Being People of Good Conscience

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

Everyone has heard or read a variation on that quote, and many have engaged in research and debate as to its original source. They’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter who said it or when. What does matter is that it’s true.

I shared this video on facebook day before yesterday:


The reason I rarely comment on political issues, there or anywhere else, is first and foremost, I don’t wish to add to the negativity generally being spewed by all sides.  It’s toxic to every aspect of your life. So I generally choose not to participate in the “conversations” that take place online or off. Additionally, so many people look on such posts as an opportunity to be combative, so mostly I just don’t go there.

The exceptions: I will speak out in support of people of good conscience, like Elizabeth Warren. Is everything about her above reproach? Probably not. She’s human, after all. But if the worst you can say against her is that she claimed a drop of Indian blood in the past based on family stories, you still have a long way to go elevate her transgressions to one tenth of Donald Trump’s. (BTW: the idea that she used this “minority status” to get a job at Harvard teaching one class for hundreds of thousands of dollars is completely false: look it up.)

What I do know of her, having followed her career for the past 8 or 10 years, is that, unlike many in government, she is not all about expediency. Her position remains the same on the issues. It doesn’t change to whatever will be most effective for her in the moment, whatever will cast her in the best light. What she is all about is fairness and equality and standing up for those who have been victimized.

For instance, she is one of the only people in government to actively try (though often hamstrung by congressional “procedure”) to hold accountable

  • those people responsible for the collapse of the economy in 2008,
  • those who have contributed to keeping the minimum wage from increasing with productivity and profit as was intended (those of you making $7.25 would have been making more than $21 an hour by now ~ But don’t take my word for it: look it up), and
  • those who have engaged in profiteering through crushing and inescapable student loan debt.

These are the “fruits” by which I know her.

As for Donald Trump: at best, he is a clown, but a clown of the same stripe as the Nazis that perpetuated the Holocaust in Germany and neo-Nazies that invaded Skokie, IL (see the 1981 movie Skokie), or more appropriately, the character of Greg Stillson in Stephen King’s 1980 novel The Dead Zone. I’m afraid his “at worst” is beyond my comprehension, but I know the man is dangerous.

It isn’t hate speech if it is verifiable fact. It isn’t name calling when it is true. Saying that Mr. Trump is a bully is just speaking the truth. It doesn’t equate with, to use just one example, him calling Elizabeth Warren “goofy” or “goofus.” Saying that he is racist (and a misogynist) is stating a fact. It is not equivalent to him calling Ms. Warren “Pocahontas.”  Saying that he is a liar is also just stating a fact. Examples abound, so I’m not even going to try to narrow it down to one. Like Meghan Trainor might say: “his lips are moving.”

The fact of the matter, though, is this: you don’t need me to point out these examples or even really need to go out and research the matter (though if you’re going to repost or share something that has this much import you really should at least try to verify the facts first). All you really need to do is watch him on video ~ speeches, debates, or even just interviews. You know that uneasy feeling you get? the way your shoulders cringe just a bit, even if you can’t point to exactly why?

It’s because you have a conscience. It’s because your subconscious knows even if your conscious mind doesn’t. It’s because, even as you’re nodding and going along, the real you is dumbfounded at everyone oohing and ahhing over the emperor’s new clothes when you can see with your own eyes that he’s parading through town naked.

But we don’t do anything. We don’t say anything. Even when we’re shocked, or maybe especially then, we keep our heads down, keep our mouths shut, and hope for the best. We don’t respond. We don’t stand up and say what’s going on here is wrong. We tell ourselves we’re above responding to such behavior, we won’t let ourselves sink to their level. We keep quiet, even in our increasing unease, and think surely someone will do something about it. And we trade our birthright for pottage, our future good for the status quo of good-enough.

Why? Because we don’t want to become targets.  We don’t want the jackals to turn on us. It’s hard to be brave when you have evidence all around you of what happens to people who stand up and speak out (even if it’s just being sniped at or ostracized on Facebook).

I get it. I do.

And I wish I knew the magic secret that would help you not be afraid, that would give you courage, but I don’t. I’m afraid myself. The best I can say is that sometimes you just have to do the right thing anyway, do it afraid and believe that the courage will come.

In the words of Elie Wiesel -American Romanian-born Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate:

“”It’s not easy, it’s not easy to try to believe in moral courage in a world that lacks it. It lacks it because people are afraid, afraid of their own temptations. What is moral courage? Does it mean simply to have the audacity to say no? Absolutely. Just to say no. But isn’t that the definition of civilization? Just the ability and conviction that there are limits. You cannot go beyond that limit, that frontier, and still be part of humanity. You must not, you cannot. But whether you believe in God or not – and, of course, when we say to believe in God means to me, to some of you, it’s scripture, the Bible where it says ‘No, no, don’t do that, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t humiliate,’ and the main thing to me, it’s not part of the 10 commandments, it is to me a kind of 11th commandment: Thou shalt not stand idly by. I love that commandment. Thou shalt not stand idly by whenever there is an injustice committed against the honor or destiny of a person or a people. Thou shalt not stand idly by. You must speak up. You must defend. You must tell the victims, look, at least you should know that you are not alone, that somebody cares.” (emphasis added)

See, Elizabeth Warren is right. Whether you like her or not, whether you believe she has Indian blood or not, whether you really believe that that particular question is anything more than a distractor issue ~ the fact remains that she is right. We have to stop sniping at each other on Facebook and thinking that’s doing something. We have to reclaim our birthright as people of conscience, stand up and not stand idly by.


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