Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SAY Something.

Monday night I attended my weekly in depth history of the bible class. While this class is the study of the Bible and it's cultural and historical perspective, it's also about growing as mature Christians.  Last night our theological reflection if you will was on speaking out.  Put another way, silence too often means going along to get along (and a vote to abstain is a vote against!!).

This may sound like heady talk, inappropriate for a retirement blog, but recently I have been rethinking the idea of tactful silence, especially in the current climate.  

For example, recently I had the chance to go and view the movie Spotlight. The purpose of this post is not to review that movie as such, except to say that it's an excellent movie and perhaps, finally Mark Ruffalo will maybe win the Oscar he has deserved before and that it has a 98 percent rating. Put simply, this is the story of the breaking of the first priest abuse scandal. Many priests were simply shuffled from parish to parish to do the same thing, with everyone from city leaders to a cardinal either being silent or actively involved in a cover up, because these were just kids, after all.  This is not a treatise on all Catholics, nor do I blame all Catholics.

And then today, I finally sat down and watched a movie during the day time, that movie being the Normal Heart This movie is about the aids epidemic in New York, both locally and nationally in the eighties. It also includes well known facts about denial at the government level (including the current president, Reagan, who refused to authorize funding research or allow the Surgeon General in cabinet meetings). Everyone just went along, because after all, it did not affect them and AIDS was just a small disease (not). I told my eldest that after watching these two (excellent) movies, I really needed some lifting up.

There is an old phrase that goes something like "Show me your checkbook and I'll show you your priorities".  Originally, I think said phrase had to do with church, tithing and charity.  I would go further. I would say our calendars and our action (or inaction) as well as our words show the same thing.  Today I am writing about the words. Silence, especially, too often conspires with the bad in our world and has for years.

This is not about large political throw downs at home, or elsewhere.  We all have those days with family we need to bite our tongues.  In my very large family on my husband's side, I have learned that I am the progressive minority, and that on occasion silence is golden.  On the other hand, misinformation, generalities, unkindness-those are things that need to be dealt with.  While we can agree to disagree on occasion, standing up for what we know (or believe) is right is something we need to find a way to do. Do it kindly and tactfully when possible, but do it.

I'm not necessarily talking about the so called big issues either.  Silence has created an awful lot of smaller, localized problems, that can be equally important and equally unfair. When the guy at the bar says that all those homeless people really want to be homeless, do we smile and change the subject?  Or do we make it clear that no, that single mom with the three kids sleeping in her car really would rather be in a house or an apartment. In my case, when someone says that Syrian refugees should be banned from the United States, do I smile and move on or do I speak my mind.  For me at least, it's the latter.

Speaking up can be difficult, and no one knows that better than I.  I've been a progressive liberal working on a military base during the Abu Graib scandal. I'm a progressive who was used to living in a multicultural peaceful community that included all races and religions who has now moved to the white suburbs where generalities abound. I'm a left wing hippy according to my in laws, a sea of calm in a to the right of John Birch family. I know more than others what speaking up can mean.

I also know that my opinions are not those of every one else, and for someone else speaking up may be the exact opposite of the opinions I mentioned before.

Still, silence is not golden, much of the time. Saying something, doing something (more on the doing later), can make a difference.  Try it, you may like it.


  1. It is hard with family to know when to speak up and when to let it go. For example, in the spring my husband and daughter are going to Amsterdam and Paris for 10 days. He mentioned this at a recent lunch with 4 other family members. They were horrified because they are convinced that the Muslim terrorists have taken over Europe. Really. We let it go because going and having a great time will be the best rebuttal.

  2. A progressive hippy, oh my kind of person. Speaking up is better in most cases especially if you do it with a level of civility that probably isn't returned to you.

    Question everything... and speak up with you can add to the discussion

  3. Speaking up is something all of us need to do more often. I know there are times when I bite my tongue, especially with some members of the extended family.

    I need to watch those movies sometime very soon.

    God bless.

  4. I hear you, Barb. As a young person, I was labelled a rebel because I spoke up and questioned things. In my career, my frankness about obvious truths wasn't always appreciated. I think it's a Sufi practice related to speaking up - is it true? is it kind? does it need to be said? I try to practice that. And then there's the saying - say what you mean; mean what you say; don't say it mean. The truth is, I vacillate. My tongue gets sore from biting it and I speak up. I'm a big fan of Mark Ruffalo, one of the best actors IMHO.

  5. I was in my 30's in the 1980's. In NY Gay men helped make the city vibrant. They owned small businesses, were active in many areas and sadly many began as Republicans.
    Until they got sick they refused to believe that Reagan was sitting on his tush refusing to do anything.
    11 of my best friends died between 1985-2001. Only two saw their 40th birthdays. I can't imagine what NY and my life would have been like had they lived. No, I wasn't a "fag hag," who relied on Gays for my social life. Quite the opposite. I just liked them. If I dated somebody who "hated" my friends---the date went. But most NY'ers were tolerant and more.
    I mourn for the city and for the country that could have been. I spoke up then and I will always speak up. I look for the kindness that is in practically everybody but Donald Trump---I'm from Queens originally so I can say that.
    Kindness and rationality mixed with humor go far in getting people to listen to you

  6. Yes, I agree, especially if the "speaking up" is informed and thoughtful, but . . . please save me from those crushing bores of both the left and the right who never hesitate to tell you their opinion about everything, and it's the same opinion you've heard over and over again, and it's usually based on few if any facts. (You see a lot of those people on facebook.) Anyway, thanks for those two movie recommendations; they both sound good.

  7. I consider myself a Christian conservative, but I think the way the American church behaved during the AIDS outbreak was horrible. Churches still discriminate against the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, and people with developmental delays. I believe James had something to say about that....It's in the Bible.

  8. Barb, I'm not saying anything anymore. What for? Doesn't get me anywhere. Doesn't help anybody. People know what's best for themselves, so why bother....right?
    I found it sad to learn that yesterday, a neighbor refused to tell authorities about the strange behavior of the two Muslim terrorists in So Cal for fear of being called a racist.
    Just think, if the person had spoken up, 14 people might still be alive today.
    We have no one to blame except ourselves for our preposterous, ignorant beliefs.
    'Nuf said.

  9. Just for your info regarding "Spotlight," Michael Keaton just won the Best Actor award for it from the New York Film Critics Circle.

  10. A very timely post. Barb. A large part of our problem as a society is that people don't speak up when they should - against racism, injustice, bigotry, stupidity. Other commentators are absolutely correct: speaking up must be done rationally and calmly. Adding heat to the situation won't help anyone.But, neither will holding our tongue. Then, we just become part of the problem.


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