Someone who loves me recently suggested I might want to consider pulling back on my advocacy for others when my advocacy might hurt me, or cause me to lose a job. I am moved by her kindness and caring and understand fully why she and others worry about my welfare. But I can’t hold back on my advocacy at all.
Dante Alighieri wrote, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality,” or stay silent. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The true measure of a man’s strength is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of trial and controversy.”
Whatever price I might pay for my human rights advocacy is far less than the price I would pay, emotionally, morally, spiritually and physically, if I chose silence. Moreover, whatever price I pay pales in comparison to those enduring the experience of being treated as if they are less human than others. A woman who is a good friend of mine and a survivor of brain injury recently pointed out to me that once you become disabled, you are expected to be obedient, you are expected to acquiesce to the will of others, often people that have anything but your interest at heart. She is right.
I will never sit quietly by when I see others being denied their civil rights, their right to live in dignity. For the last decade plus my advocacy has been focused primarily on people with disabilities, primarily people with brain injuries – like me. But I have and will always advocate for those who are gay, black, latino, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. It is who I am.
I have lost jobs because of my advocacy. It is quite likely my current struggles can in large part be traced back to my unwillingness to keep my mouth shut when I witnessed people being denied their rights. It is a price I am more than willing to pay.
Consider the following observations:
- If there were not millions involved in the Civil Rights struggle, we would not be referring to Barack Obama as President-elect Barack Obama.
- Were millions not advocating for gay rights, there wouldn’t even be a dialogue about whether or not to give an official nod to gay marriage.
- Had people not advocated, women may still not have the right to vote, black Americans would still be riding in the back of the bus and there would not be an American with Disabilities Act.
- Were there not extraordinary consumer advocates like Ralph Nader there would not be cushioned dashboards and air bags and seat belts and more. Do you think the auto companies put them in out of the goodness of the hearts? If you do, then you have a better fantasy life than I do.
I have said more than once that I am willing to give my life in the struggle for equal rights for all. I meant it.