…except when I am.
Kind of a pointless statement, don’t you think? The thing is, it’s really not. There are a disturbing number of people out there who are not activists, period. As much as it blows my mind, there are people who see the title ‘activist’ as a sort of insult. Who get angry with the people who have the drive to consistently stand up to injustice in the status quo. Who get defensive — or aggressive — when they feel that ‘peaceful’ status quo being threatened.
And as much as it shames me to say, I can understand that. I’ve had that same knee-jerk reaction to the discomfort of seeing injustice that benefits me called out for what it is. Worse, I have been that person who reads the depressing news, sees the protests, and wished it could all just go away so I could go back to my peaceful, happy life with my personal interests and concerns.
Except… that’s what activists want, too. Only they don’t just want it for themselves: they want it for everyone, and are willing to stand up for that against the injustices they see. The injustices that the status quo, in its efforts to preserve itself, tells us to ignore or trivialize or accept as inevitable.
It is not enough to say ‘this does not concern me’ simply because the injustice in question does not oppress me. Rather, that is when we need activists the most, to shake us out of our blind complacency and show us that by saying nothing and doing nothing we are reinforcing the system as it stands. And if that system is unjust…
Well, then however much we may want to deny it we must admit that we are complacent in that injustice. Whether we ask to benefit from it or not is immaterial: if we do not raise our voices against it, or in support of those who do, then we only serve to strengthen the foundation of an oppressive system — like the bricks in the Berlin Wall, people need not do or say anything to still lend their strength to something vile and injust, simply by doing nothing at all.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself. … Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I am not an activist. I do not have the psychological fortitude to face the injustice in the world and battle against it day in and day out. But I have stood with them at protests. Supported the cause. Done what I could, when I could.
I don’t know if that’s enough. I don’t think anything can be ‘enough’ until injustice is no longer a part of our world. Human nature being what it is, I expect we will always need activists. And I for one am thankful for them.
So, thank you. I don’t know how often it is said — but I imagine it cannot be said enough. It is through the actions of activists on behalf of social justice that our society betters itself. I am immeasurably grateful to those who are stronger than I; to those for whom social justice is both passion and calling, for bearing the emotional burden and weight of responsibility that so often overwhelms me.
Really, I think that is what this boils down to. A thank you to those who’s fortitude and conviction allows them to do more than I, and a promise to do my best to support you when and how I can.
So: Thank you. You are appreciated. Don’t be worn down by the cruelties you stand in opposition to. Your work is necessary and good. I thank you for it, and so to Will those future generations who live in a world where the justices you have fought for are so prevalent that they are taken for granted. Perhaps not in words — they may give your struggles no more thought than many of us give the battles for social justice that preceded today’s. But their gratitude will be inherent in their actions; in living the lives your struggles against inequity and injustice secured for them to live.
So, once more: Thank you. Always.
(Also, I feel like a dope: I meant to post this months and months ago, but just spotted it sitting there as a draft on my tablet today.)