You Are Never So Alone as When You Stand Out

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Give me the Fortitude to challenge injustice,

The Courage to stand up for those who are weaker than I am,

The Boldness to do what is right when no one else seems to care,

The Determination in the face of criticism and mockery,

The Firmness to stand my ground when I am abandoned and alone,

The Tenacity to ignore insults and attacks on my character,

The Grit to fight the battle until I can fight no more.

The Ability to believe in myself when no one else does.

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The human race is a history of high spots and low spots.  A history of happiness, joy, love, and compassion.  It is also a history of injustice, murder, racism, and cruelty.  When we look back at the past, we see villains and heroes.  The villains are those who exploited and oppressed others.  The heroes are those men and women who stood up for the downtrodden.  The courageous few who stood up when the majority stood down.  Those who had the gumption to endure ostracism and worse because they would not abandon morality and righteousness.

Many years ago, Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) wrote the following prophetic words:

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.

Being faced with injustice poses a difficult choice for many of us.  If it were simply a choice behind a high road and a low road, it would be easy.  But life is seldom black and white.  The choice is often much more difficult.  It can be a choice between being alone or standing with the anonymity of the crowd.  No one wants to stand out.  There is a saying in Japan that the “nail that sticks up, gets hammered down.”  It is the same with every other culture.  The world is moved by the adage to “not make waves.”

Chinese Activist Blocks Column of Tanks

A few years ago, I fought a battle with the town to fire the library director or else to put him back to work.  He had been accused of pedophilia and suspended from his job with pay.  Wisconsin is an employment-at-will state and I could see no reason that a poor small-town library needed to pay a salary to someone who was now suspended from his job.  I went to the library board and eventually to the town council to challenge this decision.  Either fire him I said or put him back to work until he has been tried by a court of his peers.  Both boards told me the same thing.  A lawyer that the city hired advised against such a move due to the potential of a lawsuit.  Lawyers all over this country use the possibility of a lawsuit as a scare tactic to do nothing.

At first, I had support from others in my battle with these boards.  Eventually, one by one they all dropped out.  “We have to live in this town, and we don’t want to make waves.”  I continued what had become a lonely battle.  Doubts and recriminations daily filled my mind and heart.  I was disappointed by the lack of support I was receiving.  I felt deserted by friends who I thought shared my ideas of right and wrong.  I was told by the city council that I should not attend any more of their meetings.  I was persona non-gratis.

I toyed with the idea of giving up.  I wanted at least one other person who could help me justify my crusade.  “Why should I care about the library if no one else does?”  Instead of giving up, I amplified my efforts.  I threatened to send a flyer out to every citizen in Frederic during Frederic Family Days.   My flyer was carefully worded to show the cowardice of the City Council and the costs to the Frederic taxpayer due to this cowardice.  Within three days of the council receiving a copy of my flyer, they fired the former library director.  Because of their spinelessness, they had kept him on the payroll for nearly nine months while he fled to Mississippi.  A few months later he was convicted of pedophilia and sentenced to jail.

I did not like the role I played in this battle.  I would have preferred that someone else had taken up the gauntlet.  However, no one wanted it.  I am no hero.  I question myself every day.  I am always wondering if this decision or that decision is the right one.  I lack the self-confidence to assert that I am right and that you are wrong.  How can I be certain that I am right?  What if I am not?

a76ce78ebb5a097bfdd284a75347259bI look around me today and I do not understand the world.  I do not understand the decisions that our leaders make.  It seems we have a moral disease.  The symptoms of this disease are short-term thinking and greed.  Arizona is suffering from an unprecedented drought and heat wave.  The water levels in both the Central Arizona Project and aquifers are dangerously low.  Yet when asked to cut back water usage by 3.8 percent, the golf course owners in Phoenix created an association to oppose such a “drastic” cut.  Their counter proposal was for a 1.6 percent cut in water usage.  The Governor of Arizona was the keynote speaker for the associations kick off meeting.  Am I crazy?  Do you believe this?  Are golf courses more important than drinking water and water for farm crops?

If you dare to stand against the greed that has taken root in our society, you are an anti-capitalistic liberal communist left-wing radical.  What passes for dialogue in politics today are theatrical stunts, public attacks, name calling and vows to never compromise.  Our legislative bodies have been corrupted by men and women who are only motivated by avarice and power.  We are beyond truth and reason.  Words like reconciliation, harmony and accord no longer have any meaning.  Nothing gets done as each side digs its heels in and votes strictly according to party-line.  Instead of asking what is good for the USA, politicians only ask, “What is good for my party?”

Ali-Stripped

The man or woman who stands out is a person of courage.  It takes guts to stand up and speak out.  It is much easier to do nothing.  Sgt. Shultz used to say, “I hear nothing, I see nothing.”  It may be comforting to go through life hearing and seeing nothing but at what cost to the world?

Do you think the world needs to be changed?  It all starts with us.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Stand up, speak out, put yourself on the line.  If not you, then who? 

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Fritz
    Jul 05, 2021 @ 08:47:25

    Powerfully expressed, John. I couldn’t agree more. Where, oh where, is the leadership that leads with honesty, integrity, and the courage to do the right thing – for all people and for our planet. Greed and self-interest are leading us to our utter downfall. And not just in the U.S., although they are leading by bad example. 😥

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    Reply

    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Jul 05, 2021 @ 10:48:39

      Yes Jane, we have the audacity to consider ourselves “leaders” of the free world but all we seem to do is to encourage despots like Trump who want to take away freedom from others. I am very worried about our mid-terms and will do all I can to help get people out to vote.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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