The list of bad things in the world is (nearly) endless. What’s a good person to do? We can start with this old truth that used to be pounded into schoolchildren:
Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.
“He who is silent seems to consent, when he ought to speak and was able to do so.”
Basic moral rule: if you see evil, call it evil.
This can be moral preening, but moral preening is the twisting of virtue into a vice. If we see evil, then we must name evil. If we do not, then we will avoid moral preening, but we might be moral cowards. Of course, everyone does not have to talk about everything every time.
You should speak when you ought and are able. Many people I know never post on any moral or political issue in their social media. They are followers and not leaders and they rely on their leaders to make such statements. If they have chosen good leaders, that seems fair enough. Being silent as your church leaders condemn moral evils like injustice or abortion while supporting your church is a kind of speech. If asked, a person can say: “I support my church.”
We should not judge why any particular person is silent. Some of us do speak about politics, America, and moral issues. For us, silence is much less of an option.
Some moral evils are worse than other bad things: the destruction of the Syrian church by radicals in Syria is worse than an American workplace saying “Happy Holidays!” rather than “Merry Christmas!” If we have the time, we might say something about the second, but the outrage should be muted compared to our concern regarding the murder of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Racism is a horrific American sin. Some Americans kept African-Americans in slavery for hundreds of years. Other Americans cruelly shipped hundreds of thousands of Africans to slavery in the New World. After most Americans suffered and died to end slavery, some Americans were allowed to oppress the newly freed slaves with segregation and economic forms of servitude. This lasted until my childhood.
The Civil Rights movement forced states to allow African-Americans to vote and to have economic liberty. This was an incomplete work and many people resent equality to this day. This weekend a friend and a colleague (a brilliant academic) faced disgusting racial harassment just for walking in my city as an African-American man. I have seen disgusting acts of racism in education in the twenty-first century. Many of my students come from schools and situations where racism impacted their lives and future. This is not old news, but today’s news.
We have made racial progress, but there is more to do. Americans cannot ignore racism, because racism still exists. We cannot turn a blind eye to small groups like the Klan, because millions of Americans who are not in the Klan agree with large parts of the Klan’s agenda. If you have never met a person who salutes Jefferson Davis as his or her president, then you do not know America as she is.
We cannot excuse this great evil, because some evil people use racism as an excuse of other evil. Brown shirts sometimes made an excuse for Red Shirts. However, in America, thank God, we have no direct experience with Red Revolution. We do know lynchings, segregation, and the Klan.