The same people deride millennials and their “safe spaces” where feelings are never hurt, and then fall back on the refrain that “I just feel more secure when I have a gun.” Feelings, it seems, are either a laughable distraction or a crucial decision-making element, depending on who’s having them.

The need to feel safe, in particular, is often treated as childish and absurd—but only when coming from people who have actual reason to feel vulnerable. Asking to be recognized as your true gender? It’s all in your head. Asking for accommodations for illness and disability? You’re too sensitive. Recounting experiences of dehumanization because of your race or gender? What an overreaction. But those who want to make the country “safer” by securing the borders against people they perceive as outsiders are never painted as whiners or cowards. The police officers killing unarmed folks in a moment of panic are not mocked for failing to keep their feelings in check. When someone wants a deadly weapon, their desire to feel safe becomes a rugged and real and sexy conviction.

The easiest way to ignore something is to call it an emotion, yet it’s also the easiest way to defend something if you’re the kind of person whose emotions are taken seriously.

Sarah Bronson on emotions.