SMITH: Why the sound of silence?

February 23, 2018

How does a true baby boomer, child of the 1960s, live in the world of technology and efficiency? This noisy, busy world full of sound and fury. A world full of information and facts but lacking wisdom and discernment. A world where ethnic food is all the rage but not ethnic people. When love and relationships are commercialized. Where women and girls are relegated to supporting status. While resources continue to flow away from our most vulnerable. Where people are marginalized by race, country of origin, ability, gender—the list is exhaustive.

I went to Shortridge High School, graduating in 1966. The world was full of struggle and hope. We were not silent; we were engaged in the noble fight. We dared “to dream the impossible dream,” believing it was our right and responsibility to make this country a better place for all. “We Shall Overcome” was our theme song. I knew in my heart it was worth the struggle and sacrifice. My children and, without question, my grandchildren would finally be free of the chains of my childhood.

I was so sure that, if I did the right things—studied hard, worked hard, kept my nose clean, said my prayers—the world of my golden years would be a welcoming, warm, inclusive place.

But I recently woke up to an old soundtrack: “Hello, darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again … And touched the sound of silence.” Where are the people who stood with me in my youth, championing the causes of the greater good of fairness and equal rights for all?

Today, I hear noise all around me. The words are all hauntingly familiar, like the return of a long-forgotten nightmare. Return to a great America, them and us, law and order, women and girls second place, looks matter. What it sounds like in my head is ME ME ME. Health care, but not with my money; education, but not with my money; bridges and roads, but not with my money. Taxes must be lowered; I need a third car, a vacation home, etc. It is my right.

What terrifies me is the silence. Where are the good people? Why the deafening silence? I know so many good people in positions to influence the dialogue and, in many cases, change it. Why the silence? I am not referring to leaders on the global scene or in Washington. I am calling on our local leadership. Why the silence on hate crimes? Why the silence on the inequality of our schools? We are no longer competing county to county or state to state. Did we miss the memo? It’s a global economy and we are losing.

Why are we silent? Why are we silent to the basic needs of a person? Why is any child hungry while most of us throw away food? Why the silence on issues of equal pay? Why the silence on issues to improve the outcomes for girls?

Do we care? How can we be silent when our fellow Hoosiers are in pain? How can we be silent when our children are cold and hungry? How can we find joy in our own good fortune and be blind to our neighbor?

“I swore never to be silent, whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

Why are you silent? Where is your voice?•

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Hearns Smith is former CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Send comments toibjedit@ibj.com.

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