Get off of the sideline.

James Garner

James Garner passed this weekend. I grew up watching both Maverick and Rockford Files, and was sad to hear the news. One of the things that I did not know about Garner is that there was a bit of civil rights activism in his past. I do not know how big of a part of his life it was, but he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

That’s cool, and hopefully this is an aspect of what he is going to be remembered for. It is important to celebrate the work that has been done. It is important to remember those who stood up, spoke up, took risks. It is also important for us to remember that a lot did nothing.

Most people of James Garners’ generation will probably say today that the changes related to the civil rights movement of the 1960s are common sense, obvious, a no-brainer. But a whole bunch of them did nothing to bring about those changes at the time. I am not trying to make a point here about that generation, but about human beings.

It is one thing to not actively and deliberately participate in bad things…crime, discrimination, violence, oppression. It is a good thing to not actively participate in things like this, but it is not the same thing as fighting against them.

A lot of good people spend a lot of time standing on the sidelines. Safe and comfortable with their very good intentions. And for good reason, I guess. While we love to idolize noncomformists long after their acts of nonconformity we treat them pretty poorly in the moment. If I made some attempt here to list all the activists that have been murdered, attacked, bombed, fired, threatened or had other bad stuff dome to them as a direct result of their activism…well, that would be a really, really, really long post.

We should not kid ourselves. Being in the fight is hard work. It can be lonely. There is risk involved. It is also pretty easy and safe to not be in the fight…even for good people. But we also cannot lose sight of the fact that the difference is significant.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

-Desmond Tutu

Be good to each other.

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  1. Tuesday Buzz: Another Side to James Garner | SEO BACKLINK

    […] “It is important to remember those who stood up, spoke up, took risks. It is also important for us to remember that a lot did nothing,” he writes. […]

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