When lives, liberties, and happiness are taken away in the pursuit of justice, I beg for a pause to consider another way
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I had a dream the other night that I was dining at a Chinese restaurant with a friend. As we dined, two other patrons came and sat down at our table, and one of them picked up my friend’s drink and drank from it. This upset my friend, not only due to the invasion of his right to personal space, but also due to concerns about COVID19. But that wasn’t his main concern. His main concern was that I said nothing about it and instead just sat there and let it happen.
“What could I have done? Words wouldn’t have stopped him. Did you expect me to punch him in the face? Jonas isn’t built for that. What do you expect from me? What could I have done?”
I then quoted the line attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “We destroy our enemies by making them our friends.” He called BS on the quote, saying it’s neither friendly nor positive to sit by silently as others are wronged, because silence is complacence, and disenfranchising others is nothing to be complacent about.
He was so upset that he pushed me to the ground and made me drink from his cup too, to give me a taste of what it’s like. It was orange soda, which I hadn’t had in years, so while it was an uncomfortable conversation, it was also a refreshing one.
The Danger of Complacency
I woke up disturbed by the dream, and uneasy about the unrest in our society due to the unspoken complacency we’ve inflicted upon ourselves. And complacency is neither friendly nor positive and cannot be tolerated.
Someone recently asked me how many unjustifiable killings could be tolerated before it was cause for concern. I didn’t like the implication of the question, because surely even just one killing is cause for concern, justified or not. There are nonlethal ways of managing justice, and humane ways of serving and protecting the people in our community, people who fundamentally have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Yet if our lives, liberties, and happiness are taken away in the pursuit of Justice, I beg for a pause to consider another way.
Positivity vs. Negativity
I run a social entrepreneurship that helps people manage their emotions, thoughts, and actions around the surprises and challenges of everyday life. Hashtag Positivity was founded with the simple idea that everyone has something to be negative about, something to complain about, and which gives us reason to give up hope, which is why we instead focus on the positive, because it’s something worth sharing. Rather than apathy, fear, hatred, and violence, we focus instead on engagement, understanding, love, and kindness.
There are some who criticize this work as wishy washy blind acceptance while unrealistically ignoring the very real problems that underly our human condition. This may be a fair assessment of some of the well-meaning yet shallow quotes we see floating around the internet and motivational posters, but that has nothing to do with the very real work that’s involved in what I teach in the Hashtag Positivity method. Blind positivity that sweeps problems under the rug is not very positive, and in the long run it’s even dangerous. The methods I promote are methods that I use every day—methods that took me from depression, addiction, and suicide, to healing, empowerment, and joy. And it wasn’t by sweeping issues under the rug or turning away from my blind spots. It took real, authentic, and difficult work.
Since waking up from that dream I’ve had a knot in my heart, as I look at the news stories that pop up on the screen in my pocket, stories that I would not otherwise see because while I live in a city, it’s a relatively calm city where nothing happens like the scenes in my pocket. It gives me pause to wonder how much happens behind the scenes, even in my own backyard where seemingly nothing happens.
Silence is complacence, just like the silence I had about my depression for three years, a time that nearly killed me. But what can I do? I’m just Jonas? What’s the most positive thing I can do right now to help the neighbors in my community who are having their rights violated, as others drink from their cup?
There’s real work involved here, and I’m encouraged by the work I’ve already done. I’m encouraged by the thought that we are all empowered to be a part of the solution using our own unique talents. We all have something to bring to the table, no matter how much influence, authority, or power we individually have. So long as we show up every day and speak our hearts through the sharing of our unique passions, our voices can rise together to help the people in our immediate community, collectively creating a ripple of social change. What I appreciate about this is the recognition that I am enough to do something. And so are you.
When we wake up to a society of complacency where Life, Liberty, and Happiness are taken away in the pursuit of Justice, we should all feel uneasy and pause to consider another way to serve and protect the people in our community. The reflections suggested here are not directives, but perhaps by taking mindful action as a result of our answers, we can together heal as a community.
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.