We must speak for those who can't speak for themselves

December 1, 2010 

In law, there is a principle known as the "burden of going forward." In today's popular lexicon, the phrase, "going forward" has become burdensomely over-used, particularly as an often redundant appendage at the end of a sentence.

But as I now end my term as a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors, “going forward” is a useful phrase for considering what still lies ahead. The burden of going forward is to consider our responsibilities as we prepare to move into a new year.

In writing these columns, I’ve had the opportunity to address issues near to my heart, and have been pleased to hear from members of the community who have appreciated that I have put into words some of their own views. Others tell me that their understanding of some issues has been expanded, or that they’ve learned something new. Some readers have posted my columns on their refrigerators (the ultimate compliment), or used them in their work or personal relationships.

On the other hand, I’ve also been accused of promoting a socialistic, criminal-coddling, homosexual, anti-American agenda, and, furthermore, of dancing with unicorns. My greatest respect and appreciation go to those who have contacted me directly with their disagreements so that we could have an actual dialogue, rather than simply hurling their rants into the anonymous and often vituperative forum of online comments.

The question now is this: How will we face our civic responsibilities, going forward? What are our next steps? Will we allow the rhetoric of anti-tax, anti-government voices to control the conversation, or will we speak up for the vulnerable and disenfranchised members of our community?

I often feel hopeless when I am asked to sign an online petition to protest some wrong in the world. My voice seems so small and insignificant. But my voice when joined with others is strong and effective. Going forward, we must persist in speaking up for justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

In this year of the all-cuts state budget, who will speak up for the children, and the disabled, and the poor? Who will tell Tim Eyman that enough is enough? We must all contribute to the common good. Enough fear tactics; enough “not in my own back wallet” tax refusal.

I am continually astounded when citizens are willing to support the salaries of overpaid corporate officers by purchasing big TVs, cars and entertainment, but then vote to withhold their funds from government entities that provide transportation, schools, health care, public safety, environmental protection and community jobs.

I would sleep better at night if I knew that every child and his or her parents could sleep comfortably in their own home with full bellies, good health care and the security of knowing they will be able to remain in the same home beyond the end of the month.

We need a shift in thinking about spending priorities. We could save millions of dollars in our state if we were to abolish the death penalty. The U.S. could have saved over a trillion dollars if we had not gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A fundamental change is needed in the way we think about conflict resolution, justice, and community. This may be where the dancing unicorns come in, but I sincerely believe that we can approach relationships at all levels more creatively and collaboratively and with less confrontation and aggression.

I can imagine it. And, to quote John Lennon, “I’m not the only one.”

Going forward, I hope to continue to do my part to work for peace and to speak up for justice.

Alice M. Curtis, a member of the Olympian Board of Contributors, is a school social worker and social justice advocate. She can be reached at amcurtis2010@gmail.com.

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