Stand Up

Published: October 5, 2021

By Jim Lichtman
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We are living in an age of animosity that has momentarily killed our faith in each other.

If I’m repeating a refrain from past commentaries, so be it. We need to be reminded of the cancer that is infecting America’s soul—anger that leads to hate, hate to violence and a helplessness that cries out for healing.

Every now and then the country succumbs to the likes of a Sen. McCarthy, a General Walker, or a George Wallace. Now it’s a Donald Trump—a self-serving, authoritarian former president—who not only lit the match to anger and hate in the country but continues to fuel the fear in those who align with his malignant need to tear down our democracy.

Every now and then we need to revisit the long, hard road of democratic evolution this country has fought for and ultimately won. We need to understand past corruptions so that we might learn the lessons and and respond with the duty and courage necessary to move us forward.

In his speech to the University at Cape Town, South Africa—known as The Ripple of HopeRobert Kennedy spoke of individual liberty and the moral courage necessary to protect it.

“‘There is,’ said an Italian philosopher, ‘nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.’ Yet this is the measure of the task of your generation, and the road is strewn with many dangers.

“First, is the danger of futility: the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills-against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s greatest movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. . .

“The second danger is that of expediency; of those who say that hopes and beliefs must bend before immediate necessities. . .  if we would act effectively, we must deal with the world as it is. We must get things done.

“Of course, to adhere to standards, to idealism, to vision in the face of immediate dangers takes great courage and takes self-confidence. But we also know that only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.

“A third danger is timidity. Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.

“The fourth danger is comfort, the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who have the privilege of education.

“But that is not the road history has marked out for us. There is a Chinese curse which says, ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. And everyone here will ultimately be judged, will ultimately judge himself, on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort. . .

“Those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.”

America is only as strong as those citizens who stand up to tyranny. It’s only as strong as their willingness and courage to heal the divisions between us.


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