Anarchy in the Pre-K

It’s funny how certain items symbolize completely different things during different times in your life. Hashem (God) creates everything for a purpose.

In my youth the safety pin was the symbol of all things punk. All of us “hardercore than thou” teens wore safety pins everywhere. My trademark from 1985-1990 was a chain of 18 pins (chai) pinned to my black overcoat or my band-logo infested jean jacket. I wore my safety pin chain everywhere. It even made it through my freshman year at Yeshiva University, until I put it away before going to learn in Israel.
Why a safety pin? Good question. Perhaps the inner meaning of the safety pin was a symbol of the government? A citizen-friendly society could be held together with a government acting like a safety pin. Hmmm. Maybe a safety pin has the potential to be helpful or cause harm if used incorrectly. Hmmm. The answer isn’t so deep.

From Wikipedia:
Richard Hell (born October 2, 1949) is the stage name of Richard Meyers, an American singer, songwriter and writer, probably best-known as frontman for the early punk band The Voidoids. Hell was an originator of the punk fashion look, the first to spike his hair and wear torn, cut and drawn-on shirts, often held together with safety pins

The early punk rockers didn’t have enough money to sew their clothes, so they kept them together with safety pins. No hidden meaning. No big universal statement. They were just too cheap to get their clothes fixed.

Fast-forward from “nostalgia for an age yet to come” to September 2006. Specifically a few days before my daughter started, what they call in Chicago, Nursery. To me, nursery is where the baby goes after being born in the hospital. I prefer to all her class “Pre-K”, as she’ll be in kindergarten next year. We got a letter from the Morah telling us that each child is expected to bring tzedakka, charity, to school each day. The parents can either tape it to the child’s clothing or attach a bag with the coins to their child’s’ clothing with a…safety pin!

I smiled when I read this. The ultimate symbol of my oh-so-secular former lifestyle of individualism and rebellion is now an instrument used in helping my daughter learn about the mitzvah of tzedakka. How great is that?
For the record, the title of this posting was inspired by a T-shirt I saw.

11 thoughts on “Anarchy in the Pre-K

  1. Pragmatician

    Great post, everything has a use and it’s people who decide how to put it to use.
    Even though the idea behind the rebel safety pin was so banal, I thought it was cool the way you came up with logical possible reasons.

  2. Anonymous

    I guess she can sing “I’ve got a safety pin stuck in my coat for you, for you” (apologies to Patrik Fitzgerald)

  3. Ezra

    The safety pin was a universal statement: it was one of many ways of rejecting middle class American suburban society. In addition to the safety pin, black clothing was favoured. This was explained by a prominent voice in the punk world, Eve Libertine of Crass, as a sign by punks of permanent protest. Just like we wear a kippah to proclaim our ideas and community-identity to others in society, so too were punks doing this through torn clothes, the use of safety pins, and shaved heads. This probably was exactly what it symbolised to you 1985 – 1990. Using the safety pin to teach your daughter about tzedakah is completely in line with punk ideology (whether or not you’re framing her education in a discourse of punk).


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