What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: mypixbox
In a 2004 General Conference address discussing how the Saints of God are to oppose evil, President Hinckley stressed the need for our active involvement in defending truth and righteousness. Noting the influence that a small group of individuals can have, he remarked that “we are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.”
The question that might follow from such a comment is “what is the right way to speak up”? We all speak, and our political opinions weave themselves into our daily conversation through venting frustration, cursing the name of a disagreeing political commentator, expressing support for an action with which we agree, and a variety of other ways. But speaking to the TV or to each other does not qualify for the “up” that actually influences those around us and those who wield political power to shape the course of our communities and the world at large. To speak up, we must do more than be a sideline commentator; society’s progress should not be a spectator sport left to a few professionals.
While it may make us feel better about ourselves, simply airing our frustrations or shaking our head does little to impact the issues we would like to see improved. Frankly, those in power promoting the status quo (or something worse) prefer a distracted electorate and an apathetic people. In a world where ideas are transmitted in near real time and where new developments occur at breakneck speed, it’s easy to sit and be an observer; our natural reaction when confronted with a rushing river is to steer clear. But this river is drowning innocent people, eroding the land around it, and demolishing once-solid structures in its path. Our common desire to preserve correct traditions, maintain the integrity of our institutions, and ensure liberty remains intact all require that we either get to work by jumping in and rescuing people, or by building a dam to stem the tide.
Problems abound, and each of us has been given specific abilities and talents that uniquely qualify us to effect positive change in one way or another. Some are writers, some are speakers, some are networkers, and others are hard workers. Whatever our gift, we must not shirk from the overwhelming needs that surround us if only we open our eyes and pay attention. Failing to lend our support to good causes colors our complaints with hypocrisy and disingenuity; if we are upset about something, we must do something about it.
That something can, of course, manifest itself in a variety of ways. You can go to city council meetings, write letters to editors of local newspapers, incessantly call the office of your representatives to make your voice heard on key issues, organize a book club to discuss important issues, run for public office, participate in a political party as a delegate or other officer, donate money to campaigns and organizations whose principles you support, or write a book to influence others’ minds. Far from comprehensive, this list could be expanded infinitely to accommodate the variety of options available to those who want to stand up and speak up, customized to their desires and abilities. As President Hinckley has said on another occasion:
You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. And the good that is in you must be spread to others. (Gordon B. Hinckley, via Quoty; emphasis added)
The average American watches four hours of television per day. In a world that enshrines entertainment as a basic staple of a well-balanced life, we cannot say that we have no time. And from a casual assessment of the condition of peace, liberty, and morality throughout the world, we may also say that we have no excuse. Finally, comparing the long-term importance of our current actions to those that would influence the world around us would likely indicate that we have no valid reason not to get involved.
The world needs your voice and your talents. Stand up and speak up—the battle is far from over.