An advocate’s thoughts on accountability

We are all, unless determined otherwise by a court or healthcare professionals, accountable for our choices, our actions; let’s call it, our behavior. None of us gets a pass, at least when it comes to our personal and professional lives, nor should we.  When we are public servants, i.e. elected officials or employees (contract or otherwise) of state, federal and local governments, we are also accountable for our behavior. If we are members of non-profit agencies pledged to help some segment of the population, we are accountable for our behavior.

As I see it, my responsibility as a human rights advocate, is to hold people and agencies and governments and government officials accountable for their behavior, and to do so openly; bring the behavior out into the light of day. When the behavior is good and healthy, it deserves the accolades, the gratitude, the recognition. When the behavior is not good, not healthy, it deserves the response it will get, and it deserves to be publically recognized; people have a right to know. President Obama once said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” True. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” True.

The price I’ve paid for my advocacy -I’ve paid and still pay some “bills” to be sure – pales in comparison to what those being denied their rights go through. I know too that there have been and are people, some of whom I like very much, who have been and still are very upset with me; angry with me. I take no pleasure in this, but I have no control over where the facts lead. And, for me, silence is not an option. If I worked for or knew of a company or agency that discriminated against people who were Gay or Lesbian or Transgendered, I would not be silent. If I worked for or knew of a company or agency that discriminated against people who were disabled, black, Latino, Jewish, Muslim, etc., I would not be silent.

There are also instances when people or agencies take my actions are personally. They believe, honestly I am sure, that my actions are aimed at them on a personal level. Not so. My actions are not aimed at anyone on a personal level. But let’s be unflinchingly clear about something; it doesn’t get more personal than when someone’s rights are being denied. And when I watch and experience this happening to others, I do take it personally. Perhaps this is a character flaw, that’s for others to judge, and I’m sure they will, and have. But it buckles me into tears sometimes when I hear of how inhumanely people are treated.

When I hear people have taken my efforts personally, I always think of a scenario along the lines of the following: A husband and wife are home one evening.

The husband says, “Some sonuvabitch cop gave me a speeding ticket!”

His wife says, “What was the speed limit?”


“How fast were you going?”


I very much doubt the cop wrote out the ticket as part of some personal vendetta.

And so what’s the moral of this story? Don’t speed. And if you do, and you get caught, don’t blame the one who caught you. If you weren’t speeding, if weren’t discriminating, if you weren’t trying to beat the rules, the laws, you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in now, would you?

My advice? Don’t speed. If you do, you’re likely to be held accountable. And that is as it should be.

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