The past three weeks have been an almost non-stop parade of protests, all centered around the most recent tragic deaths that didn’t have to happen.
“Yes, that’s terrible. But what can I do?” you might ask. After all, you already changed your Facebook profile for BlackOut Day. And you even attended a Black Lives Matter march. So, you’re good right?
No, not really.
Those things only signal that you’re on the side of making
things better. But only on the side. As
in, the sideline. If you actually want to make a difference, you need to get
off the bench and into the game and that’s a lot harder than changing your
profile picture. And it probably means getting knocked around a little. I don’t
mean literally. This isn’t a call to violence. And I’m not suggesting you
intervene in an active arrest or break the law in an act of civil disobedience
(although both of those have their place, too).
Here I’m talking
about the kind of thing you can do on a daily basis by just calling out bad
behavior when you see it — in your family, friends, and neighbors. And that
takes courage. It might mean temporarily straining relationships with people
you care about. In the worst situations, you might even lose a friend over it.
But in most cases, you’ll end up earning new respect, from others, and for
Instead of “civil” disobedience, let’s call
it “social” disobedience. Because in this case, you’re rubbing
up against generally accepted rules of social behavior, like “If you don’t
have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” or going along with
what everyone else is doing even if you don’t agree with it. Or, more
generally, the aversion many of us have to disagree with or offer even the
gentlest of criticism to people we know for fear of damaging the relationship.
We need to get over
that. True friends will appreciate you being honest and direct with them
So, here’s an
example of what that looks like in the context of racial bigotry. But social
disobedience can be used for any worthwhile social change that you support and
from any side of the political spectrum. If it’s important to you, let the
people closest to you know — especially when they themselves are the problem.
Basketball with Torlick
When Ed was a five-
or six-year-old boy growing up in Colorado, he noticed that his was the only
house in the neighborhood painted red. All the other houses were either brown
or green. When he asked his dad why, his father said very matter of factly, “Because
when we moved in, the Homeowners Association told us we could only paint it
brown or green. So, naturally, I painted it red.”
Tanguay wasn’t much of a rule follower, at least not with rules he considers
unworthy. So you shouldn’t be too surprised at how he responded on another
occasion when he received a more unsettling directive from the HOA.
When Ed’s older
brother Mark was fourteen, he visited their aunt and uncle, who were on
assignment in the Peace Corps in the Marshall Islands, very close to the
equator in the western Pacific Ocean. Just prior to returning home, he called
his parents to ask if he could bring home a guest for a while. He’d befriended
a local boy named Torlick who’d never been to the United States.