Saturday, January 28, 2012

Speaking out...

I don't normally post things other than pictures and other non-controversial content. This is not one of those posts. Let me say from the outset that this is not to endorse a political agenda on the left or the right. I have my own opinions, but those are not for publication here. The purpose of this post is to highlight something that bothers me greatly but seems to be happening more and more. Since I am not trying to endorse a certain side of the spectrum in this forum, I have an example from the left and the right. Enough disclaimer. I hope since you have followed me thus far, you will indulge me a bit further...

I went down the local Occupy Chattanooga camp today. Housed on the lawn of our courthouse, it is a shabby collection of torn tents and dirty residents. A few of the guys came up and talked with me for a few minutes while I was taking pictures. I was surprised to find that they were not all jobless or homeless. Several had both and just spent their free hours there.

One of the guys there had painted these messages on his tent. He talked about how people called them names and tried to shut them down. Even his hippies slogan was a title that was awarded by opponents. The name was awarded in an attempt to shame him, but he wore it as a badge of honor. While I was talking with him, people drove by shouting at them and generally trying to discourage their ongoing presence.

On the other side of the spectrum is a 15 year old Wisconsin boy that was asked to write an article in the school paper. The paper was wanting to portray two sides of the gay adoption debate. His side was against gay adoption because it violated his religious beliefs. Once the article was published, people complained and he was called into the office. The principle called him ignorant and threatened to suspend him. You can find the article about it on Fox News website

The part that concerns me is that while you hear tolerance and understanding preached en masse, some of society is becoming less tolerant and understanding of people with opposite beliefs. I don't think that people in general hold this mindset, but it is a growing vocal minority that is challenging our way of life. To them, no longer is it ok for me to believe what I believe. Now, my beliefs have to be accepted by the people around me in order for me to claim them as my own. I find that to be greatly disturbing. 

I don't expect that everyone will agree with me. I am fine with those that hold opinions that are opposed to mine. That is their right as expressed in the Constitution. We all hold the right to freedom of speech and religion. It doesn't mean that we have to agree or even like what the other side has to say. It just means they have the right to say it. 

Dierks Bentley has a song called "Home". Part of the lyrics are this:

Free, nothin' feels like free,Though it sometimes meansWe don't get along'Cause same, no we're not the sameBut that's what makes us strong

I firmly believe that is true and needs to be guarded fiercely. I would like to leave you with a poem from a German pastor and activist named Martin Niemoller. He was a in Germany during the rise of the Nazis. He penned these words and they have haunted me quite a bit this week. I hope you find them as striking as I did.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

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