Would you speak up? Are you that strong?
The senators who met with President Trump when he used “tough” language by his own account, racist language according to others, faced a character challenge. Speak up or not?
Speaking truth to power is no small thing. As we all know, there may be serious consequences. Careers ruined. Reputations destroyed. Social connections broken. Family relationships damaged. Challenge a man like Turmp? Beware.
I’d like to think if faced with hateful, racist comments, I’d do the right thing and call the speaker out. But to be honest, I can’t be uncertain. In other posts I’ve questioned whether I have that much courage.
My reticence has deep roots. In our family, we didn’t challenge our parents’ authority. We didn’t challenge the church. As a girl, I learned to keep peace, not make waves. Those skills served me well as a public relations counselor, particularly when coupled with my natural tendency to observe and think more than talk. I’ve spent most of my life holding back my personal opinions.
As each situation comes up, I debate whether to engage. Most of the time, I convince myself not to. Even when the #MeToo wave swept the country, I shared my own experiences only with my friends.
I’ve always had lots of reasons (excuses) for remaining silent. I don’t know all the facts. I don’t want to offend a client/friend/neighbor. I would look foolish. It’s not really about me. Oh, I could go on.
But, this past week’s events were a tipping point. The outcry brought Martin Niemöller’s often quoted comments to mind:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The risks of speaking are real. But when we fail to speak, we enable bad behavior. When we fail to speak out, we become complicit.
The events of this time are forcing me out of my shell. I know the kind of country I believe we are. A country that welcomes immigrants. A country that cares for ALL its people. A country with leaders and citizens who show respect to each other and to the citizens of the world. Those are things worth fighting for.
In the past 18 months, I’ve joined marches, written blog posts, contacted my State and Federal representatives. Repeatedly. I’m following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before, learning from them, modeling them, drawing courage and strength from them. It’s time for me to speak up.
When have you spoken out? Was it easy or hard? What challenges did you face in speaking up?