Today is Independence Day and I’m worried—as I often am—about the horrible things being done in our name, the freedoms being worn away bit by bit, the irreparable damage being done to desperate families, individuals, and our environment.
And let me be frank, this comes from my gut. I don’t claim to have all the answers.
But while we still have free speech and a democracy in place, I think today is good day to remember that the people “in charge” only have the power we give them.
The president can’t stand at every border crossing taring children from the arms of desperate parents fleeing violence, war, famine and persecution. Someone has to do it for him.
The CEO of a mining company isn’t personally going to strip-mine our national monuments for minerals or dump waste into rivers. Someone has to do it for him.
I can’t help but recall the saying that “Good people made the best Nazis”—obedient people who went along with what they were told and “just followed orders”. I hope we can grow to be better than that.
I think we should just say no.
I’m certainly not the first person to come up with this idea. Maybe people are afraid or forget this is an option.
And of course, it’s hard. And the people whose NO will mean the most are probably facing consequences that any one of us would dread—lack of employment, loss of benefits, or even legal consequences. They have families to support, need to eat and keep a roof over their heads.
So, the other thing we need to do is support people in a position to say NO.
Imagine if families and communities said, if you refuse to do something because it’s wrong, we’ll support you and we’re in it for the long haul.
Imagine if people knew that they would not be alone if they refused to:
- Steal a refugee’s child
- Create the infrastructure to dump pollutants into waterways
- Publicly deny climate change despite the science
- Turn firehoses on peaceful protesters
- Stay silent when injustice is done
Imagine if, at family BBQs today and through the summer, people talked about what they would do if faced with the choice—and what they would do to support someone faced with the choice.
Families could have a plan. Neighbors could have a plan. Houses of worship and other groups could have a plan.
People could say, if you need to say no:
- We’ll call ALCU or SPLC for you.
- We’ll look after your family.
- We’ll help you look for another job.
- We’ll make sure you’ve got food on the table.
- We’ll make sure the press knows you don’t stand alone.
The other side is loud and the sheer volume of the hate and fear they spout makes them seem like they outnumber everyone. But quiet conversations of support may be a way to turn the tide. And later, concentrated efforts to make sure that people who are courageous enough to say no to doing wrong are not left to face the consequences alone. Imagine if people felt empowered to do what’s right because of example upon example of people who said no and came out—if not unscathed, at least shielded as much as possible.
I think a lot of us go to bed at night thinking, “there just has to be more of us than them.” And “someone has to DO something.”
Maybe this is something we can do. We can start today at BBQs meant to celebrate all we’re supposed to be.