Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Saturday Strategy

"Ignore them, they'll go away."

"It's not my problem."

"What can I do?"

"It's none of my business."

We use statements like these to justify our consistent lack of action. We close our eyes to a theftoccuring in front of us, silence our ears to the domestic abuse going on in the upstairs apartment, and seal our hearts to a billion impoverished people. Every single day, we wall ourselves off from that which occurs around us and hope, somewhere deep inside, that by ignoring the problem, it will somehow work itself out or disappear.

We employed a similar strategy as Hitler rose to power throughout Europe and didn't actually decide it was our issue until we were attacked on December 7th, 1941. We repeated the mistake with Saudi Arabia and all our other oil producing, communist fighting friends, until we were forced to act differently on September 11th, 2001.

I have read with great interest and admiration those who believe that ignoring the Nazi rally at the Capitol this Saturday is the appropriate strategy. Those who advocate for this solution are not dispassionate, uncaring, or disinterested. Many of them have spent every day of their lives actively fighting that which the Nazis promote. They have decided to stay home because one thing is certain: protesting will not change a Nazi's mind and in all likelihood, does nothing more than make them cling more tightly to that which they believe. In that regard, ignoring them achieves something powerful.

But I have also read with equal interest the opinions of those who would counter hate with an alternative message. There is something lost in this strategy, as increased attention is brought to a message that deserves none. But there is a reality regarding reaction -- the reaction of humans to those actions, behaviors, or statements that we know with absolute certainty are wrong. And that reality is messy, but it demands involvement. It demands a stand - a powerful, forceful, demonstration that says this horrible thing cannot be ignored, that it is our business, and that it is our problem.

Martin Niemoeller said it best: "When they came for the communists, I was silent, because I was not a communist; When they came for the socialists, I was silent, because I was not a socialist; When they came for the trade unionists, I did not protest, because I was not a trade unionist; When they came for the Jews, I did not protest, because I was not a Jew; When they came for me, there was no one left to protest on my behalf."

We cannot sit on the sidelines. It is only by releasing the water that we can drown out the voices of injustice and hate. This is not the easy path, and it comes frought with peril. But silence is unaccceptable. I will not hide in the corner as abuse, poverty, AIDS, and injustice ravages millions of people. And I will not stay home when messages of hate are blared through loudspeakers. I will stand, I will fight, I will protest, and I will cry out with the strength of all the blood in my veins: this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong. There is only one way for you to truly know what I believe: you must hear me speak it.