It doesn’t matter whether you are twenty, thirty, fifty, or one hundred years old. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor. It doesn’t matter whether you live in New York, Las Vegas, Slippery Rock, Luckenbach, or Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a high school education, an Ivy League B.A., or a PhD. It certainly doesn’t matter whether you’re Republican, Democrat, libertarian, or a socialist.
At some point in your life, you likely have had to stand up to someone who is abusing authority or acting irresponsibly. You may have had to confiscate the keys from a friend who intends to drive drunk. Or report a boss’s discrimination to your HR department. Or as happened recently at Texas A&M, take a public stand against bigotry.
It’s hard. Often we feel terribly alone. Sometimes the consequences of “doing the right thing” appear to cost too much. We may lose friends or family, we may lose our job. We can second-guess ourselves forever, wondering if it would have been smarter to stay silent. You know what I’m talking about. You cannot live life without facing these kinds of situations head-on.
Last month I challenged all of us, myself included, to commit to acting like neighbors.
It’s not easy, I wrote. And it may require a certain amount of personal inconvenience. Speaking for myself, I can be a coward when I am asked to leave my comfort zone.
Little did I know that about two weeks later, I would have to prove my convictions. This time, the stakes involved with “doing the right thing” are higher than I’ve ever faced. When I can write about it, I will.
An interesting by-product of these past two weeks: I have a much greater appreciation for and admiration of these young people who did the right thing knowing full well that their courage would (not may) cost them everything. Their stakes were so high, what I’m facing wouldn’t even be a blip on their radar. And those older friends, and adults in other resistance movements? They have my utmost respect. Living with a backbone while worrying about family is the ultimate test of one’s beliefs.
If anything, I personally am more motivated than ever before to keep our work going. With media of all brands shoving so many anti-heroes into the faces of our young people – from corrupt politicians to bad-boy celebrities, to the glorification of outright criminals – we need these stories. They remind us that Good exists in the darkest of days, that even when the masses follow a murderous leader, there are brave souls who are willing to fight for justice.
This isn’t a religious thing. This is not a political thing. This is not morality as morality is so often misdefined.
This is a matter of putting a stop to harmful acts, to abuse, to bigotry, to racism, to hurtful words, to misinformation that kills, to fraud that harms the innocent. This is a matter of calling down justice upon the land.
This is something that Willi Graf and Alexander Schmorell and Sophie Scholl and Traute Lafrenz and Christoph Probst and Lilo Ramdohr and Wilhelm Geyer understood well. We owe it to them, and to our young people, to keep their work alive.