Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This I Believe: We must do more than talk; we must act

By Pamela K. Taylor

[An In This Moment blogger, Taylor shares her insight and a link to an essay]

Last year I wrote an essay for the NPR Program, This I Believe, about the challenges of acting on deeply held, but very controversial beliefs. In my case, it was giving the sermon and leading the prayers for a mixed-gender congregation in a mosque.

The essay describes some of my decision-making process, and my conviction that we must go beyond belief in our principles, beyond writing about our belief in them, and step into activism to implement those principles.I just found out the essay was published on the This I Believe website, and can be read here.

The most salient points:

After much thought, it became clear to me that I had I no choice. I had to accept this invitation [to officiate the prayers], even if it cost me venues in which to publish, even if it meant subjecting myself to public disdain by more conservative Muslims, even if I had to endure the pangs of performance anxiety. Especially because I had to endure the pangs performance anxiety. What was the point to all my passionate writing in defense of women's rights if I refused to exercise those rights when they were offered to me? Why bother asserting women's competence in all endeavors if I shrank from demonstrating that competence in the very field where I possessed more expertise than most people? How could I expect others to step forward to enact the principles I promote, if I, the advocate, would not?


Anonymous said...

I don't need to act or talk about politics at all. I do not have television or newspapers in my life. I used to and they made me angry and unhappy all the time. Since I got rid of them I have realized tha my life is just fine exactly the way it is. I am a lesbian living right here in America. I live equally with all people around me. I am no different but am 100% unique because every person is 100% unique. They know who I am and accept me. I am not at disagreement with who I am with anyone, nor they with me. Life is good if you just live it and don't live life as though it needs to be any other way.

Diane Silver said...

First, I want to thank you and congratulate you for posting the first comment on this brand spanking new blog. Wahoo! It's always fun to get the first comment. Many thanks!

Now, as to the substance of your comment. I actually have several different reactions to what you said.

First, if you're happy, and if you think your culture and country are everything you want them to be, then don't, as you say, "act or talk about politics." And I would suggest that Becoming The Change is probably not the blog for you, then.

Second -- and this may be a tangent -- I think that people sometimes feel that there is only one way to be politically active, or to make a difference in the world. Folks sometimes think that you only count if you make a speech, lead prayers (as Pamela talks about in this post), write articles, organize people to vote or, well blog.

I disagree with that idea strongly, though. I think we all make contributions in our own ways. If you explore some of the links on the front page of this blog such as Be The Change and Be The Cause, you'll find people doing much different things to try to make this a better world. Singing can make this a better world, so can praying, working with the sick, hugging folks unexpectedly, along with giving to political causes, marching and doing a host of other things.

Finally, I do find your comments a bit puzzling, though. I, too, am a lesbian, and I am surrounded by family and friends who accept me. I'm out at work. I live my life very out.

At the same time, I am surrounded by a culture that doesn't treat me or my son fairly under the law. I don't think that's right, and I work to change that.

I don't think poverty is right or the way this country dealt with Hurricane Katrina or many other things is right.

Personally, I am moved to try to change things. This blog is part of my action. I know change isn't easy, and sometimes it's just darn confusing to figure out what to do, which is another reason this blog exists.

Again, if you are happy, then I am very pleased for you. But I also worry. As AIDS activists used to say, "your silence won't save you."

LGBT people, to name just one group, live as second-class citizens in this country. Legally we suffer a lot in ways that sometimes aren't visible unless we face a problem. (Example: I didn't realize how legally disadvantaged our families are until my life partner died of breast cancer.)

I don't think inaction does us any good.

I need to wrap this up, but I also just reread your comment and was really struck by waht you said about being angry and unhappy all the time by reading the news.

I wonder if perhaps my answer doesn't deal with your issues at all. I'm not certain I have a good answer right now, except to say that sometimes it's good to fight and sometimes it's good to retreat from the battle and just rest and restore yourself.

Take care of yourself. Do what you can. Be silent when you need to, but know above all, that you are not alone.

hope this makes sense. It's late in the day.

Take care, and thanks again, for being the first to comment at BTC.

Pamela K Taylor said...


There are days when I want to crawl into a cave and become a hermit. (Ok, maybe not a cave, a well-appointed cabin in a remote stretch of woods with my own helipad so I can get my doses of culture when I want them...)

Fact of the matter is, the situation facing Muslims in the world is not something I am going to be able to fix. I'm not going to be able to convince thousands of extremists that their understanding of jihad is wrong. Nor can I make any impact on the laws of Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc, etc.

I can't save the lives of innocent women and children (and men) in Iraq. Widespread poverty isn't going to go away because I protest exploitation by multi-national corporation and buy free-trade coffee.

It is all too easy to despair over the state of the world.

The best I can hope for is that my actions, my words, a poem I write, or a smile I give to someone in the check out line will touch a heart or two, and that the people I touch will in turn reach out to others. And maybe, some where, some day, something I did or said or wrote will prevent something unpleasant happening to someone I don't even know.

I'm willing to try just for that. Of course, I hope for much more. I hope the country wakes up and devotes itself to progressive principles starting with the next election. (Or even sooner.)

Even if it doesn't, when I go to meet my God, I can honestly say, "I tried." I believe that is all God asks of us... that we try.