I attended a vigil on Sunday night to honor. A vigil marred by two tragedies - the hatred and violence occurring in Charlottesville, and a triple shooting that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old young man in Cumberland County. The turnout, the raw passion of the stories shared, and our community response on that night was humbling and inspiring. It is an event that I will remember. I hope that it helps to serve as a turning point in our area and for our community. There is a lot of work to do in the fight against racism, hatred, and injustice, but I believe that we are ready for the fight.
Fight. Now that’s a funny word. Fight may have a violent connotation. Some would like to refrain from using it. Some feel that it conflicts with peace and love. I wholeheartedly disagree.
Merriam-Webster, in defining the word “fight,” lists seven explanations. Only 2 of the seven definitions listed are violent. The majority of definitions revolve around putting forth a determined effort, struggling, enduring.Those interpretations describe struggles we face today, those for equality, equity, and justice.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi - they fought. Inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance in the Salt March, Dr. King utilized the same nonviolent tactics to fight during the Civil Rights Movement. They both looked violence in the face, and they fought. They did not respond violence with violence; they approached it with truth, conviction, and passion. We need to do the same today, and we should expect the same from our elected leaders.
Many politicians shy away from a “fight.” Maybe they are afraid to take a firm stance. Maybe they do not want to acknowledge that some fights, like those of the Civil Rights Movement, still rage in our country.
We need more. We need true patriotic people who know that America is not a place for hatred. The land of the free, where all are created equal, is better than this. We must be better than this. We do not need politicians showing up to events to hand out business cards, take pictures with flags, and send “thoughts and prayers.” We need leaders who stand in the streets, hear our concerns and amplify them. We need leaders who actively work to educate our youth (#CharlottesvilleCurriculum) about what America is and what it is not. We need leaders who will attack racism and hatred. We need leaders who fight.
In truth, this fight will not be easy. This fight will require everyone to examine truths and realities and hardships of our own lives and those of others.
See, that’s the thing about “fight.” Fight may be non-violent, but it cannot mean disengaged. Fight cannot mean “we start tomorrow” or “let’s see how things play out.” A fight is an active struggle. Our country is in crisis, and we are in that struggle now. We need to fight for America.
We can no longer be bystanders. We have to be active. We have to show that we are not afraid. We have to teach and support our youth and our community. We must lead with love, compassion, and courage. We must put our future first. We must fight.
And we will.