Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.
Mark Combs, a friend of mine from way back, posted the above Voltaire quote.
I like the line quite a bit, even though I consider words like “guilty” and “good” to be counterproductive and ultimately vacuous, as are their antonyms, innocent and evil. The problem with such words is that they can too easily draw people into a cycle of focusing on assignation rather than pushing them forward into personal action.
And action, really, is at the heart of Voltaire’s words. A call to action.
A call to the realization that not taking action is an action in and of itself. A realization that there is no middle ground. A realization that you have a choice to act and that “if you choose not to decide / you still have made a choice.”
With the Orlando massacre, there are analyses of cause by both professional and armchair intellectuals. There are conversations about prevention ranging from passing stricter gun laws to saying everyone in the nightclub should have been armed.
But I want to approach it a wholly different way. Approach it at the individual level; at the level I go to on a daily basis.
What part did you play in the massacre? We all should ask ourselves this question, and ask it often.
And you did play a part. Of course you did. Remember: there is no middle ground. So, phrased another way, did you play the part of someone trying to make things better for all?
Passing bathroom bills and engaging in other forms of hate speech is the antithesis of better. And doing nothing amounts to the same.
When I hear about violence, I tell my husband how much I love him. When I hear about animal abuse, I hold my critters close. When I hear about child abuse, I think of all the kids I work with and how much I want to protect them.
And then I expand that circle: say hi to a neighbor, pet a stray animal, think of another way I can help kids.
So phrased yet another way, at this precise moment, with your finite life running out, what “good” do you have left to do.
And what are you waiting for?