go ahead and put your best love forward.

    Reply
  2. K.B. Owen

    These are all great points, Kass! These days, I’m not watching the news as much. One good thing that has come out of this, I think, is that the younger generation is becoming more involved in the process and fighting for the things that are important to them. Not since the 60s have we had that kind of commitment from this age group. I think they are coming to understand (as are we all) that democracy is not a spectator sport. Be the change you want to see in the world. (Very much along the lines of what Barb said so eloquently in the comment above).

    Thanks for taking a chance and posting this!

    Reply
  3. Piper Bayard

    It might also help the disappointed Clinton voters to understand a few things about the actual makeup of those who voted for Trump. A substantial portion were the same people who voted for Obama, which would negate the notion that they are racist bigots. A substantial portion of Trumps voters were blacks. NPR reports that fully 1/3 of Latino voters voted for Trump. Also, IF my area of the country — VERY blue — is representative, whites have been on the raw end of a good deal of racism over the past eight years. I expect Trump voters disagree with the popular PC notion that is now being actively taught in our public schools and throughout society that all whites and only whites are racists. I know my kids were beaten about the head and shoulders with it daily at school while regular racist verbal and physical attacks on whites were ignored and sometimes even encouraged by the heavily PC teachers and administration. I’m not a Trump voter, but I’m guessing a great deal of the white Trump voters are only labeled “racist” or “bigoted” by the fact that they don’t accept the “progressive” paradigm that ONLY whites can be racists. They know better first hand.

    When it comes to the reportedly increased racial attacks, I would remind leftist voters of their own position that jihadis are only a tiny fraction of all Muslims, and that the majority of Muslims should be respected as decent human beings. I would invite leftists to apply this same open-minded tolerance to their fellow Americans who voted for Trump.

    I would also encourage people to remember that our country is not just red state, blue state. A rich spectrum of thought, opinion, and character are present in both of those draconian designations. For example, the racism of New York City is not the racism of New Mexico by any stretch. Just because we know about our own corner of the country does not mean we know anything about the social dynamic in another part of the country.

    On a positive note, from a military and intelligence perspective, General Flynn for National Security Advisor and General Mattis for Secretary of Defense are outstanding choices and universally approved by those who have dedicated their lives to national defense. Word on the street is that Trump is listening to the experienced professionals and taking their advice. All of this hype about Trump’s phone calls with world leaders is exactly that. Hype. It is normal for a US president-elect to talk on the phone with other world leaders as a part of the transition process. Crossing my fingers that Trump will continue to listen to the national security professionals and abstain from micromanaging as so many presidents have done to America’s detriment.

    Hopefully, things will calm down, and Americans will shift focus from bridging cultural gaps with the world to bridging cultural gaps right here in our own country. We need to “put on our own mask first” if we are to survive this airplane ride. I would love to see the day again when no one separates us as “red state” and “blue state” or “bigoted” America and “tolerant” America. Neither characterization is true. We are all Americans first, whether we know it or not.

    Reply
    1. K.B. Owen

      Well said, Piper! I’m sorry you had to deal with that at your kids’ schools. We haven’t had that particular experience (white children being taught that all whites and only whites are racist and that they are somehow less than their peers). We have been quite fortunate to live in an area with a school system that honors difference and inclusion for all backgrounds and abilities. It isn’t perfect – I think that kids from households with lower incomes (we live in a fairly affluent area) still get the short end of the stick in terms of opportunities and learning enhancements – but overall it has served our children well.

      This election has made me more aware of the deep pain of middle-class folks that voted Trump into office, and of the desperate economic straits they have faced. I don’t think the Democrats were paying attention to that, either.

      Reply
      1. Piper Bayard

        You might be surprised to know that we now live in an EXTREMELY blue, EXTREMELY affluent part of the country that constantly pushes the concept of social inclusion. At the same time, all of those nice, devotedly blue neighbors of ours drive their kids one or two towns away from my side of the county to get them to schools away from all of the immigrant children. “We’re not racists. XYZ school is just a better fit for our kids.” Shocking to me after my decade in Albuquerque, where diversity and racial tensions have been largely settled for hundreds of years.

        I agree. The Democrats have not been paying attention to the middle class, and the middle class is losing ground every year, particularly with health care since the financial burden of Obamacare kicked in. The arrogant attacks and derision of the voters, themselves, didn’t exactly win hearts and minds, either. I really hope people will start listening to each other more. Our country needs more wag and less bark.

        Reply
    2. Kassandra Lamb

      Lots of great points, Piper, especially about how diverse the different regions of the country are. Definitely we don’t always know what’s in the minds and hearts of those in other regions, who may be dealing with very different issues and problems.

      And I hear you about “reverse” discrimination. My best friend in college was a black male. We were platonic friends but most of the world assumed otherwise when we were out and about. Fortunately we only got obnoxious words and dirty looks thrown at us, but some of them came from black people (granted, this was back in the 70’s).

      So sorry to hear that you and your kids have been through such crap.

      Reply
      1. Piper Bayard

        I’ve been shot at because I’m white. My horse was shot because I’m white. My father was pistol whipped with his wife held at gunpoint because we were white, and we were run off our land because we were white. I’ve been told I could not apply for jobs with private attorney practices because I’m white. My daughter’s classmates would not play with her because she was white. When your kid comes home crying, it doesn’t matter what color her skin is. The act of hate was the same. The pain it caused was the same. With all due respect, the word “reverse” in front of racism completely minimizes the pain and psychological/sociological damage, implying that it is somehow “less than” anything that whites do to minorities. With all due respect, until the word “racism” is applied equally to everyone, based on the action rather than the skin color of the perpetrator, racism will continue to be perpetuated in this country.

        Reply
        1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

          That’s why I put “reverse” in quotes, because it isn’t really any different from any other form of discrimination. Racism is racism and hate is hate!

          I have to keep hoping that the day will come when racism is something kids only read about in history books. Not sure we will see it in our lifetimes, but hopefully we will keep moving toward it, faltering step by faltering step.

          Reply
          1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

            I can understand your sensitivity on the issue, Piper. And it’s true that some areas of the country have advanced further than most on the subject of diversity and tolerance. If only the rest of the country could follow their example.

  4. Melanie

    What a well written and thoughtful essay. I agree. Not the best situation in Washington, but not the end of the world either.

    Reply
  5. Vinnie Hansen

    Brave post, Kassandra. I am trying to get on with my life, but honestly, some of what I’ve already seen scares the daylight out of me. Just on example is Trump’s selection of a climate change skeptic to head up the EPA transition. Climate change is, for me, the single biggest issue facing the world’s population, and to think the EPA may be headed by someone who doesn’t even think it exists . . . well, it leaves me speechless.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Thank you, Vinnie. I really appreciate the support you and and the other mp authors have offered when I venture out on these limbs a bit. I’ll be praying that the checks and balances that our system has built into it keep things from getting too far out of hand.

      Reply

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