66 Days Until President Trump
I’ve been a huge fan of Captain America since I was a kid. He’s had a huge influence on me over the years - pretty much the greatest role model I can imagine.
I’m also a writer, and so sometimes I get story ideas in my head. Before Rick Remender’s run on the book (in which Steve Rogers de facto adopts a child), I’d had an idea for a storyline entitled, “The End of Captain America”. It was about Steve Rogers and his longtime love Sharon Carter having a baby. (The Red Skull was also involved, because comic booooooooooks!) The crux of the conflict in my story was that Captain America has to be fundamentally selfless, but a parent has to be fundamentally protective of their child. Captain America has to put the entire world ahead of his own needs. A parent has to put his child ahead of the world. In my story, when Steve Rogers became a father, he would be forced to realize that he could no longer be Captain America, because he had to choose: the world, or my son?
And for a parent, that’s no choice.
That brings me to the safety pins that we’ve been seeing all over social media lately. If somehow you aren’t in the know, the safety pin has been adopted from Brexit survivors to show that the wearer is an ally: if you’re getting harassed or assaulted or are just having a bad time all of a sudden with the reality of a Trump Presidency, then the wearer is someone that you can count on to help you out. It’s a mark of solidarity, but it’s also a promise: When you’re with me, you are safe.
I read a fantastic piece about the safety pin yesterday. It goes into a lot, but the bottom line is that the safety pin is a responsibility. It’s a promise to stand up and defend. And you have to ask yourself what that means. How will you protect? What will you do when the time comes?
If it comes to it, will you engage in violence to protect others from violence?
And, hoo, boy, did that one keep me up last night. I haven’t thought about being in a fight since high school, twenty years ago. I found myself asking, “do I need to bring a weapon with me when I’m out?”
I’m a white, rapidly-approaching-middle-aged father of three. Wondering if I need to bring a weapon with me when I go walk around town. With my kids. I was wondering if I needed to teach them to take video of me if I’m ever in a confrontation with someone. And then I started wondering what would happen if I got into a confrontation in front of my kids who were taking video, and it went bad, and then the other guy realized that one of my children had a camera, and then he went after my kids while I was down…
Yeah, I didn’t sleep real well last night.
I’m a parent. If I’m forced to choose between my children, and the world, that’s no choice at all.
But my kids also have to live in this world: it’s their world, too. They have to deal with its bullshit when I’m not around. So it’s not just a choice between my kids and the world. It’s a tightrope act where I balance their safety and security on one side, and social justice on the other. What’s safe, and what’s right.
If either side drops, so do we.
For the record, I’m not planning to go out Kick Ass-style and start teaching my kids to be ninjas. I’m also not planning to go looking for a fight. It’s extremely unlikely that I’d find myself in that situation, and I don’t want to scare them with ghosts of what will never be. If, somehow, I do find myself watching someone get shoved around and become the victim of violence, I have a phone that dials 911 very nicely, and I have lungs that can shout for help until it arrives. I won’t put my kids in the middle of that.
But I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to make that choice. I get to decide about my commitment to confronting prejudice. I’m asking these questions because I’m signing up to ask these questions. I’m putting on a pin. I can also take it off.
Black people can’t take off their skin. Muslim women can take off the hijab, but not if they are being true to themselves. Immigrants can try to earn citizenship, but it takes years - and they’ll always be immigrants, even once they become citizens.
I can take the pin off. They can’t. They are what they are. We’ve already pinned them down.
Trump is hurting me right in my privilege. Not that he’s taking it away: he’s forcing me to face it. He’s forcing me to think about the things that my neighbors think about every day. Will I be safe when I go outside? Will I get harassed? Is it safe to shout back? What will I do with my kids if they come for me?
I wish I didn’t have to ask these questions. No one should. I put the pin on, and I mean to live it until we like the answers.
Not everybody can be Captain America. But we can all work for justice.