This is going to be an intensely personal post. This is not just a book review.
It’s been a strange year … a big year for me. It’s been my first year writing this book review blog but it’s also brought some big changes to my personal life. This post is where the two meet.
First a little history. I am in my early 40’s and the parent of two kids, a boy 15 years old (teenager!) and an 8 year old girl. In that last few years I’ve been coming to a realization which has struck me with horror. I was in a cult. All my life until now, I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not going to go into details about why they are a cult right now. Stay tuned because that will come in another blog post, when I review the forthcoming The Reluctant Apostate by Lloyd Evans. I will just say that it is a high control cult and I’m happy to have finally extracted myself.
(Suffragettes c. 1908)
One of the reasons I had to leave was my difference of opinion about personal responsibility. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that it’s followers should do any charitable works or participate in any form of activism. Donations to charity should only be made Jehovah’s Witness Organizations. If you’re going to have an opinion, make it a Witness one. No political thoughts! Stay completely (in thought not just in action) neutral about all things. Absolutely, NO OPINIONS allowed about what’s going on in the world.
What do witnesses think about people or causes? If I were to ask a witness here are the responses I would get.
- Gandhi – misguided
- Mother Theresa – false religious icon
- Malala Yousafzai – nice kid but you shouldn’t think about her too much
- Women’s rights – political … hmm you’re starting to get a bad attitude
- Gay rights – now you’re in trouble, lets set up a meeting to get you back in line!
(African American chapter of Suffrage League)
This has always been hard for me to deal with. We benefit every day from the freedoms that were earned by people willing to step up when their morality required it. My black friends benefit from the work done by MLK and his associates. I can have a job, custody of my children and protect myself because of the work done by the Suffragettes 100 years ago. If I kept to the way I was taught, I should not acknowledge their sacrifices. More than that, I should never do anything to help people around me who still suffer today. Leave it to God. He will fix it when he gets around to it.
No. Not for me. Not anymore.
The further I got away from the cult indoctrination, the more aware I became of what was going on around me. It’s a little like coming out of a fog, and let me tell you, the election last year and everything I saw and heard was like an abrupt slap in the face. Whatever your political leanings, I think we can all agree that something needs to be done. We are far from a post-racial society. Women’s rights still need to be addressed. We can’t allow people to be marginalized. We need to be expending our energy on each others behalf.
I’m jumping in the deep end guys. So, this Saturday, January 21 2017 I will be with the Women’s March in Los Angeles. I’m new at this, I’m disabled, I have kids, but it’s time to reach out my hands to help someone else. Even if it’s just to stand here on this street at this time and date and swell your numbers. In order to let people in power know this is important to us. That we will be here and will make a difference. It’s important, and I won’t just take anymore. I want to give back.
Because, I made that decision I thought it would be a good time for me to read and review a book about peaceful demonstration and what that entails.
Book Title: Civil Disobedience
Author: Henry David Thoreau
Goodreads Link: Click here
Star Rating: – Short but important
I don’t really want to go into a huge dissertation about the book other than to say it is a book about being willing to make a difference. I will share a few quotes that I found interesting…
“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”
Thoreau was of the mind that if you see an unjust law you must do something about it. Is that what Rosa Parks had in mind when she refused to move to the back of the bus?
“but if [the law] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”
My history in a cult makes me malleable. I’m not proud of that. It means that I am used to listening, without question. It’s how you survive. I have to break myself of that. If a law is used to hurt someone else, do I just obey without thought? Without question? The Constitution gives me the opportunity to voice my views, I have to screw my courage to the sticking place and put myself out there.
“For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”
Well that says it all doesn’t it. I’m just one person. I’m doing it anyway. It’s for me, and for my kids, and for my neightbors. It’s a good work.
(Flowers placed on the grave of Susan B. Anthony on 11/9/16 #imwithher)
Song for this book: Level Up by Vienna Teng