Eighteenth century philosopher Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Anyone who follows the news can see that there is evil and cruelty in this world. But I believe that average people with good intentions and strong convictions will stand-up for what they believe and sacrifice or endure hardship to ensure that those wrongs do not go unchallenged.
I believe whenever there is an act of evil that makes us shudder, someone will fight against it. I know with all my heart that no matter how difficult the situation, we each have convictions that we will defend, rights that we will not let anyone take away from us, and a commitment to the less fortunate or the persecuted among us. We must be able to recognize that everyday people around us have the same courage in them. Our faith in human decency during the hardest times allows us to see those flashes of goodness through the most difficult challenges.
There is an abundance of cynicism and disillusionment today, but when I look back through historical examples of evil, no matter how awful an atrocity was, it sparked opposition. Someone acted to right the wrongs being committed, and they continue to inspire us to act on our beliefs today.
Through the most horrible situations, exceptional people refused to look the other way when they recognized injustice. They were willing to risk their safety and their lives in order to do what they believed to be right. Germans smuggled Jewish children from Nazi Germany; Frederick Douglas had the courage to ask, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and on 9/11, New York City firefighters refused to be deterred by the horror they were witnessing. Heroes spread hope in the darkest of times; they refuse to submit to the overwhelming obstacles confronting them. There are countless examples of individuals who would not give in, who stood their ground, and who sacrificed for their beliefs.
Evil draws a line in the sand and dares us not to cross for fear of the consequences to ourselves. Courage helps us step over that line regardless of the fear that at any other time would be paralyzing. Each person who crosses that line reduces the burden on the next.
Every one of us has commitments to our friends, family, or to issues we believe in. The people in our history books are remembered because they refused to submit to fear, because they felt a stronger calling to protect their beliefs and ideals than to protect their own comfort and safety. Once upon a time our heroes were regular people, until they elevated themselves.
It is not naïve to believe in the strength and decency of the people around us. There are many people in this world who will resist being weakened by external forces, who refuse to choose the painless path. We can acknowledge evil and recognize acts of inhumanity, but then we must also have faith that where evil exists, no matter how average we are, we will have the strength to rise up and speak out. Our country’s history has been determined by the good men and women who chose to challenge the evil they saw and prevent its triumph.