“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel
This statement is rallying, challenging, and perfect. It’s part of Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, in which he invokes his experiences as a teenager in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, where his entire family was killed. He calls out the complicity of silence and willful ignorance in the face of injustice. His words were painfully apt in the mid-80s, and sadly they are just as timely today.
Wiesel calls us to action in the name of peace, because too often peace gets miscast as passive unflappable centrism.
He calls us to speak up in the name of truth, because too often truth is treated as a middling factual compromise.
He calls us to take a committed stand and actually walk our talk, because too easily we can convince ourselves that the noblest or most “evolved” path is to rise above the rocky road of real human experience, conveniently preserving our own equanimity and comfort.
I understand the wish to make peace, truth, and harmony about not taking sides. I really do. It sounds so nice — staying out of it, rising above it, transcending negativity by simply affirming pleasantries. I wish it worked. Alas, it doesn’t.
In my experience such a so-called “high road” is usually just the bypass route on the way to Bullshitsville. It doesn’t go near anyplace real.
My soul longs for both Reality and reality.
Not only the abstract transcendent capital-R Reality of Infinite Love and Eternal Paradise. I do catch uplifting glimmers of that. I believe in it, and I believe it’s where we’re all headed. But certainly we’re not there yet. I mean, come on.
So right now, I also yearn for reality in our human connections, in time and space, difficult as they may be — honestly sharing our experiences, forging genuine relationships, honoring each other and ourselves.
And I think that the only way really to get to the Divine Reality is through our gritty human reality. The only way to get to Peace Everlasting is by actively working for peace through discord. We get to Love Everlasting by practicing love and compassion through loss and hardship.
We must take a stand.
Reading over what I’ve written, it sounds a little strident. I don’t mean to be harsh. I’m not suggesting a perpetual state of outrage — we don’t need to be champions and warriors every moment of every day. Honestly, I’m pretty darned exhausted by the state of the world. And I want to have a good time as much as the next person. I want to know relaxation, quiet, breathing room, and contentment. I want to feel good. Let’s all feel good!
The thing is, taking a stand can be as straight-forward and simple as being fully ourselves — remembering that we’re enough. We have what it takes. We’re here for a reason.
There’s nothing middling about that.
I can’t wait to see you this Sunday, August 4. XO, Drew
© 2019 Drew Groves