Be brave enough to stand up to injustice

2012-07-15T00:00:00Z 2012-07-21T15:16:04Z Be brave enough to stand up to injusticeJAMES OLM Casper Star-Tribune Online
July 15, 2012 12:00 am  • 

A few weeks ago, two very good friends of mine were enjoying the outdoors and excitement of the Nic Fest. As they were strolling around the festivities, a wind came up and blew my friend’s hat off of her head. A group of males nearby watched this happen and then laughed at her.

Not a big deal? Let me add just a few more facts to the situation. My two female friends are committed partners to each other. Still not a big deal? How about the fact that my friend who lost her hat in the wind was diagnosed with cancer, has been in chemo treatments, and had subsequently lost all of her hair. Yes folks, she was bald. How do you feel now?

A few weeks ago, a 68-year-old woman, Karen Klein of Greece, N.Y., was mercilessly taunted and bullied by four 10-year-old boys while she was a bus monitor.

In May of this year, a 13-year-old, Rachel Ehmke of Mantorville, Minn., committed suicide due to peer abuse and bullying.

In 2011, a Casper mother, Pamela Gray, had to file a lawsuit to protect her daughter from months of bullying in the Natrona County School District.

God forbid that we even mention the Matthew Shepherd incident — “it’s those Laramie people; that’s not the good people of Casper.”

Well folks, I hate to break the news to you, but here in Casper we are not insulated from the ongoing national trend of bullying and general taunting of fellow human beings. We can see it in our schools, we can see it on our streets, and yes, we can even see it at a beautiful Nic Fest. When does this abuse of power, the bigotry, and the lack of basic human respect to the oppressed end? How do we stop it?

Name-calling, laughing, jeering, using words describing a faction of people in a derogatory fashion are all abominable choices of interaction and can be construed as bullying. They are not harmless. They are not just “kidding moments” or jokes. They hurt people. They make those oppressed people feel less than who they are. It is wrong and it is against everything that we are taught both spiritually and morally.

Education is absolutely a part of the fight, but it can’t be left

only to the public schools. I had taught in the public schools for

20 years and, in the 1990s, the term “retarded” really started picking up as the new catch-word for calling something or someone stupid or silly. Consistently I would explain the negative implications of such usage, and then ask them if they would use that term “retarded” in front of a mentally impaired person. Inevitably they would say no. Yet still today, it is being used and accepted as the norm.

Teachers only see their students for six hours a day. What happens outside of school walls we as parents, family members, churches, organizations and community members must take responsibility. It has to be a 24-hour, consistent attack and reprimand.

How else can we stop the abuse? What would Christ, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mohammad, the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa say or do? I would guess that they would get out into the streets and do something about it. Must we always wait until we reach the point of being “as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”?

This past Sunday, a few of

us in our church chose to shave our heads. We did this to support our beautiful friend who was

so indignantly jeered by mean people at Nic Fest. We were all moved by the moment, and celebrated our unity and support with pictures and laughter. But, for me personally, I also did it so that when people are around me and see my bald head, they will be reminded about the importance of fighting this escalating form of oppression.

Power comes with numbers. Numbers come with people who are brave enough to stand up to injustice. What can you do? Make a stand. Join the NAACP Martin Luther King Day walk in January. Attend the Moment of Silence Day in April to give support to our bullied kids. Support Pride Day with congratulations and celebration, versus with indifference and avoidance.

If you can’t do that, then come and support the UCC Fun-in-the-Sun-draiser Saturday, July 21, from noon to 4 p.m. at Melrose and 15th Streets. Our small, progressively liberal church works at being a conscious supporter for the oppressed.

And if you can’t do that, then please, at least educate your own kids and families to the destructiveness of people and belittlement. We are all holy in the eyes of our maker.

James Olm is the council chairman at United Church of Christ-Casper.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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