Snowflakes are tiny frozen structures that, by themselves, will melt with a touch. But snowflakes, when they get together, are not some fragile thing.

The Blaze just fired its young conservative mouthpiece, Tomi Lahren, for expressing pro-choice views. Before she was fired, this lady was giving out Snowflake Awards to shame left-leaning folks offended by the current state of politics. Meanwhile, comedian Akilah Hughes, known on YouTube as Akilah Obviously, ripped Lahren a new one earlier this year in a video in which she asked whether Lahren is the “biggest triggered snowflake of them all.”

People have been calling each other “special snowflakes” at least as far back as Fight Club, but the insult has snowballed recently. The Guardian dubbed “poor little snowflake” the top insult of 2016.

“Snowflake” is supposed to describe an easily offended person who wants to be handled carefully because they’re unique and delicate. But calling them a “snowflake” is a way of dismissing them. It’s easy to ignore someone when you write them off for being hysterical and overly sensitive. The message is: Don’t be different or weak, like a snowflake.

The politics of today are big on the message that sensitivity is not acceptable. Sensitive people care too much about everyone’s feelings, and that makes the country weak. This is the equation that has but one outcome: total catastrophe. Every attempt at total control and impenetrable walls has been a failure. Why do we continue this dangerous mistake? Because vulnerability freaks people out. We can’t have that, so we’d better do something whenever we see someone’s sensitivities/vulnerabilities/weaknesses. Which easy D is your preference: deny, drag, distract or dispose?

Related: When You Speak Up for Tomi Lahren, You’re Speaking Up for Racism

The Western world has been doling out distractions served over denial for centuries. Hippocrates, in the 5th century BC, used the term hysteria to refer to an enormous swath of less-than-demure female behaviors. It was an actual medical diagnosis for centuries that Plato thought had something to do with pesky uteri wandering around inside women’s bodies. Basically, ladies get restless because their wombs are sentient beings who won’t sit still.

If you don’t want to listen to someone talk, just label their comments irrational and tell them they’re too sensitive. No one listens to a snowflake; they’re too fragile and melty. A single snowflake is delicate because it’s a tiny frozen structure that, when alone, will melt with a touch.

But snowflakes, when they get together, are not some fragile thing. If you’ve never been caught in a blizzard driving from one mountain to another with zero visibility at night in a front-wheel drive Saturn Ion because your boss insists that you to get to your two-hour job in a nearly empty bar, and you do it because you’re a Vermonter who refuses to admit that you can’t appease the snow gods, then I don’t care about your opinions on snowflakes. Snowflakes don’t mess around, and I know you warm-weather folks don’t mess with snowflakes. When an inch of snow coats New Orleans, the city shuts down — because snow does not fuck around.

“Sensitive” is a relative term. You can be sensitive to something in a way that makes you enjoy it, or in a way that makes you feel pain. Either way, sensitivities aren’t disposable. Refusing to accept the ways you might be vulnerable makes it more likely that you’ll be hurt by them — and less likely you’ll experience joy through them.

It shouldn’t be this complicated. I have taken a lot of jobs working with little kids. One of the first rules in my classes was to practice being sensitive to other people. I would tell the kids in my classes, “It’s OK to say ‘sorry’ for something you didn’t mean to do, if it really hurt another person. It’s OK to be wrong, and it’s OK to make a choice that you later wish you hadn’t. That’s part of growing up and part of being a human on this big planet.”

Our sensitivities can foster empathy, and empathy is a powerful pathway to compromise and peace. The West is divided, and violent intolerance running deep is what makes the West so dangerous. We don’t need more defenses and distractions and denial. Empathy and vulnerability is what this world needs more than anything.

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