I am both encouraged and quite frustrated by what I am seeing on social media today. I have many friends who (along with millions of others) are attending protests and rallies in both Washington, DC, and in other cities across this country. I am seeing their photos and comments of excitement and encouragement. I also see comments from many friends who are saying something to the effect of “be quiet and go home.”
Implying that others should be quiet stands against principles of democracy and freedom. It is un-compassionate, un-loving, un-American, and un-Christian.
I am convinced that many Americans care little about freedom. We talk about the concept of freedom. We celebrate it until we are faced with the idea that other people are free to do things that we don’t like. We appreciate freedom of religion until we are surrounded by people who embrace a religion of which we are afraid. We enjoy freedom of speech until someone yells something that offends us. We like freedom of assembly until we are inconvenienced by the assembly of others.
If we truly value freedom, then we have to defend the freedom of every person. Protest and aggressive debate are some of our nation’s greatest signifiers of freedom.
In a democratic system everyone gets to contribute. The seeds of democracy were planted at the founding of the United States of America, but 200 years ago many people were not allowed to participate. As a society we have decided that it is immoral to exclude non-whites, women, and poor people from the system of shaping this nation. If we imply that people who hold opinions different from our own should be silent, then we are trampling on democracy and the very idea that “all men are created equal.” Freedom, equality, and justice are difficult and inconvenient, but without them, we cannot be Americans.
Many of those who gather today are doing so as, or on behalf of, people who have been voiceless. Women, people-of-color, immigrants, gay people, and poor people have been severely marginalize in the past and continue to be marginalized to varying degrees. Silencing those who choose to shine a light on this sin reveals a disturbing callousness. If we would be people of compassion, then we should always be on the side of those who are trampled, overlooked, and voiceless.
Love means laying down ourselves in preference of another person. Silencing others is never loving. Telling other people that their hurts and fears are illegitimate is never loving. Choosing not to hear others is never loving. Choosing not to stand up for others is never loving.