They will make him bear the sins of the world. But it’s not true. You suspected what was happening, and so did I. ~Iain Pears
When there is a mistake, a miscommunication, a misunderstanding, or a major blunder it is all too easy to put the blame on one someone when it really was a council, a board, or a society who is to blame. It’s even possible that I am partly to blame and need to say as much. As I read Pears’ words, referencing Hitler’s atrocious actions in Germany, I found myself looking at so much that is going on in today’s world, even in my own world, and knowing he was right. We suspect what is happening, yet say and do little or nothing at all.
The Tremeloes sang “Silence is golden, but my eyes still see,” a reminder that just because we sit in silence doesn’t mean we don’t still see painful, hurtful things. It seems, then, that ‘they’ and we would be better served if we speak.
My first thought about not remaining silent is about social injustices. I cheer the underdog, wish people were nicer, believe that laws should be upheld to protect, and I sometimes find it easiest to do those things from the quiet safety of my mind. Speaking up is scary. If I’m speaking up for some group, there is the risk of backlash. Silence sometimes seems golden, but breaking my silence means people could be safer.
My second thought about not remaining silent is about the dangers I see around me. The erratic driver on the road makes us mad, possibly scares us, and we back away because we know they will probably crash. Silence might seem golden as we seek to not get involved, but a simple phone call to authorities could result in lives being spared.
My third thought about not remaining silent is when there are dangers in my own life, self-imposed: feeling I’ve failed or disappointed people, feeling I’ve not achieved what I thought I could, feeling alone and being afraid to reach out. Those aren’t dangers in just my life, they are in the lives of everyone around us. Remaining silent in those moments is anything but golden and can result in fatal consequences.
I was looking through photos I had taken and came across a picture of a young girl peering into a hand-held mirror, as her daddy’s hand rested on her shoulder. He, like thousands of other parents, has an opportunity to teach that little person that she has a voice and doesn’t have to remain silent, though if you’ve ever heard a child talk incessantly, silence is indeed sometimes golden. My wish for her is my wish for every child, to speak up when she knows something doesn’t feel right, to question when she is uneasy, to not remain silent when she sees others suffering at the hand of someone more powerful, to speak when she is sad.
That wish is for you and for me to begin where we are. Family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends, strangers with whom we share space in our homes, in stores, on the roads, or in the greater world all present opportunities for us to suspect what is happening and say nothing or speak in hopes of creating safety.
Atrocities in history have sometimes been blamed on one individual, but truly it was a society who suspected what was happening and said and did little or nothing. Whether it is breaking our silence to ask for help for ourselves or breaking our silence to offer our help to others, we simply must speak.
When the crickets are chirping and the toads are croaking on a summer night, human silence is golden. When we suspect that things in our world are not as they should be, we might think silence is golden, but eyes still see.