Speak Truth to Power

The Quakers are pacifists. “Speak truth to power” is part of the Quaker credo for seeking and maintaining peace in a troubled world. They recognize power as those responsible for making war, the groups who place people in positions of power, and the concept of power alone. Truth, in the Quaker tradition, stems from their age-old belief that love overcomes hate.

Being a pacifist in today’s world is not always popular and not an easy position to hold. It requires diligence and challenges us to maintain our strength even while faced with grim and stark realities.  I am a pacifist. Some may call that weak, but I don’t mind telling you that I also have a fiery temper and remaining a pacifist is a challenge of my strength almost daily. I am also a realist, yet always hold out a shred of optimism, for without that tiny bit of hope I would personally fall into the depths of depression pretty quickly. That’s not a pretty place to visit and having crawled out of it a couple of times in my life I prefer to not go back there.

I am also a former journalist. I got out of the news business years ago in order to seek a more stable lifestyle for raising my children. News doesn’t sleep, but parents must be there for our children. That was my moral imperative at the time and I have no regrets, especially since they seem to have turned out to be really good people.

For many years, I wrote and read news on the radio locally and wrote for a regional newspaper. People believed what I wrote and spoke. I was not accused of fabricating the news, nor degraded for reporting it. I even won a few awards for journalism back in the day. Despite a pivot in my career into communications for non-profits, my character and integrity have not changed.

The Presidential election this past week changed a lot of things. It did not change me. Although I no longer report the local news, I remain a student of government and news. I make a point of staying in touch with real world issues whether they are in my neighborhood, my country, or across the globe. Many Americans have chosen to shelter themselves from global problems as serious as famine and genocide because they are too busy working to keep their own lives together. I don’t fault them for that. I don’t fault people for feeling like they want a better life. We all do.

The results of the election did not go as I would have liked. I am not whining or complaining or despondent over it. I have not called people names. Despite being told for months that it’s okay to be politically incorrect, that’s not my style and never will be. I believe in civility and will be both courteous and kind. I will fight for change in the mid-term elections two years from now and in the Presidential election four years from now.

I will also speak truth to power. I will continue to point out injustice when it’s warranted. I will stand up for those who are protesting this election because they have First Amendment rights in this country. Here’s a refresher on the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Here are the facts:

  1. Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, by more than 600,000 votes at the latest count.
  2. Voter turnout was incredibly low. Just 55% of eligible voters cast a ballot this year. There may be several factors for that, but one was most likely that so many Americans couldn’t stand either of the major party candidates.
  3. Just after the election, House Speaker Paul Ryan, buoyed by the fact that Republican candidates won majorities in the House and Senate and claimed the Presidency, suggested that the Republican Party has a “mandate to govern.” That is not the case (see #1.)
  4. Millions of people feel disenfranchised by the outcome of this election (again, see #1.) They have every right to voice displeasure and concern (re-read the First Amendment, above.) No, they do not have a right to turn their protests into violence and thankfully that has not been the case in most of the protests.

And here is one more very ugly fact: hate crime spiked right after the election. Suddenly, swastikas appeared. In one incident just about an hour from my home a swastika was painted in a park along with the words “Make America White Again.” Our Governor has ordered a full hate crime investigation by the New York State Police and the State Division of Human Rights.  That is a single incident among many nationwide.

Donald Trump is poised to become the next President of the United States. He spent months telling people that they didn’t need to be civil and courteous anymore, that Latinos would be deported, and that Muslims would be rounded up. He degraded women. He instilled fear in African-Americans and the LGBT community. If he said those things without meaning them, then he now needs to tell his supporters to back off – swiftly and unequivocally. If he said those things and meant them, then he needs a really good lesson in the First Amendment (above.)

I will not sit down and shut up. Just because I live way out here in my sheltered suburban community where people aren’t protesting the vote doesn’t mean I can’t lodge my own protest. I will continue to write about wrongs, show people what’s really going on, and hope to rally the righteous against injustice. I will continue to be civil and kind to others. But I will not stand by and do nothing. Once the naysayers are silenced, then we have turned over our government and relinquished our responsibilities to allow the spread of hate and fascism and that is simply un-American. My friends are free to read what I write or to scroll past it in their news feeds and that is their choice.

My voice will not be silenced. My integrity won’t allow it. I will continue to speak truth to power.  Join me.

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One thought on “Speak Truth to Power

  1. It’s much easier to withhold rights from people than it is to take them away once earned. The genie of rights for women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Muslims etc. will not be put back in the bottle. Thank you, Sheila, for another well-articulated response!

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