Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Standing up
A question posed on the cover of a major magazine caught my attention: “What would you be willing to stand up for?” I have been thinking about it for some time.
With all the unrest in this country, the increase in hate crimes — up in every major category last year including race, religion and sexual orientation — I wonder what I would be willing to risk my own sense of security to fight. For most of my life, I have not taken a strong stance on very many issues. I have spent quite a bit of time somewhere in the middle.
I have never been much of a fighter, but I have always been interested in seeing others’ point of view. I consider myself to be more of a diplomat.
As a reporter, I spent a decade asking questions on both sides of an issue and doing my best to convey such in a concise and fair manner. It did not stop me from having my own opinion, of course, but if approached, I hedged in most situations.
I did my best to keep my personal beliefs out of the equation. It was important to have a cordial relationship with civic leaders, community members and policy makers. My job required a bit of an open mind, though there was an occasion when I felt the need to wash after spending time with a longtime politician who did not seem to share any views I could understand, support, or stomach.
I met people compelled to protest in a variety of ways for a variety of causes, while I was content to sit back and, frankly, let them do the demanding work. I just didn’t think I felt strongly enough about anything to really fight for it.
When I was in my 20s I remember a discussion over religious persecution. Would I have the courage to stand up for my beliefs if my life was at stake? In all honesty, I did not think so.
Building up inside
As I have grown older, my opinions have become stronger and there are issues that become more concerning; even alarming. Still, I did not see myself as a warrior.
But over the last year and a half, the divide has grown large and the need to speak up grows stronger.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with a woman who told me she has been protesting for over 50 years. There were sit-ins and walk-outs, boycotts, and marches — to fight against war and to fight for civil rights, reproductive rights, women’s rights, and now this! This latest policy of prosecuting and dividing families who seek asylum. I am embarrassed over my apathy.
I empathize with families who seek a better life for their families. I can only imagine how horrible their situations must be to make them leave their homes and everything they know, to risk prosecution and now, separation from their children, all for the hope of a better future. But I do not underestimate the courage or the desperation.
It took a while, but I finally had the answer to the question, “What would you stand up for?”
Children! My children, their safety and their future are what I would stand up for. I realize I already have. When I was unable to leave my first marriage for my own sake, I found the courage to leave for the safety and future of my children.
And now I realize sitting back and staying neutral is not good enough. I watched the protests in this community and across the country and wondered how it would make a difference. And then it did.
Looking again to my friends who were part of the movements that changed the culture in America, who made lawmakers listen when it came to Vietnam and to civil rights and who have seen change happen, I find inspiration.
The change in this latest policy separating families at the border, while not perfect, is a change in policy. It is a glimmer of hope.
As a child watching the play, “Peter Pan,” I remember being asked to clap my hands if I believed in fairies and along with my fellow kindergartners, brought Tinker Bell back to life. It was equal parts belief and action.
I believe we can make a difference. I am assured, it is so. But action is needed. I may not be staging any sit-ins, or walk-outs any time soon, but I am awake.
I am writing and calling and voting. And most importantly, I know what I am willing to stand up for.
As Margaret Mead so famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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