Silence is Not Golden

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No one gets remembered for what they didn’t say.  If one wants to be remembered either they must do something worth remembering or they must say something worth remembering.  Non-fiction writers either write about something that they believe is worth being done or they write about someone who already did something that they thought was worth being done.

Of course, being remembered should not be the main point of life.  You can have a street named after you, a building named after you, a star named after you or hundreds of other items, but they are all ephemeral.  They will vanish sooner than the wind blows away.  They will melt away faster than butter.  Nothing in the world is really very permanent.  Bricks and bridges age and crumble.  Friends and lovers come and go.  Good deeds will be forgotten when you are gone as will bad deeds.  Life is mercurial, fickle, and impermanent.  Trying to be remembered is an exercise in wishful thinking.

We often try to hold onto life by buying, creating, acquiring, or building things.  The genius creates new theories.  The prodigy leaves people spellbound by their talent.  The entrepreneur designs new products and industries.  The philanthropist gives their money away.  We are all searching for something that will make us feel good about ourselves.  You cannot actually blame anyone since a humans’ life is quite short.

We may someday discover the meaning or purpose of our lives, but I doubt many people will do so before they die.  And even if they did, so what.  Will the world really be better that one man fought the unbeatable fight or reached for the unreachable star or is it only egotistical dreaming on our part?  We want to think that we were born on this earth for a reason.  Not one of us wants to think that we were an accident or that the only thing on our parents’ minds was recreational sex.

Existence is an osmotic process that links the needs of the outside world with our own inner needs, talents, and abilities.  Maturity comes when we stop simply looking outside of ourselves and start searching inside ourselves as well.  The good life is one that balances inside and outside focus.  This is the Yin and Yang of life.  When we find the alchemy that balances these perspectives, we find the true meaning and purpose of our lives.  But it is not etched in stone, and it may change several times before we leave this planet.  Life is always an evolving process.

I started this blog off by extolling the virtue of speaking out.  I believe that an injustice done to anyone is an injustice done to all of us.  Audre Lorde, an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist said:

“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself.  My silences had not protected me.  Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have?”

For much of my life, I have tried to be outspoken against what I perceive as injusticeI often wonder if I do not spout off too much.  One friend told me that “You fight too many battles.”  When I heard this, I thought of the comment by the Russian Anarchist Bakunin that he would stop being unreasonable when the world around him became reasonable.

merlin_2894829Two days ago, I heard a story that is worth being repeated.  The story brought tears to my eyes.  If you have already heard it, I hope you will not mind hearing it again.  I personally would like to hear it being told from every church pulpit, every congressional building, and every auditorium in America.  I would like to hear it being told every day until every person in America could empathize with what this young girl went through.  I would like to hear it being told until every person in this country would finally speak out and say “enough.”

Death of bullied Utah girl draws anger over suicides, racism” by Brady McCombs, 12/2/2021.

Ten-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor was a happy little girl with a sunny disposition who loved life and dreamed of being a professional dancer.  Even though she had autism, life was good for Izzy until this school year when in a new grade she became the target of racism and bullying.  Isabella was the only Black student in the class.  Now if you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs, you will know that 618ff27e9c519.imagethe issues of Meaning and Purpose that I addressed above relate to a certain position in life.  Namely, those of us who are secure enough in our environment that we no longer have to worry about food, shelter, and safety.  This is a luxury that does not pertain to all people.  In particular it did not pertain to Izzy.  She was a girl who because of her skin color and health had to face every day with a battle.  A battle designed by others to destroy her peace and serenity.  A war waged to undermine her very being by belittling, insulting, and abusing her.  Izzy did not have the time to think about the meaning and purpose of her life because she was too busy trying to deal with the very bottom levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Her mom was unaware of the bullying that Izzy was facing until one morning she found Izzy spraying Febreze air freshener on herself before school.  Brittany Tichenor-Cox had been wondering what was wrong with her daughter whose beaming smile had gone dormant after she started the fifth grade.  She coaxed out of Isabella that a boy in her class told her that she stank after their teacher instructed the class that they needed to shower. It was the latest in a series of bullying episodes that targeted Izzy, the only Black student in class.  Other incidents included harassment about her skin color, eyebrows and a beauty mark on her forehead, her mother said.

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On November 6th, 2021, Izzy’s mom came home to find that Izzy had hung herself.  Can you imagine finding one of your children hanging by a belt around their neck in a closet.  Their eyes wide open, their tongue bulging out and their face turned blue.  What would your reaction be?  Her mom blames the school system for doing nothing.  Despite repeated talks and calls to school administrators, the abuse had gone on for months.  Perhaps the school did not think that Black Lives Mattered.  But what about the life of a little girl with autism who wanted to grow up and be a ballet dancer?

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“An ongoing investigation by the Justice Department has uncovered hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets over the last five years in Izzy’s school district against children of color. The probe also found physical assaults, derogatory racial comments, and harsher discipline for students of color.”

Child Suicide Bullying

Brittany Tichenor- Cox, center, joined by her sister Jasmine Rhodes, right, speaks about her daughter Izzy Tichenor, as hundreds joined the Tichenor family in mourning the death of 10-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor during a vigil at Foxboro Hollow Park in North Salt Lake, Utah, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Tichenor took her own life on Nov. 6th in connection to being repeatedly bullied at her Davis County school for being Black and autistic, according to her mother Brittany Tichenor. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

I am not alone in being appalled by the school’s reaction or lack of reaction to the abuse against Izzy and other minority children.  Thousands of people have reacted to this story with indignation and a demand that it be investigated.  The concern of so many people is a welcome development in light of the seeming apathy of too many people.  I still cannot believe that nearly 32 percent of possible American voters did not vote in the last election.  Elie Wiesel said that:

“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

What can you do to help overcome racism and indifference to the sufferings of others?  Can you write about it?  Can you join an organization to protest it?  Can you send money to a group that is fighting for the rights of others?  Can you stand up for people when you see that they are being insulted or abused?  Can you call the Utah Attorney General and express your outrage against this abuse that Izzy suffered?  Can you ask your church leader to say something today, tomorrow, and Sunday about the ongoing abuse that minorities suffer every day in this country?

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The more of us that take a stand for Izzy, the sooner this will really be the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

Utah Attorney General – Protecting Utah. Protecting You.

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Email:  uag@agutah.gov

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