editorial
Volume 28, Number 2

Silence, The Real Enemy

Fred Schepartz

Silence is the enemy.

A year ago, I was ending my shift at work. When walking past a very public part of the workplace, I overheard a co-worker make a racist statement. I felt sick to my stomach and found myself deeply offended.

I struggled with this for several weeks. Part of me thought, maybe give the co-worker a pass on this one. But I’ve heard a few racist comments over the years, not many, but a few. I’ve even had a couple veiled anti-Semitic comments made to me.

I felt enough was enough. I realized that in order to give the co-worker a pass, I would have to talk to her, but I also realized that I was not comfortable doing such.

At the time, as part of my paralegal studies, I was taking employment law. I learned that management cannot be expected to address hostile work environment issues if it is not notified of such occurrences.

Remaining silent would have been the easy thing to do, but I realized it was my duty to register a complaint against the co-worker.

Recently, I had a co-worker personally attack me on an email thread. This co-worker occasionally exhibits Internet troll behavior on workplace social media. I chose not to tolerate his bullying behavior and wrote him up.

Silence is the enemy.

We all know the famous quote from Pastor Niemoller. The lesson is that we all have a responsibility to speak out against hate. If not, hate spreads. Hate finds a way to take over and rule over all of us.

Thousands of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, VA to hold the “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statute of Robert E. Lee from a public park. The night before, this unholy coalition conducted a terrifying torch march throughout the city. African-Americans were indiscriminately beaten. Members of the clergy, fearing their safety, took cover wherever they could.

Silence was not the response. Thousands of counter-protesters also descended upon Charlottesville, including members of the clergy, students, Black Lives Matter activists and a young paralegal named Heather Heyer.

As we know, white supremacist James Alex Fields drove his Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heyer and injuring 19.

Silence is the enemy.

This was an act of terrorism, pure and simple. To call it anything else is a lie. The motivation behind terrorism is to intimidate people who might speak out, much like the motivation of an Internet troll.

But we, as a people, are unintimidated. All across the nation and throughout the world, thousands upon thousands of people have marched, day after day, night after night. The gatherings have been peaceful as we stand up to fascism, racist and overall hatred.

Along with this grassroots response, there have been numerous people on the upper end of the power structure speaking out as well. National leaders all over the world have denounced fascism and white supremacy. Politicians from both parties have let their voices be heard (with a notable exception here in Wisconsin of Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson and sniveling coward Scott Walker.

Athletes have protested by refusing to stand for the National Anthem, and of course, crypto-racists light up the sports talk show phone lines claiming that these athletes should stick to playing their sports.

Even chief executives from corporate America have let their voices be heard, most notably members of Trump’s Manufacturing Council and Strategy & Policy Forum who resigned in protest. In a fit of pique, Trump threw a temper tantrum and disbanded both groups and then announced abandonment of plans to form a similar Council of Infrastructure.

I guess there are not enough sycophants to satisfy Trump’s sociopathic need for approval and lack of tolerance for people who publicly disagree with him.

Silence is the enemy.

Sometimes silence is resignation, perhaps a reluctant acquiescence. In the case of Trump, his initial silence after the Charlottesville tragedy was complicity. His actions since then make that crystal clear. A tepid statement that failed to point a finger where it belonged, followed by a stronger statement clearly made to deflect justified criticism. And finally, the Giant Baby Man revealed his inner-most self by attempting to create phony moral equivalence by placing equal blame on the so-called “Alt Left,” which actually does not exist but is a rightwing fabrication.

David Duke supported candidate Trump. Clearly, “President” Trump enjoys a great deal of support from far rightwing extremists. This is his bedrock base. Therefore, Trump does not want to offend white supremacists for fear of losing their support.

It speaks volumes that very quickly after the Barcelona attack, which was promptly identified as perpetrated by jihadists, Trump denounced the attack and those who carried it out. There can be little double where Trump’s bread is buttered.

National tragedies allow presidents grand opportunities to be presidential. Trump failed in his great opportunity to be presidential. He could have made a prompt, strong statement that would have had the potential to unify a very divided country. Instead, he demonstrated his inability to be presidential, to be a leader for most of the people rather than an extreme fringe.

Silence is the enemy.

It’s a good thing that we the people are anything but silent.

~

For me, having recently graduated with my paralegal degree and currently seeking employment in the legal field, the murder of Heather Heyer is a bit personal.

Heather was a paralegal. She did not die in the line of duty, but the ideals that brought her to stand up to white supremacists were the same ideals she brought to her work. Heather did not work in a particularly sexy social-justice area of the law. She specialized in bankruptcy, but she brought a great deal of compassion and humanity to her work, especially important given that most people facing bankruptcy are in desperate straits.

Heather worked for the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville, a general practice civil law firm that is “a dedicated law firm helping clients find peace of mind.”

According to the New York Times, Heather’s supervisor, Alfred A. Wilson, hired Heather at the recommendation of a friend. Heather had no legal experience or training. She had been working as a bartender and waitress, but Wilson said she had an eye for detail and was “a people person.”

Heather was a community activist and could not stand for discrimination or injustice. Her now-famous Facebook post reads: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The post has been shared 26,000 times.

Or, as Heather’s mother, Susan Bro, said at Heather’s memorial, “You make it a point to look at it, and say to yourself, ‘what can I do to make a difference?’ And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child, but, by golly, if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

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