"I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." - Elie Weisel
This quote immediately struck a chord when I read it. Quotes have the unique ability to encapsulate profound truth in a minimal number of words. They illuminate the hazy places in our thoughts....shining a light of recognition...putting into words what previously was a vague idea floating around in our subconscious. Like putting a face with a name....quotes bring clarity...solidify a belief, a yearning, a conviction. I love quotes.
The above quote was coined by Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor. A life long activist for peace despite the horror he endured as a teenager...witnessing the deaths (murder) of his parents and...from what I can remember....at least one sibling. He has seen the very worst of mankind...yet he still believes in the future....
"I believe in God--in spite of God! I believe in Mankind--in spite of Mankind! I believe in the Future--in spite of the Past!"
So anyway....I digress and wax poetic....back to the original quote.
I often speak out against those I deem bullies. Bullies who live in our modern society...bullies from the past...and those who seem destined to become the aggressors of the future. I root for the underdog. My heart goes out to those who are terrorized....pushed around....treated unfairly.....murdered....beaten...assaulted verbally or physically.
This includes anyone the Westboro Baptist Church sets their sites on. It includes the Native Americans whose land the white Europeans stole. It includes the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki....and the Japanese Americans here in the United States who were demonized and shipped off to "concentration camps" in the land of the free and the brave. It includes the "Ites" in the Old Testament....you know...the Canaanites, the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Hivites.....all those deemed worthy of genocide by the Children of Israel. It includes women who were tortured and imprisoned fighting for the right to vote, and the blacks in the 60's during Martin Luther King's era. When I think of anyone...of any color, race (or religion) forced to sit in the back of the bus...not allowed to drink out of the "white folks only" water fountain, I'm disgusted...outraged. The belief of racial superiority carried to extreme in South Africa...demonstrated by the violent, illegal, immoral activities of the KKK is ridiculous.
My outrage includes all those who have been tortured, killed, oppressed via religious persecution or for political gain....down through the ages (the Inquisition, Salem Witch Hunts) and in the present (the rule and reign of the Taliban, the Hutus' mass killings of Tutsis, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Darfur) And the Holocaust? Well, that is the crowing glory of man's inhumanity to man....a hideous display of how low mankind can sink.
I feel similar stirrings when I visit a message board or blog and read comments that paint all Muslims with the same (terrorist) brush. And Christians slamming gays...well don't get me started on that one.
Pam Geller, Ann Colter, Laura Schlesinger...loud mouthed, mean spirited, sarcastic hypocrites.
But I've often wondered why I feel okay speaking out (loudly and sarcastically) against the women I just listed....or against one of the very right wing conservative fundamentalist websites whose sole purpose is to pick apart anyone deemed new age, anti bible, or a member of a cult to preserve Biblical Christianity. The Dominionists, the Taliban…those are the ones we can paint with the same brush. The quote by Weisel kind of clarifies it for me.
If you throw the first punch....verbally or physically....and especially if you continue to throw punches...you are fair game. Silence, in the face of oppression (past, present or future), is really not an option. Neutrality helps the oppressor. Silence encourages the tormentor.