The Most Important Word of Our Time: Complicit

Albert Einstein said: “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” Complicity…to be complicit. For me, this word, “complicit” is the most important word of our time.

To remain silent is to be complicit. To remain silent is to allow bigotry, hate, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia to gain an even bigger footing in our world. To remain silent is to be complicit.

I see so much despair around me. I see anger and frustration and fear. I feel the negative, frightening energy of what is happening and the raw emotion so many are feeling now and I ask myself “what can I do?”  At the end of the day, that is the question each of us must ask: what can I do?  I cannot control the actions and words and opinions of others. I cannot stop the voices of hate and racism – not alone.

However, it is truly the “I” that is the only thing over which I have control.

I can control what I do…or what I fail to do. If my fear causes me to remain silent, I am complicit. My silence will only aid the dark forces out there that would take away the human rights of Muslims, gay and transgender people, women, African Americans, Latinos and aid in the destruction of our natural world.

It feels much safer and less scary to stay neutral, to stay silent….but my gut tells me that if I remain silent, I will be complicit.  Neutral people, who do not speak their mind or take a side…they have it easier for sure. Neutral people are less likely to lose friends, lose close relationships. Neutral people may comfort themselves by saying they are the “calm in the storm”. Neutral people may present themselves as more “fair” and more “reasonable” than parties on either side of the difficult issues. Neutral people will rationalize that by staying silent and by avoiding conflict, they are protecting their families, their jobs, their livelihoods, their reputations.   A neutral person is less likely to lose their job by speaking up against an injustice.

A neutral person may keep their friends and their families and their safe personal world intact – for a while — and they may never experience the anxiety and frustration and anger that comes from conflict. Avoiding conflict is a hell of a lot less scary than engaging in conflict.

There can be no doubt there are benefits to being neutral….but the consequences to our world are far worse. To those who would stay silent, to those who do not take a side, make no mistake: you are complicit in whatever tragedies and bad times lie ahead.  You may tell yourself that you are helping one side or the other by remaining silent, but the fact is that, by your silence, you are helping no one and hurting everyone.

Silence and neutrality are not an option in these times. Neutrality is never an option. The Holocaust, along with other horrific historical events, taught us the unspeakable cost of staying silent, of trying to stay neutral.

It simply cannot be an option. It is terrifying to stand up, to speak out. I speak from personal experience. I am scared shitless every time I speak out – even here as I watch these words appear on this computer screen, I feel deep fear.  I know that my words and actions may be met with great hostility and anger and criticism and judgment. I may lose that which is dear to me. It feels like a risk to stand and be counted…and it is. If you are a reserved sort of person or a shy person or a person who hates the anxiety and upset of conflict (like me), it takes tremendous courage to speak one’s mind, especially in times like these.

I think of those who were disturbed or offended by Donald Trump’s words and actions the past year, but put it all aside to vote for him anyway – or those who stayed home and did not vote at all because they did not like the choices. My guess is that many Trump supporters may have put all his terrible behavior aside when they cast their vote because they believed that he would address their problems in a way that nobody else could.

(I still don’t understand why they believed that Donald Trump could ever be the answer to all their problems or how they could “put aside” his racism, hate-speech, dishonesty, misogyny, etc. and vote for him anyway — but the fact remains that a great many people voted for him….and here we are.)

STILL, whether you are a Trump supporter or a Hillary supporter or a Bernie supporter or a Johnson supporter or a Stein supporter, or if you did not vote at all, not a single one of you (of us) can afford to stay silent in these times.

We need to know where you stand. I need to know where you stand and you need to know where I stand.   We need to know where every one of us stands right now, so that we can have meaningful, civil, respectful, courageous, honest and compassionate dialogue and figure out how to make our lives and our world better – FOR ALL OF US.

Nobody can stay on the sidelines. Nobody can stay in the shadows and hope others will solve all the problems. Whatever your opinion, please speak out. (How am I going to argue with you if I don’t know who you are or what you believe?)

It’s been said before – democracy is damn messy. Damn right it is. Free speech, debate, protests, elections…all of it. As we have seen, it can get ugly as hell and it can even get violent (which I pray does not happen), but at the end of the day, every one of us MUST CHOOSE A SIDE – every day on every issue that matters to us. It will not be fun. At all – but we must do it. We must not be complicit.

You can bet your ass I will be out there with my poster board signs and my sneakers, chanting for peace, justice, love and fairness, every week, on every issue that touches my heart and rattles my brain.   (I may buy the entire stock of foam board at Staples because I know there is a lot of protesting ahead.)   I may get shouted at and insulted and criticized, but I will be out there for the next 4 (or 8) years standing up for what is right. I will be scared as hell every single time I do it, but I will do it anyway, because I know all of it is so much bigger and so much more important than me. It is not about you or me. It is about our world and our children, and our children’s children’s children.  It is about figuring out what kind of world we want to live in.

I urge every one of you to do the same. Stand up, speak out, find your courage and debate like crazy. You may lose friends and much more, but at the end of the day, none of this is about any individual, it is about ALL OF US – every person on this planet.

Future generations not even born yet are counting on us to get this right. They are counting on us to leave them a world of justice and freedom and decency and peace and goodwill.  They are counting on us to leave them a world of clean air, clean water and pure soil.  Those things may seem like an impossible dream right now, but if we give up on the dream, we let MLK down, we let all who have sacrificed so much down, we let ourselves down and most important of all, we let our children down.

However full of despair you feel today, please fight back by speaking out and standing up for what is just and decent in this world. (We may not ever completely agree on what those words mean, but at least we will know who is on which team and that is a start.) I am not afraid of Trump supporters or Hillary supporters or anyone I have heard from so far. I am afraid of those who have remained silent, those who have been complicit by their silence. Complicity frightens me more than an opposing view. Complicity and silence is the worst of all possible worlds.

If your heart is broken or you are confused and you don’t know what to do, I can only suggest this: get out there and help somebody, help a lot of somebodies…but get out there and get to work. Our country may be in crisis, but there are still a hell of a lot of people who still need our help, no matter who is president.

If you don’t get out there (literally or metaphorically) and take a stand, you are complicit and my heart tells me to its core that complicit is the worst possible thing any one of us can be right now.

So, let’s stand up, speak out, get to work. Let’s do it with courage, grace and with love in our hearts, but let’s do it.   It will be very painful at times, but not one of us can stay silent. Too much is at stake.

So, let’s do this — and let’s try not to harm each other too much in the process. Right now we may think unity is impossible, but I believe that is true only if we believe it is.

As my favorite fictional brothers would say, “We’ve Got Work To Do”. Please get to work…and please don’t be complicit.




One response to this post.

  1. Posted by karen counts on November 18, 2016 at 12:15 am


    Sent from my iPhone



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