Antonio Berni

A challenge to my community: speak up for what you care about

It’s not a loud voice, but it’s an extremely prevalent one in our culture.

I have friends who choose not to talk about things like politics on Facebook or at work, because the wrong person might see, because that coworker or that family member or old friend might disagree. And as someone who’s been there, as someone who cringes at the unnecessary and irrational drama that so often surrounds and overwhelms us, I get it.

I get it. I don’t want to fight with my friends or family either. I don’t want to fight with the people I have to sit next to or potentially report to.

But you know what? That’s exactly the problem. We’re a society that predicates being polite over being respectful. No, you’re not respecting your family or your workplace by being quiet about the things you really care about. Instead you and me and all of us are acting like no one else around us is an adult capable of handling a hard, but meaningful conversation. You don’t want to hurt feelings. You don’t want to create unnecessary pain. You don’t want to lose connection with people whom you truly respect and appreciate. You don’t want to bite the ones who’ve fed you.

But. You are allowing a different pain to grow silently within us. You are perpetuating a culture of self interest rather than community. And you are creating a “safe” community rather than a resilient one.

I challenge you. I challenge you to speak up. Not in a coarse way, but in a meaningful and powerful way.

I challenge you to practice a voice of respect and influence over one of civility. You can still cater to the values of peacekeeping without holding your tongue.

I challenge you to have uncomfortable conversations.

I challenge you to ask questions so that your friends, colleagues, and loved ones might find their own answers, that maybe they wouldn’t have thought of had nobody asked. I challenge you to dig deep into pain rather than rub aloe over it. I challenge you not to look away when the diagnosis and treatment are excruciating to bear.

Most of all, I challenge you to share your experience so that others might learn from your strength and that you might learn from theirs.

The cover image for this post is from an exhibit I saw in Buenos Aires of Argentina’s esteemed artist, Antonio Berni, whose work told the stories of the impoverished, exploited classes and the impact of industrialization.