Happy Fourth of July, my friends! May your day be safe and beautiful, full of good food, great company, happy pets and perhaps a gorgeous fireworks show to end this holiday. Sometime during your festivities today, I would like you to take a moment to ponder something that has been keeping my mind occupied this weekend. On Friday a great man named Elie Wiesel passed away at age 87. He was not born an American, no, he was born in Romania and did not become a U.S. citizen until 1963. Elie Wiesel is one of those brave souls that survived the Holocaust, as you can read in his book ‘Night.’ If you have never read this little paperback, I strongly suggest you go find a copy. The images and feelings he was able to convey in so few pages is astounding. It will change you on a fundamental level. You are probably wondering why I mention him on the day we celebrate our country- and it’s rather simple, I think we all have a lot we can learn from him, a lesson we are in desperate need of.
I think we are all well aware of the state of the world that we live in. Every day there is news of another bombing, another shooting, more refugees without homes, crumbling economies, starving families, death and destruction. We see so much that it is easy to turn our backs so that we do not have to feel the daily pain that these stories will cause. What can we do to help, after all? We are just one voice, no one will listen to us. It is moments like this that we must remember the voices who cannot speak. We must hear the stories to keep them from happening again instead of standing idly by.
It is easy to say that one voice cannot make a different, it can be carried away with the wind, there is no power there. But one voice speaking out may give others the same courage. And then you have two, three, a chorus, a symphony- you cannot be ignored. The world we live in is always changing- sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And every generation has to fight to find their place in it. Every generation feels lost because they came into this world when it was in dire straits. I hate to say this- but our world is always in this condition.
I have fallen for this logic too. Why should I speak out when there is no one to listen to me? I despise confrontation, and the last thing I ever want to do is offend someone. But where do you draw the line between keeping people happy and doing what is right? If you stand by and do nothing, are you just as guilty?
Now, I typically do not discuss my personal or political opinions unless I am specifically asked. Today, however, upon remembering his stories and his lessons, I find myself searching for something deeper within myself. He always said that the greatest sin was indifference. And I believe there is something to be said for the notion that a lack of action makes you just as guilty as those taking action. If you stand by and watch the world burn, how is it any different from you holding the match?
We find ourselves in a unique set of circumstance, able to easily reach out and have our voices heard through the advent of social media. We also have the responsibility that comes with information being immediately within our grasp; if we bother to look, we can see everything- the refugee crisis, the economic collapse, war, hate crimes, the fate of the political arena- there are so many problems, it is easy to get overwhelmed. So we look away, find something fun to fill our time, tell ourselves that it is not our responsibility. But we are wrong. Today, on the day that we celebrate our country and the values that it stands for, and in honor of this fallen hero, I make a promise to myself- I will not forget. There will be no more watching in silence, no more telling myself that my voice is so small, it will not matter. My voice alone may not make a difference, but if it finds others- we could become a roaring ocean. The world that we live in is a dark and scary place, and like the characters in our stories, we must all learn to take a stand, to say that enough is enough. I don’t have much to offer, just my humble written words- but perhaps that could be enough. If I can get through to just one person, then it was not in vain.
So tonight, as you watch the beautiful fireworks shows and enjoy the company of friends and families, take a moment to remember why we are doing this: because there were a few voices who decided to speak, who brought a fledgling nation to action. It started out as just a simple idea and it changed the world. I don’t know if my voice will ever make a difference, but at least I can be comfortable in the fact that I did not stand idly by and watch events take place. I am not a simple bystander to my life. We all live here, we all have a duty to stand up for our beliefs. We have a responsibility to speak for those who have no voice- we do this in hopes that someday, if we ever lose ours, someone else will be brave enough to speak for us.