Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Silence of our Friends"

On Monday of this week we celebrated the life of human rights advocate, Martin Luther King, Jr. For the week leading up to the holiday my friends posted some of their favorite King quotes on Facebook.

Cameron posted the following King quote on his profile page: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Dr. King’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968. I was six years old—a kindergartner at Tarpey Elementary School in Clovis, California. I don’t remember how my parents reacted to the leader’s death, but I remember people around me expressing concern for the state of our world.

We lived in California, where everyone accepted everybody and everything, and I never sensed the deep-seated kind of hatred that white people in other parts of the country seemed to feel toward blacks. That may be why I was much older before I really understood the risks that Martin Luther King, Jr. took in speaking boldly.

Dr. King encouraged all of us to refrain from silence. It wasn’t enough to have black friends, he asked us to speak out and speak up for said friends. He gave us all—regardless of skin color—the courage to speak boldly.

I do understand how silence can ruin a friendship and shatter a trust. I long ago accepted the ugliness and weakness of character as revealed when a person opens their mouth to condemn, criticize, or castigate an innocent person. But the friend who sits quietly by and says nothing? I can’t comprehend what motivates that kind of silence.

We don’t hesitate to open our mouths and vomit our opinions on anyone who might be within earshot. We declare the democrats are too soft, the republicans lack compassion, Christians are hypocrites, and the police are corrupt. We whine and complain about the weather, high gas prices, the cost of pack of cigarettes, and the volume at which television commercials are blasted at us.

We don’t hesitate to express our opinions concerning subjects about which we have little knowledge, and yet we fail to speak up on behalf of a friend in need of our support.

Have you kept silent for too long? It’s not too late to let your voice be heard. Someone needs you to break your silence today. I bet you can think of a friend who needs you to do more than nod in agreement. They need you to open your mouth and tell the truth—to defend them against a terrible wrong.

At the end of my friends’ lives I would hate any one of them to spend a minute remembering a time when I could’ve spoken up, but didn’t. How sad that would be!

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

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