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.