This is something I was originally going to post only on my Facebook page, but then thought it might be useful to some readers on other mediums. I love the camaraderie and kindness and supportive comments of fellow writers on WordPress,and I try to do the same as often as possible, so this is not about anyone or writer that I have come across on this platform. I do know several people on Facebook who “inspired” this passionate plea for allowing freedom of speech and for questioning and for debate, and I think we have seen the problems I am trying to address in this post, exponentially take destructive roots quite clearly in far too many of our leaders in politics and religions. The following is inspired by the voices who are now insisting to be heard after the murder of George Floyd, and the renewed vitality in the Black Lives Matter conversation. Thank you as always, for, as Blanche would say, “the kindness of strangers”. ~~Jane
You Have the Right to Remain Not Silent
by Jane Tawel
June 10, 2020
I’m sorry to have to point this out, I dislike conflict or being the gadfly or bad guy just as much as the next person — but if you are just now getting on your high horse about the injustice that people of color have been suffering or any of the horrible things or violence and the lies told to support them that have been happening in this country, for a long time, and you want to speak out now but you don’t want any conflict about it, then we have a problem. If you are white or “Christian” or a “good person” or an educator or a parent or a voter and you haven’t been saying anything about this until now — and if now you are “speaking out” oh so carefully but making sure on your posts that you also say, “I don’t want any one debating me on this” and “it’s true for people on both sides of the fence” and “no negative comments please” — then you really DO NOT GET IT.
So go ahead — enjoy your comments that cost you nothing, enjoy your peaceful life with no debates and no questions and no dangerous protestations. Don’t worry about people who might wonder “where have you been up til now?” No need to feel bad or ask forgiveness or make changes if you make sure only your cheerleaders communicate with you. Continue to not offend anyone who might be a part of cutting your paycheck or a member of your in-group.
Just keep basking in those lots of likes about what a “nice” person you are, but please — know this — some people aren’t as stupid as you think and they do see through you. Not that you care, because your defenses for protecting yourself are as strong as your defenses of those who need your help are weak.
Some people are taking a stand — for decades — or at least at last — and even when they get knocked down — they get back up. When someone disagrees with them, they don’t back down and they don’t back away and they may even change their minds about something, or apologize or grow up and change for the better even.
Today it is vitally important that we listen and learn, and today it is time to listen and learn from black people, the Afro American communities who today will not ride in the back of the bus of your Facebook posts.
Black people and Jewish people and sojourners from other countries (usually brown people) at our borders have been trying to involve you in debate for years now — and not only have they had to put up with your own dissent, your negative comments, your disagreements your powerful silences in the face of their powerless silenced-ness — they have put their lives on the line.
To want to say whatever you want with the caveat that none of your friends or followers or anyone can debate or question you is a perfect example of white / “Christian” / American — whatever label you harbor to think you have the privilege to shut people up, to shut people down, to dismiss people who make you uncomfortable. To unfollow those who debate you, who question you, who make you think — that is the epitome of an abuse of power and a greedy need to be safe and liked and untouched. Your “good heart” in your posts that is untouchable and untouched is a stone not a heart.
This is not however how nations or communities or peoples survive or grow or get better from whatever ails them. It is not at all the best of what this country of America was formed to be — a democracy — debatable, questioned, continually questioned. It is not at the center of a sustainable world view or of a valid belief of any kind. It is a mockery of a religion, with its adherents “nice Inquisition-ists”. It is not however an example of the person so many want to quote but not follow who gave His life and His name to Christianity, a man full of debate and endlessly debatable and forever questioning. It is not a path to certainty or truth but a quicksand of thoughts supported only by one’s need to to be right despite any theories or facts to the contrary.
A nation that has stopped questioning itself will surely wither and die, alone and bereft. A person who believes in an unquestionable God who created unquestionable human beings has no hope in a future that consists of the Unknowable powers of faith, hope and love. A human being who stops questioning his own rightness is a king of fools.
If silence is agreement, then silencing someone else is an abuse of power — even if it is only the abuse of the power of your role in a group, of your relationship in a tribe or family or even of just one friendship.
Freedom of Speech and the ability to question authority — It is one of the things our founding forefathers tried to get right in the name of God and nation. It is one of the things our Creator tried to get right when She created human beings a little higher than the beasts and a little lower than the angels.
I am sorry my passion and questions disquiet some of you, I will listen to your requests to “not comment” but I certainly won’t be under the impression you mean all those “nice” things you are saying on behalf of others. Sorry — but real truth is meant to set us all free and real caring for others — enough to fight for them, speak for them, protest with them, change the world for them, love them — means, no protective armor for my own self-serving needs.
We have made a world where people are vulnerable because of their black skin color in a white world. Surely we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable for some black words on a white page.
And by the way, anyone who knows me knows, I would never dream of asking you not to debate or question or engage with my ideas in your desire to make me think. I would never unfriend someone for disagreeing with me and I am grateful not just for those who build me up with support and additional help but those who respect my ability to think and reason and maybe even change and who question or debate me. I may not agree with you but I will defend your right to speak out and disagree with me with my last Facebook breath.