Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Did you grow up hearing "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" throughout your childhood? I sure did, and in the decade that's passed since the end of my enlistment, I've found myself saying less and less. Whether holding my tongue to avoid reprimand or failing to express an opinion that might be seen as challenging or offensive, I seem to be choosing silence over expression more and more often.
In these volatile times, I finally feel the need to speak out in the name of patience, kindness, and the common humanity we all share. We are all, every one of us, much more alike than different in so many undeniable ways. Almost all of the barriers that seem to separate us from one another are either illusory, artificial constructs, or utterly trivial classifications. Categorizations like race, ethnicity, and even gender are really just shorthand for certain sets of characteristics; we are all human beings first, whatever traits we may or may not share. While these distinctions can grant valuable insights, connect us more deeply to our culture, and sometimes even bridge the way to mutual understanding, all too often reliance on convenient labels and generalizations is just a lazy way to avoid critical thinking. Really, aren't we all united in our common desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I've seen a lot of reactionary sentiment throughout the day. Whether out of frustration, anger, or despair, there has been a lot of talk from people disillusioned by the election; talk of moving out of the country, or about buying a gun, and about not feeling safe. I would say to these people, no matter how frightened or dismayed: have courage! Whoever you are, wherever you come from, your ancestors overcame their fears and endured untold hardship to bequeath you a free world. Whatever it is that you are afraid of losing, that you seek to protect, I caution you to "set this one proverb above all worldly possessions: I tell you the truth, freedom is the finest of things; Never live under a servile yoke."* When you allow your actions to be governed by anxiety, want, and suspicion, you make yourself a slave to fear.
It is more important than ever not to give in to this fear. Our strength comes from our mutual consent to stand together as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. This is not a time to cower in fear, to flee, or to withdraw your consent to governance behind the excuse of irreconcilable differences. Now is a time when "we must come together and pardon one another fully, whether by strength, or love, or courage, to make a firm and lasting peace."** The dialogue that we're having as a nation in the wake of this election is the one we need to have; do not let fear silence your voice or compel you to silence that of others. Instead, listen more carefully, look more closely, react more compassionately, and we will find the common ground where we can all stand together, and be true.
~ Semper Fidelis
* Attributed to William Wallace
 James MacKay, William Wallace: Brave Heart (Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1996), 238-239. MacKay has taken the quote from Scotichronicon Book XII, written by Walter Bower in the 1400s, working from the notes of the earlier John of Fordun.
** Joan of Arc (composite of two quotations)