Monday, April 16, 2012

Standing (almost) Alone

"Stand up for what is right, even when you stand alone."

My fourth grade social studies teacher had this statement on a poster hung amidst a myriad of similar mantras in her classroom.  I recall that the words overlay a photograph of a man standing dramatically erect in an obvious sea of disapproval.  Although the image was cliche enough that I don't recall it clearly, the sentiment has stayed with me all this time.

I had to live out this statement earlier last week; I have seen something all year which is horribly wrong and which I have fought against constantly.  The sheer frustration at people who should know better behaving in such a callous, inexcusable fashion built up until I suddenly found myself speaking out about it, trying desperately to hold back emotion and avoid inadvertent insult.  I didn't want to cause hurt or anger, I didn't desire confrontation; I just knew that if I stayed silent, I was as guilty as the rest of them.  I needn't have concerned myself:  my words were "water off a duck's back" as they say.  Nothing changed; the people who are most to blame in this either ignored me completely or showed me the cold shoulder.  Conversations in the days to follow proved that my stand accomplished nothing; apparently this situation is not even on the radar for the people creating it.  And that, to me, is the ugliest fact of all.

Was it worth it?  Yes; I can answer affirmatively without hesitation.  It made no discernible difference, I regretfully have to admit.  I suppose I didn't really expect it to -- this cancerous behavior is too engrained at the moment.  Definitions and morals will have to change before this situation can be resolved -- and the message is just getting completely blocked out by other, more frivolous concerns.  However, I can sleep with a clear conscience because I know that I TRIED.  I spoke out.  I didn't blindly accept something that I know to be wrong.

It's been difficult because I want so much to like every person I meet and to think the best of him or her.  But when you consistently see people content to behave in a hideous manner towards other people, perfectly content to keep hurting and excluding them, how can you keep thinking the best of the "guilty" parties?  They KNOW better.  They each have an obvious moral compass.  They have NO EXCUSE.  They make excuses, but none of them are valid.

How do you fight against wrong when the people doing it don't view it as wrong?  How do you keep yourself free from the tarnish of their actions?   How do you avoid falling into a self-righteous attitude?  How do you fight against the anger that rises up within you when you see so little impact from words that came from the heart, words tinged with pain at what you witness each day?  How can seemingly GOOD people be so BLIND?  These are the sorts of questions I've been grappling with each day.  They're the tarnish on otherwise beautiful, meaningful days.  I've had to remove myself repeatedly from situations just to keep from speaking out again, this time in anger.  I'm not completely alone -- a few other people share the frustration and the burden -- but sometimes it feels like I might as well be alone.

I've shed a lot of tears lately.

1 comment:

Happy Kid City said...

Hello there. I stumbled across your blog and tried to read it, but the font is so small that I can't read it at all. Thought you might like a heads up on that :)

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"