This I Believe

Charles - Princeton, Massachusetts
Entered on June 4, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

These are trying times I live in. Our ventures in the Middle East have given me a perspective questioning how much our higher authority serves our interests. In the past, our injustices have been realized after the act was done. I have only just learned of the atrocities our Phoenix Program committed in Indochina and countless bellicosities disgracing our reputation. Today I have a chance to stop an injustice as it occurs.

Yet I lack the discipline to exercise my most cherished freedom, the freedom to protest and object. My rights haven’t been infringed upon. Yet being part of a democracy, I’m behind the decisions that our government makes. But if this representative body takes actions that take the rights away from others in another country, am I not responsible?

To most the answer would be no: “I’m not responsible.” So I ignore the horror of our criminality that’s portrayed in our media. Day after day the same story appears because day after day I decide not to take a stand.

If I saw a man being beaten, would I, the bystander, stand in the way of the attacker or at least call for help? The answer would certainly be yes. This is not the case. I’m not the bystander, I am the attacker. I’m not the will directing the attack, but the conscience too weak to end it.

Alas, who has the time to make a stand for what is right? Daily routine prevents me from expressing my beliefs. It is baffling that millions in the third world working all their lives to barely earn enough for the life of peasantry found the time to rise against their oppressors for years at a time. From Venezuela to Vietnam and from Chile to China people have repeated this process to attain something so basic.

How did the lives of millions become less important than the continuation of my daily routine? Frederick Douglas once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” This means that to want change is not enough, you must reach for it.

My impact is too powerful to be indifferent. I cease to be a freeman not when my rights are taken by force, but when I don’t exercise them when the force approaches. This is a government by the people. If this government is kicked out through force, so long as people fight for their rights, democracy is preserved. If I ignore my thought, accepting things as they always will, that will be the end of my freedom. Democracy blossoms when I embrace my thought, and wilts when I suppress it. I must embrace, express, and act on what I believe, through strikes, protests, riots, and sit-ins. But however I resist, it must be nonviolent.