One of the messages I always try to get across to the students in the classes I teach — and I have recently tried to do a better job conveying to some of my former law clerks and interns — is just how important one’s voice is. Everyone’s paths, their life experiences, what they’ve read and seen and who they’ve met, known and talked to are as unique as their DNA.
Every single person’s voice is different from that of anyone else in this world, and as such, one should never be too shy, insecure, or “polite” to speak up when their voice needs to be heard.
Well, that’s easier to say than to do. But a tweet, of all things, is pushing me to practice what I preach.
I came across a retweet from Aditi Juneja that has had over 26,000 retweets and 50,000 likes.
If you’ve wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights movement…you’re doing it now. #Charlottesville
— Aditi Juneja (@AditiJuneja3) August 12, 2017
For whatever reason, that stuck with me and hit me like a punch in the gut. And it reminded me of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem “First they came …”:
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.
That tweet made me think about my decision not to write about the continued and cowardly blackballing of Colin Kaepernick from the NFL based upon a straw-man-argument conflation of his method of protesting social and racial justice issues with a disparagement of the military. Notably, while Kaepernick cannot get a job because of his views, those in Charlottesville who publicly and proudly espoused racial and religious hatred and unabashedly declared themselves to be part of terrorist organizations had no concern of returning to and keeping their jobs Monday.
That tweet made me think of my continued wavering between either merely deleting from my Facebook or trying to talk to someone who I once had a great deal of respect for whose postings go beyond political leanings and into the realm or racial and religious bigotry.
That tweet made me think about my decision not to write about the emotions and feelings and stories and plights post-election of people I knew who feared that the result emboldened people like those who showed up in Charlottesville to not hide behind screen names on message boards in their hatred, but to go out and express those feeling to the world.
And that tweet made me be introspective as to whether I, if I fail to use my voice, was failing the standard I have for myself set forward by the words of Charles Hamilton Houston:
A lawyer’s either a social engineer or … a parasite on society … A social engineer [is] a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who [understands] the Constitution of the United States and [knows] how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.
So for today at least, I have my voice, and I urge all of those who hear it (or in this case read it), to use their own, with respect, with intelligence and with love. Which, I guess, is what I am doing now.