Saturday, June 08, 2013

Three fears for change.

(NOTE: I wrote this post on June 6, 2012, and left in my "Draft" folder. I am publishing it now because the petition referred to is still up at change.org. Apparently the situation has NOT changed.)

When I signed my first change.org petition, the petition calling for George Zimmerman to be charged in the death of Trayvon Martin, perhaps a month ago, I had consented to having the website send me emails regarding future petitions.

Today, I opened an email from change.org that I had received a few days ago, with the startling header, "Mass. school electrocutes blind girl." The email did not describe electrocution as I think of it - a fatal administration of electricty - but what it described was bad enough:  the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, in Canton, Mass., administers electric shocks to children with autism and other disabilities, with a frequency and severity that the U.N. calls torture.

It scared me a little. But after reading it, I went to the webpage for the petition that it was describing, created by a former JRC teacher named Gregory Miller, which calls for JRC to stop using electroshocks on students. There was a video on the page. And I got a little more scared.

"What are you afraid of?" I asked myself.

At first I thought it was just the fear of violating the ethic that calls for journalists to live with a mythical objectivity that translates into an unwillingness to commit to a cause, to any cause.

But the question persisted after that flimsy answer volunteered itself. And somehow honesty stepped forth, in its simplicity. Website name nothwithstanding, I was afraid of change - not out there in the world, but in me. I was afraid that signing a second petition on change.org would lead to signing another, and another, until I became a certain type of person - a person who looks for outrages and delights that the world supplies them in such abundance. Who perhaps even finds personal validation in the perpetuity with which he or she opposes one evil or another. I would rather light candles than curse the darkness (thus the name of my company, Luminaria Productions).

So the petition page scared me a little. But now that I was there, I could only choose to watch the video, or to act as if I didn't know about the video.

I no longer had the choice of not knowing about it.

I watched. And a third fear emerged - the fear of being the kind of person who will allow any and every evil, because opposing it would be too uncomfortable. Someone might see my name and...what? What is worth placing my name on, if not this?

I signed.

I will continue to strive for discretion in answering that question: "What is worth placing my name on?" And in cases that seem too sketchy, I will refrain.

But this one is not sketchy. If anything, the video makes it more clear-cut than the Trayvon Martin case. And it is horrible.
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