We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men and among those fibres as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects. — Herman Melville
Champion. The word conjures of images of modern Olympic athletes. Or Wheaties boxes with those same athletes on them. But champion goes back much further than our modern day Olympics. It goes back to the Middle Ages when a knight would be a champion for a lady — defending her honor, even if it meant death. A champion was not a winner in the sense of “Grand Champion” but rather a strong supporter and defender. I remember when growing up, seeing a poster of an orangutan on a wall with the caption, “When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.” Becoming a champion of freedom and justice does not mean making everyone submit to an idea or ideal. It does not mean starting fights.
Years ago, Sinead O’Connor did a concert tour of the United States. When in New Jersey, she was informed that the American national anthem must be played before all concerts. She refused. O’Connor stated that the national anthem had no place at a rock and roll concert. This lead to a series of protests at her next shows. Calling her unpatriotic (why should she be, she’s from Ireland) at best and other unmentionables at worst, O’Connor’s first show afterwards was in Saratoga Springs.
My father was at that show. He’s a Republican and a normally staid, Pooh-like man who may have ideas on everything but often does not voice them. He spoke back to those who were decrying O’Connor. Our family has been attending rock concerts for decades and we have never once heard the national anthem at a rock concert. He stated that it was her right not to have it palyed. Many people heard him, including a young woman with long hair and a baseball cap whom he later realized was O’Connor herself. He appeared on the local news and MTV. O’Connor also thanked the man who defended her right to not play the anthem during her show. I was never more proud of my father than that day. He stepped outside of his usual self and stood up for another. In his own way, he was her champion, as well as a champion of freedom and justice.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt once addressed the United Nations speaking of the four freedoms that every person has: the freedom of religion, the freedom from want, the freedom from fear and the freedom of speech. These freedoms go far beyond physical freedoms. With freedom comes responsibility — to use your freedom with judgement. Just because it can be done, does not make it right. If freedom is taken from one, it is taken from all — so the fight for justice and freedom must be waged together. The fight for justice is also to punish those who would remove any of these freedoms.
In today’s world it is easy to feel that one person cannot make a difference; that one vote doesn’t matter; that charity won’t change a thing. It is easy to be cynical. But change starts small. Just remember what Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop said, “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”
Random thoughts on freedom and justice.
“Mister,” he said with a sawdusty sneeze. “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs,” — he was very upset as he shouted and puffed, “What’s that THING you’ve made out of my truffula tuft?” – The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
It is an act of cowardice to fail to speak out against injustice. — Confucius
It is important to be realistic and acknowledge that there are problems —
for if we are going to change a thing, if we are going to do a thing about them, then a positive attitude is the only thing to have. — Howard Jones
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. — Anne Frank
You do what you can on whatever level you can, and you do what you do best. And by the power of our own minds and our own hearts, we can create the world. This is about passion and presence. Our obligation is to make people uncomfortable — to push the borders of what is possible. — Terry Temptest Williams
To be a champion you have to believe in yourself when no one else will. – Sugar Ray Robinson
What you do may not seem very important, but it is very important that you do it. — Gandhi
My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. — George Bernard Shaw
I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of others, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation. — Mikhail Bakunin
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has freedom. — Malcolm X
Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions. Slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. — John F. Kennedy
If there is to be any peace, it will come through being, not having. – Henry Miller
When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere. — La Rochefoucauld
If you want inner peace, find it in solitude, not speed; and if you would find yourself, look to the land from which you can and to which you go. – Stewart Udall
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing. — Edmund Burke
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. — Chief Seattle