Get off the Fence

Fence Sitter advice

We all know fence sitters.  Maybe it doesn’t bother most people, but it bothers me.  I’ve been on the verge of writing about this for some time now and each time I start I stop myself because I wonder if it really matters that much or if I’m just making it matter to me because I am definitely NOT a fence sitter.

But recent events have added to my pile of reasons for needing to get this off my chest and reality and honesty are what this blog is all about, right?  So here we go.

Right now there is a US election race going on and the controversy is about more than just which party will win.  The Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, has upset many people with his agenda and his manner of saying whatever he thinks (while obviously appealing to many more) that his own party is plotting to find a way to bring him down. His campaign started out with a lot of jokes and disbelief and now he’s so far ahead of anyone else that they’re worried he’ll actually be unstoppable.

Hillary Clinton is a typical politician with her own brand of lies and coverups after many years of being somewhat involved in government – long enough to make people either really like her or completely hate what she stands for and how she comes across.  And even though I’m not a supporter of the Democrats, I am smart enough to recognize that Trump is probably Hillary’s shoe in for the presidential seat.

The funny thing is that no one in Canada can vote, yet we all seem to find US political races more worthy of attention and heated debate than we do our own.  I have very strong opinions myself about both candidates and I openly discuss them in conversations with my friends who engage.  However, this has all led me to something I not only wonder about but also find myself a bit frustrated and even sometimes angry over: why is it that the same people who jump all over the US election news seem to be silent on the atrocities in our own country?

I’m an “equal opportunity” ranter.  I’m passionate about justice and morality and I see a bigger picture than just what might happen now from a change in a law or a decision to make the rights of one person more important than the rights of another.  No one can ever justify calling me a fence sitter.  I care about what’s best for everyone, but I’m not a person who is afraid to stand up for something publicly that affects us all, even if it means someone won’t like me.  I don’t seek to be “liked” by people who are fence sitters.  I have friends with whom I agree on many things, and I have friends with whom I disagree and that’s absolutely fine.  It’s healthy, honest, interesting and educational.

What I find disheartening is hearing people I know voice their opinions about whatever is going on south of the border openly in discussions – with firm purpose leaving no doubt about their position – while seeming to stand for nothing when it comes to the direction our own country is taking, because their silence suggests that they agree with all of it, and maybe they do.  Maybe they really are more interested in whether Trump builds a wall and changes immigration laws than they are about whether a government forces a doctor to act against his/her conscience in a life or death situation.  Maybe they really do care more about Hillary’s feminist agenda than they do about whether or not children are all fully protected in school environments.  Maybe they really are more concerned about economics than they are about human life and the deterioration of our society.  And they are entitled to their opinions.

But I also know that some people simply prefer not to get into political or moral discussions because they choose to avoid arguments that might upset others, or they take a position of always wanting to be nice and make others feel good.  I can respect the views of others while holding my own, but I can’t respect fence sitters.  They’re just waiting to see which side is most popular in each conversation so they can slide in and never really come forward with a stand on anything.

I’m not against respectful words and treating others with kindness.  I have compassion and empathy for many people with whom I might very much disagree on issues but whose well-being matters to me.   So I fight these causes with words and actions because even though it might never affect me, it affects the moral fabric of our country and even the seemingly smallest change to that ALWAYS leads to other less desirable change until eventually everything is acceptable and nothing is considered off limits.

Not everyone feels compelled to fight a cause.  Not everyone sees the need.  And they are entitled to their opinions.

But having said all that, I do wonder if everyone who is either ignoring or supporting the law in Canada which will allow people to legally end their lives or have them ended by a doctor with the help of our medical system and tax dollars (but we’ve been killing unborn babies for years with tax dollars so maybe people really aren’t concerned about this either) will be just as silent later when they’re old, disabled, mentally ill etc. and in hospital hoping to stay alive.  I wonder if they will be just as silent when their end of life care is compromised because no one respects their life anymore, when they’re becoming a drain on the system, when they are deemed “unworthy” of living and taking up space.  I hope that if they’re supporting this law they have considered what it means in the bigger picture and aren’t just fooling themselves with the “that will never happen” lie in response to opinions shedding light on the possible future effects of this law.

I hope their reasons for being silent in general on moral issues go deeper than just not wanting to “upset” others, deeper than just wanting everyone to like them.  Because honestly, if they aren’t willing to speak up now, they might not get a chance later.

Fence sitters often only cry out when something directly affects them.  By the time they do, it might just be that all those people they didn’t offend – all those they made sure still liked them – are no longer around to fight for them, because a law made it possible for a government to decide when it was time for them to die.

Somehow whatever is going to happen with the US election – however entertaining I’m going to find a race between Donald and Hillary – is nowhere near as important as what happens next when Canada passes a law that devalues human life in all its stages.  God help us all if we are at our most vulnerable moments less than perfect, less than productive, less than someone else who needs one of our organs, less than …

“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller