Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

Sometimes You Must Stand Again.

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It takes a lot to stand up for what we believe in today’s world. Taking a stand can be uncomfortable especially when the things that we stand for makes others angry or rubs them the wrong way.

It easy to remain silent in the face of injustices. As Elie Wiesel reminds us, we may not be able to prevent injustices but we should never fail to protest them.

There is a strange silence often permeating our culture. We are not too quick to come to the aid of those in need. Too much is at stake. The risks are too great.

But every person who has a soul must come to a point where he or she can no longer remain silent in the face of injustices.

The practice of justice is not simply something that we do in the larger social arena. It is something we should practice in our homes, personal relationships, and with colleagues and coworkers in our communities, and in various institutions in society.

Justice should be realized on the interpersonal level if it is to be actualized on the collective social level.

Something in us cries out in the face of unfairness. But those who speak out are often penalized, ostracized and alienated for their beliefs. They are set aside and considered “not one of us.” Such mistreatment and misunderstanding does a disservice to us all.

Where would we be as a country without those voices of protest? Where would we be without those courageous souls in human history who speak out and stand up for what is right?

One man remarked that speaking out for what is right is decisively” not American.” He was stone faced serious when he said it. I said to him that indeed it is American. It is more than American. It is human. It is godly. It is taking the moral high ground which transcends established boundaries. Our purpose as Americans and as fellow human beings is to see that those who are harmed are healed, those displaced are found; those lingering in the quagmires of despair once again find hope. Being American means cultivating a sensitivity to those whose basic needs have gone unattended, such as food, water, a living wage, good medical care, housing and clothing. It is American to care for the least of these and all of these and to claim that it is not American is not American.

Thomas Moore in his book. “Care of the Soul,” says “There is nothing neutral about the soul..The power of soul can be creative or destructive, gentle or aggressive. If there is no soulfulness, then there is no true power, and if there is no power, then there can be no true soulfulness.”

Needed today is a compassion and soulfulness that will nurture our awareness and efforts to stand up for our beliefs to help those in need and not to begrudge or malign those truly in need.

Questions remain.

Why are voting rights being attacked and rescinded?
Why are millions of children in America still going to bed hungry each night?
Why can’t many workers receive a living wage?
Why are unions being dismantled?

Why are students sacked with trillions of dollars in debt?

Why can’t unemployment benefits be extended to those whose survival depends upon them?
Why are women who work equal to their male counterparts denied equal wages?
Why are young black men still being gunned down in the streets like wild animals?

Why are many black people still viewed with the jaundiced eyes of suspicion where they are often guilty until proven innocent?

Why are many members of the LGBT community still denied their basic human rights?

Why are all Muslims wrongfully suspected as terrorists?

Why does a culture of fear keep displacing a culture of hope?

Why are all rich people wrongfully maligned as greedy and stingy?

Why are all poor people wrongfully maligned as shiftless and lazy?

Why does a culture of deprivation flourish in a country of such vast and enormous wealth?

Why do all the bad people of a particular group become the dominant image of everybody in that group including  good people?

Why are all white people wrongfully maligned as racists?

Why are our immigration policies so near sighted and lop-sided for brown people?

Why is the church largely silent in the face of these issues?

Why does the political process of the most powerful and arguably the most gifted nation on earth at times appear so anemic and effete?

Why must be exploited and politicized to have value?

Why is the government wrongfully maligned for helping Americans who need help?

Why does the Postal Service have to bankroll its future to the point of its own bankruptcy and extinction?

Why are so many of our college-educated not finding good paying jobs?

Why is there still so much hatred in a country that God has blessed beyond measure and where there is still so much good?
Why do the nega-holics seem to have a stronger voice than the posi-holics?


Having the temerity to simply ask these and other basic questions creates a problem for some people, but asking such questions means that we care about America and the future of all its people. Asking such questions can be a way of taking a stand. It means that we have a soul and that the soul of America, in the words of Howard Thurman, requires that we speak to these concerns and continue to take a stand.

Not every person can take an active stand for things they believe in but asking a question may be their way of standing. Having the audacity to ask such questions in our world today requires a measure of compassion and strength. Compassion, says one writer, is another name for God. Sometimes asking such simple questions unleashes the fury of those who believe that you have no right to ask such questions in the first place like the man who believes that asking them is patently non American.

Sometimes we must take a stand, and stand again, and keep standing for what is right. Standing means sometimes breaking ranks and breaking silence. And sometimes standing means keeping silence when speaking out betrays those who are wrongfully persecuted.

“Here I stand,” said Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation.
“Here I stand,” said A. Philip Randolph.

“Here I stand,” said Paul Robeson.

“Here I stand,” said Audre Lourde.
“Here I stand,” said Dorothy Day
“Here I stand,” said Shirley Chisholm.

“Here we stand,” said America and the Allies during World War II.

“Here we stand,” said Americans for civil and human rights.

“Here we stand,” said our country after 911.

Silence is not always required. The soul demands our voices of concern and hope to make the future better for all people.

So take your stand. Do good. Ask questions. Be the best that you can be and help your family, neighborhood, community, state, nation and world become a better place for all by standing.

That’s what it means to stand, and to stand again and again and again and to keep standing until the last person is standing.

Life requires that we sometimes take a stand and often we find that standing for something means standing again and again and again until there is no more reason for standing. It means standing until justice is requited and the full freedoms and well being of all Americans are fully realized in our lifetimes.

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