Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rights Are Nonpartisan

I was bullied in school. Of course I was. I was a weirdo. A freak. I preferred reading the entire encyclopedia and discussing sedimentary rock to playing hopscotch and wearing dresses. I ran around the playground barking like a dog. Why? I watched my grandmother beat the crap out of our Cocker Spaniel on a daily basis and he showed no pain. I wanted to show no pain. 

What I needed was just one kid to stand up for me and say "stop it" to the bullies. Because once one kid does it (especially a popular or at least a likable one), more will find the courage to do the same. And there are far more non-bullies than bullies, a truth we are too easily blinded from.

But that's not usually how it goes down, is it? You see, a bullied kid is more apt to be surrounded by others who look the other way due to feeling uncomfortable or fear being bullied themselves. "Not my problem." They'd say. 

All the while, they are next in line--as long as they remain silent.

My bullying experience continued until one lucky day in high school, my freshman year, a girl (a big, intimidating girl who may have been 6 feet tall) had heard a group of kids calling me names and throwing gum in my hair. I watched from afar as she approached the group. Heard a bit of yelling, saw some neck rolling, a push and a shove, and somehow, from that day forward, I was never picked on in school again. Just. Like. That. 

My guardian angel left my high school soon after that . . . don't know why or where she went, or even who she was, but I never saw her again. 

This is not a girl I would have probably bonded with or hung around with at lunch or at dances. I don't think she wanted that. We may or may not have agreed on much, but how would I know? The important thing was she recognized that I was human, that I mattered. That's all I needed to help me move through a time in my life that was painful enough.

Did I deserve to go to school without having to worry about if I were going to be beat up while walking home, or who would be waiting for me around the corner to spit on me or punch me in the back of the head? Of course I did. And so did every other student in my school and ALL schools. Just as every citizen of this country and every being on this planet and beyond deserves to have the same rights, equally. Not just the ones you or I agree with. 

Our rights are our rights and RIGHTS ARE NONPARTISAN. If some of us lose them, we ALL lose them

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemoller, 
Protestant pastor who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Think of this when you see a community other than the one(s) you directly relate to fighting for their rights. Turning the other way may stall the bullies, but it will never stop them. Speak up.  

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