"Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people."
- Pope Francis
If we want freedom
If we want peace
If we want security
If we want respect for all humankind
If we want to leave a legacy
We must Rise Up
RISE UP! In preparation for Super Bowl 51, Atlanta, Georgia is in full gear as fans cheer their beloved Falcons to Rise Up and become victors over the New England Patriots in just a few days. It's all quite exciting, especially as the Falcon's signature, "Rise Up" slogan is going viral and appearing on pennants, billboards, and t-shirts throughout the city. But the call to "Rise Up" is also going viral for entirely different, and I suggest more compelling reasons this week, as persons throughout the U.S. are escalating rhetoric and protests to condemn recent Executive Orders set forth by one who might rightly be considered an American demagogue. To be clear, I am not using the term demagogue loosely. As Merriam-Webster and numerous other sources note, a demagogue is one who acquires power by appealing to prejudices and fears, making false claims, manipulating emotions, distorting facts, creating policies based on threats and intimidation, and yes, attacking the media. Given all that has occurred during the past two weeks, this brief article addresses the call to Rise Up and peacefully protest what many consider unjust and tyrannical attacks on human rights under the new executive branch of the U.S. government.
The Impetus to Rise Up
For many, the political rhetoric, threats, and actions of the Drumpf administration are quite troubling, especially given their emergence from a landscape where values like freedom, human rights, and justice have traditionally been touted. The recent rash of policies initiated in just the first 10 days of the administration signifies a brazen, "take no prisoners" re-branding of the U.S. that confounds matters in a bizarrely new milieu where so-called "American rights" appear to be supplanting "human rights". Under this new administration's "America First" slogan, a clear shifting of principles from an optimistic rhetoric of hope, i.e., equal rights for all to a disparaging rhetoric of privilege, i.e., equal rights for Wealthy American Christians seems to be the message. And the fact that it's a message of exclusion being crafted and implemented by a select group of empowered, wealthy, white, male Americans whose ancestors were more likely than not immigrants to this country themselves is reprehensible.
It is also disconcerting that many Americans and indeed, citizens of the world fear they can no longer look to the United States of America to even at minimum, claim the principled rhetoric of liberty and justice for all. And this is a major concern; for if there is no hope that the U.S. will uphold the rhetoric of hope that gives us the basis for believing in the reality of such principles, to what nation do we appeal? Consequently, it is in the face of today's rapidly emergent political threats, intimidation, and actions that we who cherish equal rights for ALL humankind, along with the values of truth, peace, justice, and integrity absolutely must Rise Up.
In practical terms, the concept of Rising Up against divisive, fearmongering tyranny after two world wars have taught us the horrors and destruction to life, land, and liberty that occur when despotism goes unchecked should seem simple enough. History has taught us that for the love and sustainability of humanity we must ensure that our land, water, air and lives remain free from the manipulative control of autocrats who use fear, scapegoating, oratory, deceit, and propaganda to acquire power and use it in attempts to ruthlessly control the masses. Accordingly, the call to Rise Up should not be a complicated one, and there is no need to make it so.
Consider these things:
We need to Rise Up for truth: What value is there in truth if we allow its veracity to be denied?
We need to Rise up for healthcare: Does it matter that there are more jobs if more people die for lack of healthcare?
We need to Rise Up for the environment: What good is a strong economy if its basis destroys the water, land and air we need to live?
We need to Rise Up for Human Dignity: How can a nation claim respect for human dignity when its leadership repeatedly assaults the dignity of others?
We need to Rise Up for our national economy: Does it make any sense that the expenditure of our tax dollars should be determined by one who does not pay taxes?
We need to Rise Up for full disclosure: How are we to learn truth when the voices of those who research and document it, i.e., scientists, are silenced by the government?
We need to Rise up for Free Speech: Is it acceptable to allow the media to be directly threatened with censorship when the very 1st Amendment to our Constitution expressly prohibits such an impediment?
We need to Rise Up for Democratic Principles: Is there any genuine patriotism to be found in one who does not stand for the documented principles upon which his nation was founded?
We need to Rise up for Peace: Is it wise to allow political tyranny to prevail when history has demonstrated its tragic and destructive consequences?
Now is not the time to be complacent, but it is the time to stand against demagoguery with all our strength and courage.
Now is not the time to yield to fear, concede to doubt, or resign to hopelessness, but it is the time to stand up for values that uplift and support all humankind.
Now is the time to lobby for love and stand in solidarity with those who defy deceit, implore wisdom, petition peace and appeal to the higher virtues of humankind.
Now is the time to protest with passion for the rights of ALL persons to live free and just existences without fear or abuse because of their skin color, religion, nationality, economic status, or gender.
If you still have doubts about the necessity to Rise Up, consider these very powerful and prophetic words of Holocaust and Concentration Camp survivor Pastor Martin Niemoller:
"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."
So while Atlanta, Georgia is calling on its home-team Falcons to Rise Up on Super Bowl Sunday, I urge you to answer the call for ALL citizens of the world and Rise Up for human rights. Visit "A Force More Powerful" at http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/ to learn 198 ways you can Rise Up through non-violent protest, because the time is now.