Silence

Silence can be golden, but sometimes it is yellow.

I should have said something! I kept quiet about the teacher who tried to sexually assault me, because he was such a good guy and who would believe me? I found out later that he had tried the same thing with my neighbor. How many other women had he assaulted because I kept quiet?  He was never held accountable, he got away with it. I and the other women he assaulted didn’t get away with it. Keeping quiet did not mean that no harm had been done. My silence was yellow, I did not act with courage. There are times it is best to shut the f’up, and times to scream as loud as you can.The trick is to know when to do which.

Everytown Research and Policy has found that in the U.S., the crisis of domestic violence is closely linked to the widespread and growing use of guns by abusers. Two-thirds of women killed by an intimate partner are killed with a gun. Existing loopholes in federal and state law allow access to guns by abusive partners and stalkers, often with deadly results.  Common-sense laws that keep guns out of the hands of abusive partners can reduce gun violence and domestic violence.  Red-flag laws seek to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a threat o themselves and others.

Are you suicidal? Do you have a plan? Is there a gun in the house? Quite a few people may wonder “How can you ask that?’; Aren’t you just giving an idea to a troubled person?” No and no. Experts on suicide believe that putting the issue of suicide on the table and talking about it with someone actually lessens the risk of suicide. Silence in this case is not golden, and having an extremely difficult conversation is the better choice.  Talk about it, admit it, share your feelings and you are no longer alone and living in the closed loop of your thoughts. Be brave and confront difficult feelings out loud. Yours may be the voice that gives someone a pause to reconsider. 

According to Harvard Public Health, 2/3 of the annual gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Look at the headlines. “Gun suicide soars as cause of death among teens.”; “Young Americans taking their own lives with guns hits record levels.”  The states that have the highest rates of gun ownership have the highest rates of suicide because firearms are so lethal. About 85% of suicide attempts with firearms end in death. A gun in the house raises the suicide risk for everyone including the gun owner, the spouse and children. The call to understand the “why” of suicide is not enough. The “how” of suicide is equally important, especially where guns are the method of choice.

That racist  or homophobic joke was not funny at all, but do you come up with a weak chuckle and stay silent? What if the person telling the joke is your boss or your father-in-law? Sometimes silence can be both golden and yellow, a mixed bag of consequences. The greater good of keeping your job to support yourself and your family may be the silence is golden decision. I’ve found that knowing where my boundaries are and knowing how much  psychological “costs” I’m willing to spend for “put up and shut” up are critical. I call it  the “man in the mirror” test.  Facing racism, homophobia and anti-semitism with silence implies tacit agreement with hate.

Experts fear that increasing belief in the  “Replacement  Theory” conspiracy will bring more hate crimes and mass shootings. Over the past decade, seven of the top ten incidents of hate were mass killings by heavily armed young men with military assault rifles. ABC news reported on the mass shooting in Buffalo: 10 people were killed and another three wounded when a mass shooting erupted at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that authorities allege was a “racially motivated hate crime” carried out by a heavily armed white teenager who fired a barrage of 50 shots outside and inside the supermarket. The mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub was a hate crime motivated by homophobia.  The “why” in hate crimes differs, but often the “ how” is military assault weapons.

I am a child of the 60’s, and from college to today I have not used my “inside voice” to express my anger and passion for social and political issues. I raise my voice in protest.

I will not be silent.

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