Silence is not an option

If you are going to truly be an advocate for equal rights there are a few things I’d like to share with you.

First, there will be times when you will be wildly unpopular. People in positions of power and those whose advocacy efforts are primarily a form of self-serving lip service will not like it when you bring their realities into the light. But, if your commitment to equal rights is sure and heartfelt, bringing their realities into the light is a must.

Second, there will be times when the facts, as you honestly understand them, will bring you to places and circumstances you wish they didn’t. Nevertheless, these are places you must go if your allegiance is to the equal rights of each and every individual. Sometimes the facts will lead you to places where you will discover people you may like are, in fact, part of the very process that is impeding or outright denying equal rights. Still you must proceed and bring the truth into the light.

Third, at times you will pay a price. Some advocates have lost their lives. Others have lost jobs, financial stability, relationships, and much more.

Fourth, find ways to replenish your spirit, your body and your mind. For me it’s nature, conversations with those very close to me, thinking about and reading the words of people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Father Mychal Judge, Gandhi, Shirley Chisholm, Soujourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and others of similar ilk. And then, of course, the people whose rights you are fighting, in my case primarily individuals with brain injuries. My life is all better and then some for knowing as many as I do. As remarkable and resilient and courageous a group of human beings as one can imagine. And then, lastly, for me, reading books!

No matter what you do to keep your spirits up, there will be times you’ll want to give up. There will be times the fear and heartbreak will be so bad you’ll want to curl up into a ball and vanish into the earth. Please don’t give up. For if you give up, you hand those who deny equality a victory because giving up means you’ve surrendered your humanity.

While I will not get into specifics at the moment, I am beginning to realize I may need to  bring certain things into the open that may bruise people I like and, perhaps, in some instances, end friendships or acquaintances. Then again, perhaps some of these individuals will look into their hearts and discover that they too will put equal rights ahead of their honest, but perhaps misguided allegiance, to governmental or private agencies as well as for-profit and non-profit companies.

We’ll see. Being an advocate can be an unsettling, upsetting, heartbreaking, and scary experience. But, the experience of remaining silent in the face of people be denied their rights would be immeasurably worse.

Now, if you’ll permit me, I’m going to go read. I wish you the best.

The Roads Less Travelled

John Steinbeck once wrote, “We are creatures of habit, a very senseless species.” He was right. We all get caught up in patterns and relationships in life that hold us back, that result in our taking part in life with one hand tied behind our back. We don’t do this consciously, so, when we notice these patterns, we are wise to treat ourselves (and each other) with kindness, not harsh judgment. After all, new beginnings, while often rewarding and wonderful, are inherently scary, at times terrifying.

Recently I got to contemplating a passage from the Robert Frost poem, “Road Less Travelled”, 

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

and Henry David Thoreau’s words,

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.

Contemplating both passages brought me out of the darkness of indecision and led me into the sunshine of clarity. As a result, I have been able to make some changes that will free me to walk the roads less traveled. Both passages helped me to make these changes because when I read them, to myself or out loud, and then align them with those I admire most: Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Dr. King, Beethoven, Geronimo, Tolstoy, Teddy Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steinbeck, Rosa Parks, Dickens, my father and more, it is strikingly clear that all of them lived the lives they imagined. All of them took the roads less travelled.

New beginnings often are the roads less travelled and they are often the roads best taken.

__________________________

TR WOULD BE PROUD OF SPITZER

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. would be very proud of Governor Eliot Spitzer. TR was elected New York governor in 1898, and quickly gained a reputation for taking on machine politics. Like TR, Spitzer does not let party loyalty blind him to loyalty to the people who elected him. If only that statement could be made about most members of the New York Assembly. But we can’t. When one of their own was not among those recommended for the post of comptroller, the majority of the assembly threw a hissy fit and appointed one of their own. Never mind that last month leaders of the legislature and the new governor held a press conference to announce they had agreed to chose a comptroller from a list recommended by a panel of three former comptrollers.

Well, it seems to me that Spitzer is on his way to being the people’s governor and, with any luck, the assembly might follow suit and, say, think more about representing the people than their own personal interests.

In response to the Assembly’s actions, Spitzer accurately summed it up when he said, “We have just witnessed an insider’s game of self-dealing that unfortunately confirms every New Yorker’s worst fears and image of all that goes on in the Legislature of this state.”

Like TR, Spitzer seems hellbent on rooting out corruption in all forms and we the people would be wise to throw our weight behind him. If members of the assembly don’t learn to put the people first, then lets throw them out when re-election time rolls around.

Oh, if you think it was just the Republicans who undermined the new Democratic governor you’d be wrong. The Democrats cut the rug out from under the governor as well. More accurately, the Assembly undermined the people of New York and given Spitzer’s landslide victory, it is safe to say New Yorkers are sick of being undermined.

So keep going governor. TR’s footsteps set a fine stride to follow. After all, he is the only U.S. president to have received both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Medal of Honor. TR would be proud of you. This writer is, and so are many, many New Yorkers.