Dear America, We Need Our Help
I have been reflecting on life here in this country. I am thinking about all the things that so many of us wish to see and asking myself, have we given that which we wish to receive?
There is only one person whose choices and journey can really be considered, my own.
We want freedom to a certain extent — but not complete freedom. Complete freedom would rob us of the safety and security that is provided by government and laws.
We want to be fair, but sometimes only at our convenience.
We want justice, but will typically not stand up alone for the justice we seek.
We will turn a blind eye to justice when standing up threatens our livelihood.
Are we offering to our country and our world what we are asking from it?
I must admit, for me, the answer is, no.
This may sound a little silly, for anyone who really knows me.
I have only met a tiny fraction of the people in this world. However, in the groups of people I have shared this journey with, I am generally the first one to stand up.
When someone is being treated poorly, ostracized or abused I am the crazy one who usually races into the adversity that the people around me avoid.
Many have even said that I “take things too seriously”or “make things into a big deal”. Maybe I used to. Maybe sometimes I still do. Maybe, the maybes I have just laid before you are a clear indication of the extent to which I have been conditioned to silence my innate moral compass.
In my experience, these phrases have primarily been used by other leaders to minimize abuse.
Either way, I am usually the one attempting to address issues that others wish to brush under the rug.
So, for me to say to you, today, that I have not stood up for the justice and reverence that I say I believe every human deserves — well that is a big, bold and shocking statement, coming from me.
Any moral or spiritual principle, even when viewed as an asset, will in excess, become a liability.
I appreciate the fact that sometimes, trusting the process is the best way for us to be of service. I understand that everything doesn’t have to be addressed right now and that treating everything like an emergency or a huge problem to be fixed is drama, filled with an addiction to the energy of desperation.
Sometimes, letting go and staying in your own lane is the solution. Practicing these specific principles has been a keystone of my growth and development.
We can, however, take the fanciest words and most brilliant concepts and use them to rationalize any choice. You give me any behavior, and I can give you a spiritual or moral principle to rationalize it.
It isn’t what I believe or what principles I practice, but how I practice them, that governs the righteousness of my choices.
This principle of not trying to play God, trusting the process and focusing on what we can change about ourselves instead of what needs to change in the world around us is so important, in our daily lives. But like everything, it only applies in context.
If a mother comes into my restaurant and orders a coke for her 1 year old baby, this is a time to ‘stay in my lane’. It is not my job or my place to explain to this stranger how she is poisoning her child. This is the proper use of ‘live and let live’.
However, if someone is drowning in front of me, would I throw them a life preserver? Surely I wouldn’t walk away and ‘trust the process’.
If my neighbors house is on fire and the children are screaming, do I just let it burn without any effort on my part to save them? In the name of ‘not trying to play God’? Also, if someone does go in to save them, is that okay? I mean, usually, it is illegal to enter someone else’s home without permission, right? If you were going in to save someones child from a burning home though, it would not be illegal. That is because there is a difference between the letter of the law and the intent of the law.
Intent, of course, always prevails.
Life is like this.
Moral, philosophical and spiritual convictions are not always black and white. It is, however, very tempting to treat them as such. Grey areas require much more thought. They require a willingness for us to be completely and brutally honest with ourselves.
In the end, we are the only one who has to be okay with our choices. But if we are not honest with ourselves, we may look back and realize that when we thought we stood up, we really didn’t. We only thought we did our best.
We ask our government to stand up for our people, while we do not.
You see, I always thought I stood up. But, did I, really???
How many of us, like me, have witnessed atrocious behavior or treatment of people within the various companies and organizations that we have worked with?
How many of us have called HR and then let it go because we ‘did our part’ or ‘nothing ever gets done about it anyway’?
How many of us, like me, were so disturbed or threatened by the things they encountered that they walked away?
How many times have we found that we couldn’t participate unless we wanted to sacrifice our own integrity, and simply quit, telling ourselves that we are only responsible for our side of the street?
It is even scarier to consider how many of us just don’t say anything at all, and stay.
What was I told by others, even some of my wisest mentors?
“No-one likes or wants to be a whistle blower.”
“You could lose your job. You have to put taking care of YOUR family first.”
“If you told someone, you did your part. The rest is up to them.”
“You have to focus on your own inventory.”
“People find what they are looking for.”
“You will have to be okay with the fact that everyone will hate you.”
“Trust the process.”
This was not only the general consensus. Almost everyone, basically, said the same thing, every time. It’s not my problem, bla bla bla bla bla. Especially if I reported it and ‘did my part’.
I stood up enough to feel like I was doing my part but I did not stand up enough to sacrifice my own security, which ended up being, never enough.
The predators go on hunting and the vulnerable souls they devour continue to be fed to them. The thieves go on thieving, the abusers keep abusing and the rapists go on raping.
When you walk away, you tell yourself that it will come out.
You remind yourself that everything done in the dark comes to light, ‘eventually’.
Trusting the process is more important than it has ever been before. After all, you tried. There wasn’t anything else for you to do.
But, years pass. How many victims makes up that ‘eventually’?
How long did we apply these ‘we aren’t that powerful’ principles to race?
What did it take for it to ‘eventually’ come out and be addressed? These things have been going on for years. Are we okay with all the names — all the lost lives that have overflowed from that ‘eventually’?
Will we stand alone?
It is one thing to stand with a movement. There are legions of people to support you and validate your beliefs. You are not alone. There is power behind the people.
But will we stand alone?
Will we stand when no-one else is?
Will we keep speaking when no-one is listening?
Will we risk ruining our reputation or losing our job?
Where is the line?
When does it matter?
It is also much easier to be relentless about causes that appear really, really big.
But aren’t the things that we see as really big right now, really just a combination of years and years of individual ‘eventualities’?
The real demonstration of our willingness to stand up for equality, for human rights and for what we believe is in the little choices we all make every day in our lives.
After all, it is a combination of the small choices of legions of people, over many years, that added up to what we are seeing today.
Just imagine how many people, how many choices and how many blind eyes contributed to the things we are fighting over right now.
We cannot go to the protest against racism, then go to work and turn a blind eye to our bosses racist comment, and think we are really making change.
We cannot get involved with a movement for women’s rights, then continue supporting an organization that sexually exploits women, and think we are really making change.
Being into whatever movement is trending is not a bad thing. Many times, the popular causes do affect us directly. But am I passionate about LGBTQ, while turning a blind eye to age discrimination or racism that is taking place within my own life?
The people who contributed too―or failed to prevent―all the heinous acts that have been recently publicized, didn’t need to join a protest to save those lives. In some circumstances, all they would have had to do is make one different choice.
When you think of every step, every choice, every aspect of any of these events, there were countless people who could have chosen differently, and everything would have been different.
Just one, out of all the officers who were present, making a different choice, could have saved George Floyd’s life.
To be completely honest, there is a great possibility that the various people on the street could have done something. We might say that they didn’t because this was being done by the police.
The facts remain.
There were people all around, for almost 9 minutes, there were more people than officers. No-one made the choice, in that moment of their own life, to stand up enough to risk their own well being. Therefore, no-one stood up enough. At least, not enough to save his life.
There is no way we will ever have a government that will truly stand up and care for us any more than we will stand up and care for ourselves and each other.
The small things add up to the big things. Our students become teachers. Our children become parents. The big things are absolutely governed by the small things. And, we are in charge of the small things.
There are just too many tiny pieces that make everything up, to focus on only the most glaring aspects and make real change. The trillions of moving pieces make it impossible to blame one person or entity.
It is not one person, one entity, one political party, one systemic issue or one agenda that is to blame for the hate, division and chaos that is our country. It is trillions and trillions of little choices, made every day by people just like you and me.
The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.
― Albert Einstein
We may, very well, be faced with only two options at this point.
Either we change, or war. But even war won’t change us. We will still be the same people making the same small choices contributing to the same issues we fought against, simply in a different form.
Sounds simple, right? For us to change? We can all just make an agreement that we are sick of the shit and all stand up in our respective lives, right? If that is what matters, all the tiny pieces, then why can’t we all just master our tiny pieces and change the world?
It isn’t simple at all. It’s so not simple that it appears impossible.
It appears impossible because enough of us would have to look at ourselves, honestly.
Enough of us would have to question our own motives and explore our own shortcomings. And, most of all, enough of us would have to stop blaming others and the world.
We humans can have a great aversion to self-inquiry. We sometimes think we feel better, when we can blame others and the world for anything we find undesirable.
In order for us to really change as a country, and even as a world, enough of us would have to be willing to change ourselves.
We are, collectively, in such a constant state of against, it is hard to imagine such a drastic change among us.
We can change laws and protest and even go to war. We can tear everything down and start again. But, without people who are willing to care for and stand up for themselves and others, without giving reverence to each of our millions upon millions of small choices, without focusing within ourselves, we will just build another government that doesn’t stand up or care for us any more than the one we have now.
No matter what we do, the government and our country will be a reflection of us and all our tiny pieces.
The only way for us to receive what we are so desperately asking for is for enough of us to give it.
All my love,
Originally published on Medium.com