You barely recognized your classmate R’s face when she shouted this at you and your friend Deborah, spittle coming out of her mouth, along with words that made no sense. She was normally quite and gentle. You wondered what had brought about this strange transformation.
You’d been teased in school for being American and having a funny accent. The other girls would sing the Don MacLean song that was so popular at the time, “Bye Bye, Miss American Pie” in the cloakroom, when the teachers weren’t around to hear. Still, you could live with that, even though you got sick of hearing it.
But this was different. It felt infinitely worse due to the strange fire in R’s eyes, the bitterness in her voice.
Most of all it felt bad because it didn’t make any sense. It was physically impossible for you and Deborah to have killed Jesus. It was the early 1970’s in London, England, and he’d been crucified in the Holy Land almost 1700 years before either of you had even been born. So why would your classmate make such an illogical accusation?
So you point that out to her.
“I wasn’t even born then!” you say.
But it doesn’t seem to matter to her. She has been convinced, somehow, and by someone, that you and your friend are murderers.
This is the first time you encounter irrational hatred. Sadly, it won’t be the last. But this encounter leaves an indelible mark on who you are, what you believe, and how you try to live your life. It takes you almost forty years to find your voice, but when you do, it is strong and powerful, and you will try to use it well.
In your first book, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, you write: “I’ve always thought all these different names mean the same G-d anyway. It’s just the rituals that separate us. If everyone felt the same way, this world we live in would be a much more peaceful place.”
Because of this experience with hatred, when you see other people being mistreated and judged solely on the basis of faith instead of how they act as people, you don’t hesitate to speak out. Because you know that while it can be scary to take a stand, the price of silence is too great.
Don’t be a bystander when you see a wrong being done to another person. Silence is complicity. If you can’t intervene safely at the time, tell someone afterward. We all have a responsibility to try to make the community safe.
I pledge to take a stand against bullying each and every day. #One Voice