A quotation set against a purple backdrop that reads: Great nations, like great men, should keep their word. Attributed to US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in 1960.

Maybe in error, but never in silence

Existence and visibility is political. I came out as a queer man the day my fellow Californians voted to make same-sex marriage illegal, and my identity as a person with disabilities and chronic illness came into focus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So when I see other people being marginalized, I feel compelled to learn and speak up.

A consequence of a bias toward action is that, inevitably, I make people uncomfortable and sometimes I get things wrong in form or substance.

As someone with Palestinian and Jewish friends of varying political persuasions, right now I see that all of them are hurting. They are traumatized by historical, recent, and ongoing violence, and at the same time they are coping with a rising tide of bigotry.

I don’t know if I’ve got “the right” take on things. Unlike the late great U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who lived by the motto, “Maybe in error, but never in doubt,” I am riddled with doubt. But here’s what I do know: silence is not an option. Silence serves the status quo, and there are vanishingly few places where the status quo is acceptable. And as a white cisgender dude I can afford to speak up.

So, to the matter at hand: I have been speaking up on the situation in Israel and Gaza.

I worship at the altar of life, I view rights as going hand-in-hand with responsibilities, and I believe we have an obligation to break destructive patterns. Given those principles, I’ve felt obligated to both call for a return of hostages as well as for a ceasefire, for truth and reconciliation, and for a new logic that would see Palestinian and Israeli people living in a peaceful, prosperous coexistence.

You may or may not agree with me, and that’s OK. I hope, though, that my approach and my track record make it clear: when you and your community are suffering injustice, I will not stand idly by.

So if you think I’ve gotten something wrong, I want to know. And if you think I’m being silent when I should be speaking up, I want to know.

After all, it is only through mutual support and cross-movement solidarity that we can usher in a world that is better than the one we inherited.

The header image I chose for this is a quotation from US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s dissent in Federal Power Commission v. Tuscarora Indian Nation. Far from seeing myself as a “great man,” I chose this image because I am indeed making a promise and I believe there are things we can learn from how North America’s first peoples were mistreated that apply to the ongoing crisis.





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