• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • March 16, 2013 in Columnists

    When silence is a conspirator with evil; why I will not be quiet

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
    Often attributed to Voltaire; actually by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906)


    I believe with all my heart that silence is complicity and I cannot bear the idea that my silence means I am colluding with evil-doers. This is why I will always stand up in the face of cruelty, injustice, bigotry and evil. I may not have it in me to do much more than that. I will probably never pick up a weapon, go someplace and fight a war. Sadly, I am not in a position to foster all but the smallest dog — and that means I cannot foster children, either. But I do what I can, and for me, blessed with words, that means that I speak up. This sometimes harms my popularity somewhat.

    I recently got excoriated by an online friend of mine for being a passionate advocate for how people treat the creatures of the world, which I believe directly connects to how we treat other humans and the planet itself. I’m not going to divulge who she is or even give clues, because I do think she’s a good person and otherwise well-intentioned, but so far she has taken issue with my protests against animal trapping and saving the wolves, my standing in favor of the Idle No More movement (which, as far as I’ve seen, is easily as much about protecting the earth as it is about Native Peoples’ rights) and reminding people via social media that we have a lot of work to do about how we treat our fellow beings on this planet.

    This is what she asked me last night: “Why do you feel the need to single out the human race so much?”

    This is how I answered: “It’s hard to take this question seriously: ‘Why do you feel the need to single out the human race so much.’ What other species should I single out? We are the only species capable of doing harm on the level and to the degree and with the deliberate and intellectual intent that exists on this planet. Lions kill to eat. We kill for fun. Dolphins do not have pets they allow to breed and then create a holocaust from their pets’ offspring — and often, their pets themselves. Badgers do not pour filth into rivers. Elephants do not poach rhinos to make aphrodisiacs from their horns. Foxes not trap beavers for their pelts. We are the only species in a position to have stewardship over this precious and rare planet; if God made that a test — how do you honestly think we’re doing?”

    She protested that not all humans do these horrors and that she certainly did not.

    My reply: “I speak of humans en masse, and even if you don’t do it, we are members of the same species that do all that. I don’t say that *you* do it, but you seem to be protesting that I speak out or speak up! What am I supposed to do? You tell me. Sit there complacent saying “Oh *most* people don’t do this, so I mustn’t say a word lest those who are well behaved be offended. Pah. So tell me, what’s your cause? What do you speak up for? What even tiny corner of the world are you healing? This is what I do. I use words to try to wake people up because y’know what? We *are* our brother’s keeper and the keepers of our sisters and our fellow beings and to be silent is to be complicit. I stand up and I try to shine the light on what we need to fix — even if it means mortifying or offending people. I will go to the Divine Presence with no shame for this…”

    She kept telling me that animal species are not kind to each other either and asked me why I thought we had stewardship over this planet. She proceeded to tell me “I don’t bombard all my friends with my views & I’m sure not going to take on the whole world.” She also told me that what she does to heal the world was not my business.

    I said: “People expostulate about their views all the time on Facebook. If what I said lined up with your beliefs and opinions, you would be no more offended than my other friends who are actually delighted with what I say and in agreement with it. You need to learn to agree to disagree. I love you to pieces, but if I what I say pisses you off that much, click ‘Hide’ and don’t look. That’s what I do when a darling friend of mine starts snarking off about Obama. You can either like me or not, but you don’t get to shut me up or shut me down.”

    She protested that I never post about good things. Well, I do, but she’s right — I do share the outrages because I want us to do better and I want us all to do something about it. And, as I said to her — somebody has to take on the greater picture. That’s part of why I have a column, because I think we are the best and the worst a species can be — which means we can choose to be the best a lot more than we do.

    She said we need a balance between good and bad news and sure, we do. But as long as there are kill shelters and poachers and people who want to deny other people their rights or any of the other ills, I will not be silent. Ever.

    • We all fight our own battles and I say if you don’t like what someone is saying delete, delete, delete. Freedom of speech, I still believe is alive and well.

      • Maya North

      • March 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm
      • Reply

      That’s my point! I told this friend to use the Hide button, which is what I do when a near and dear of opposing political views (which sometimes make me see red) posts something I find egregious. Honest to pete–would we have civil or women’s rights if we’d just meekly quieted down when we pissed people off??? Oy 😛

      • Kelvin

      • March 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm
      • Reply

      The way I look at it you got a rise out of your friend. Not only that, you made her think of the issues you raised. She may disagree with you but she’s engaging on those issues. She doesn’t have to read what you write. No one forced her to respond. She chose to. And I think it’s all a good thing. Just like you she may go to others and recount the interaction she had with you and who knows, perhaps that person may give her the same feedback you did. That happens enough times, she might reevaluate her position. She may not. But if you’re trying to shake up things and inspire people to at least think about these issues, mission accomplished!

      And I never worry about pissing people off. I think a writer has to write their truth even if you know it’s going to bring you heat. I wrote a column on gays kissing in public and I know that most of the people reading it (since newspaper readers skew older) probably aren’t going to be open to it. And judging from my email, I’m right. It’s not easy being a pin cushion for people but it would hurt worse if I were faking it and not writing what I really believed. Keep writing what you believe, Maya! 🙂 Two thumbs up!

      • Maya North

      • March 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm
      • Reply

      Oh thank you! I just seriously cannot let it worry me! I got my start at age 8 when I told a child abuser that we could hear his children screaming all over the neighborhood and what he was doing was wrong. He was a 6’4″ university professor who literally loomed over tiny kid me and told me it was none of my goddamned business. I replied “I know, but it’s still wrong.” He used to dip his boys in a bathtub and then take a belt to them–it hurts so much more on wet skin and those children were shrieking in pain. When I realized what bigotry did to people in Missouri, even as a child, I was taking them on and their age was no deterrent–I would face down adults if I had to. I have always been this way and I think only my passing will silence it. That’s why I love *your* work because you do speak your truth, damn the torpedoes. Hell’s bells–how else are we going to change anything? And I can only hope that my friend at least starts thinking about it… XXXOOO

      • Ed Pearson

      • March 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm
      • Reply

      I’m sure you know this quote:
      “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
      When we were living in the ‘burbs and getting crap from some of our neighbors who didn’t like the color of my wife, it was the “good people” who said nothing, or made excuses for the bigots, that really hurtt.

        • Maya North

        • March 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm
        • Reply

        Oh, now isn’t that the truth, Ed. I remember reading an article some years ago where a young woman was asked “well, is it any better?” She replied, “most people are nice, but some are not and I always wonder if it’s because of my skin.” I rolled that sentence around mentally for some time and with each repetition, it sounded stupider. What next–wondering if it was because she wore checkered sneakers? Because she had kentucky bluegrass on her lawn instead of some other variety? But yes, I have seen what I call “all the good people of the world” drive by a desperate mom with a passel of children trying to change a tire in the rain and their expressions clearly say “Hmph, *we* would *never* let *that* happen to *us!*” They are the same people who say nothing when the haters come out of the woodwork, And yet, I guarantee they think they are very, very good people and great representatives of whatever faith they represent. I guarantee you, I would have stood with you and your wife, because that’s just how I work… Hugs!

      • Theresa Klein

      • March 21, 2013 at 1:28 am
      • Reply

      SHAME SHAME SHAME Maya. You tell me not to assume & you post on facebook that your 99% positive that I won’t read your article, when in fact I’ve told you I have read them. So my advice to you it do NOT assume anything when it comes to me.

      My facebook page is exactly that. My page. I use it to keep in touch with family, very close friends & friends I’ve gotten to know but have never met. Some of my family/friends have children that are also on my friends list. Some are in my view point too young to be seeing what you are posting. I don’t think they should even be on facebook, but I am not their parent. I have never told you to stop posting anything. Yes I may have mentioned that my news feed is bombarded with all the pet posts that it clogs up my news feed. You did create a separate page to post those items as I am not the 1st to say that to you. And yes if I wanted to sit at my laptop 24/7 then I could hide all your posts that I don’t want some people to see but I’m sure not going to do that. What I did tell you is that I made changes to my settings & your posts no longer show up. Problem is resolved. Some of your other past friends have removed you & gone so far as to block you. Maybe they don’t know how to change some settings. You will notice we are still friends on FB & WOW.

      I am so honored that after our last discussion you were moved to write this article. It makes me smile everything I think about it. Thank you. When someone post something on FB that almost demands a reply, then you shouldn’t be surprised when your asked Why? You posted Does this mother and child love look *any* less than ours? That would have just been a statement to me, but you had to put in….Does it? So I responded with my opinion. I still believe there is good & bad in all species. You say we are the worst species but you provide no statistics to back that up. You wonder what out scorecard would be. I did actually ask a few people to take a guess at what percentage of the world population they would say are bad & I was surprised at what they said. They all said only 5% to maybe 10%. Now I feel outnumbered as I was guessing maybe 25%. But even at 25% that still means our score would be 75%. When I leave this planet, I will not be graded on what anyone else has done. I will be graded on what I have done & how I lived.

      Hmmmm wolves. I believe the picture you posted of the hunters was taken on a hunt in British Columbia. The protest was about USA hunters waiting for the wolves (which by the way came from BC, as hunters in that area had killed them all. Not sure why the USA couldn’t get any from other states.) outside of Yellowstone park. Why not post pics of your own hunters killing your wolves. Or what about all the hogs in 7 states where it’s open season, whatever you see kill as many as you can. The hunters in the picture you posted used guns, they did not use traps. Usually trap lines are set up by 1st Nation people, but not always. I believe our wildlife management system works pretty well in our country. Yes we do have poachers…. they are punished if/when caught. Now I must say, that discussion gave me reason to go do some reseach on how often trap lines have to be checked. It was very interesting to learn the different time lines between different provinces/states as I did check on both countries. So by having that discussion I learned some new things which is always good.

      Native rights…..I’m sure we could write a book! It was an interesting discussion. I will stand by what I said. More research is need by people to get a better understanding when they don’t fully understand what is going on within another country where that person doesn’t live. You said to me, well, this was written by a native. So what…..does that mean it’s the truth. I said & still say, the chiefs & council have to be accountable. The government pays each reserve a specific amount of money. Don’t know how the calculation on how much they get is done, but the government gets their money from all Canadian taxpayers. Chief Theresa, pays her boyfriend/partner $800. a day to do the books. Is he a registered accountant, I have no idea, but after the books were finally seen by our government, she has a lot to answer for. No wonder she can buy a huge home in Arizona, while the others are living in poor conditions. Reserves that are doing well do have valid issues & I do support those. Whether it be the effect on our planet or that treaties have not been fulfilled as promised.

      You posted saying…..Is your coat wearing my dog. For starters, I don’t know of any coat that uses dog hair, unless it’s from dog hair that has been shaved off a dog. You say it’s okay for Inuit people to wear fur…..must be cause they live in the arctic. Well when I was younger if at that time I could have afforded a fur coat, I’d still have it. When you live in an area where the temps can get to -45 -50 with the wind chill, I’ll wear what can keep me warm. I have never owned a fur coat, but sometimes I wish I had one. I don’t agree with people wearing them as a fashion statement. Like all the movie stars. Like they really need them in California!

      I did not really protest about why I hardly every see nice posts. There are way more people out there that are dedicated to helping that doing harm. You post that you are crying so hard you can’t even see your screen or keyboard. That’s one of the reasons why I said we need balance. It’s up to you to get that if you want. I make sure I have it in my life. I take a lot of pleasure in seeing moose, bear, coyotes, wolves in my yard. First thing I do is go get my camera to share on FB. I of course also have to make sure my girls (4 legged loves)don’t go out in the yard. I would just like to see you give the same time to those that are helping as you do to those that to both of us are the scum of our species.

      We feel the same way about a lot of things, but we still do have our own views which we are both entitled to. I was not the only one that posted in those discussion, but I do think I was the 1st to start the discussions.

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