I was asked by a colleague at work (someone who frequently but privately agreed with me but never spoke up publicly), “Why do you tilt at windmills?” Many have answered this better than I.

  • "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • "Your silence gives consent." (Plato)
  • "Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence." (Henri Frederic Amiel)
  • "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." (da Vinci)
  • "Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph." (Haile Selassie)

None of these came to mind. Instead I remembered my father saying that his deepest bitterness was not directed at the Nazis, from whom he expected evil, but at those around him who were not Nazis, who were friends, neighbors, ordinary people with whom he interacted regularly who saw wrong and said nothing.

So, instead of a profound quote about the sin of silence, I flipped the question back to my colleague:

“Why don’t you speak up for what you believe?”  

The answer:

“I leave that to others.”



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