“It begins when we are always afraid”

I wonder how many children’s lives might be saved if we educators disclosed what we know to each other. —Roland Barth

Resilient people are often called upon by circumstances to act courageously, and it’s a challenge they are likely to accept, although sometimes reluctantly.

Last week on the eve of Donald Trump’s promised announcement regarding foreign hacking I posted two back-to-back tweets:

“Couldn’t sleep last night because of excitement about Trump telling us what only he knows about hacking. Hope I don’t have to wait.”

And:

“Hope I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to find out what only Trump knows about hacking. Or forever. Can’t stand the excitement.”

Moments later a line from a a 1960s-era song ran through my head: “It begins when we are always afraid.”

I realized that in some part of my brain I was fearful of the kind of vicious attack suffered by others, even lowly sorts like myself, who dared criticize some aspect of the new political order.

Here are some of the lyrics from that song, “Stop, Hey What’s That Sound”:

“Paranoia strikes deep

into your life it will creep

it starts when you’re always afraid

step out of line the man come and take you away.”

We know who “the man” is. And we know who (and what) he has promised to take away.

And we have seen what has happened to those who dare criticize “the man” or his minions.

As the old saying goes, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

But this isn’t a story about my courage, or my paranoia. I wasn’t acting courageously because I only thought about the risks after I posted the tweets.

It’s a story about the role that courage can play in our lives.

Each of us, many times a week, decides whether we will speak or act in the face of fear about known or unknown consequences.

Sometimes the consequences are real. The thing we fear may happen when we speak or act in accordance with our conscience.

It is also true that bad things do happen to people when we withhold “our truth” from others.

As Edmund Burke said more than two centuries ago:  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

How do you decide if and when to speak and act?

2 Responses to ““It begins when we are always afraid””


  1. 1 Jim Knight January 11, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    The only way I can see out of the polarized mess we are experiencing is through dialogue, but the challenge we face is trying to find ways to have dialogue with people who do not want to have dialogue with us.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks January 12, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Therein lies the problem and the opportunity, Jim.

      Here’s what I think I know, at least tentatively. (I’m quite confident you know all of these things and probably more.)

      Things will not get better if we only talk within our circles of agreement.

      While we can’t control how others respond to us, we can clearly and respectfully offer our point of view and then listen carefully without interruption to what others have to say.

      It’s essential for my well-being and for the relationship that I back away from conversations that becomes arguments (which I define as two senders and no receivers).

      Recognize that people are influenced at least as much by stories and images as they are by evidence and logic.

      Remember that change is both person to person and political. Both processes benefit from group support and community. (I will write about the political in a future post.)

      The alternative to these actions is resignation, perhaps the most dangerous mindset of all.

      The challenge, of course, is in the doing of these things….


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