“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Frederick Douglass

This is one of my favorite quotes. Words by a man that knew of slavery and oppression. A man skilled in the art of weaving words that lead to profound reflection. This man knew struggle. This man knew what was worth fighting for. Those that stormed the Capitol are nothing like this man. Any thinking person now reflects and wonders about all the events that led to the day that killed human beings. There was no noble cause to fight for. No one’s rights had been violated. There was no reason for them to act that way.

We all know the definition of a leader. A leader is insightful, thoughtful, a person who tries to do the right thing. We don’t expect leaders to be perfect, but we do expect them to be determined to lead followers in the right direction. We expect values, honesty and logic from leaders. Not perfection, just noble attempts at making things better. When things go awry, they stand up, look us in the eyes and take responsibility. I remember the persuasive unit that I use to teach on fact versus opinion. Kids get it. Adults should too. One plus one still equals two. It doesn’t matter how many people dispute it and if a lot of people disagree, that doesn’t mean we all start to believe the falsehood. We don’t start to call mathematicians names. We don’t call anyone and try to convince them of what we believe with no real evidence. We don’t threaten people. And if for some reason, the leader remains misguided and disillusioned, there should be people around that person who are brave enough to say, “No, that’s not correct. One plus one still equals two.” You can’t overlook the facts. You can’t ignore them. You can’t choose to appease because of fear. Someone has to stand up. When we continue to move the bar, and let things slide, we all know the saying, it’s a slippery slope. The next thing you know, vigilantes are climbing walls, civil servants are injured, federal property is destroyed and congressmen and women are hiding under tables, fearing for their lives.

As other countries watch what has happened here, we should feel sickened and sad. This is not how it should be. Words matter. And we can all agree to broad norms — be kind, tell the truth, help others, work hard. We would like to think that if we do those things, we have a chance of making the world better and we can leave a noble legacy for future generations. But now too many people with too much power are not doing those things. We can do better. Black people, we ask to be treated equally. We ask that the world recognize the disproportionate of us that are murdered- sometime in the middle of the street, with cameras rolling. We have to acknowledge how Native Americans lost land that they own, how we have put kids in cages, how we made it impossible for the working class to survive. All these things (and so many more) must be acknowledged, faced and fixed before healing can begin. And none of these things require a riot.

It is past time to stop accepting behavior from leaders that we would not accept from a third grader. It is time to quit rationalizing oppression and hate. It is past time. Continuing to remain silent emboldens wrongdoers and grants them permission to proceed with whatever selfish plans they devise. Reading the work of a leader like Frederick Douglas always reminds me that one person can make a difference by standing up, calling out nonsense and demanding action, we just wish more of today’s leaders did the same.

T.R.Y. Life learner, mother, daughter, poet, teacher, rights crusader. Always on a mission.