I had a conversation with a friend yesterday evening, about my oldest daughter and how proud I was when she remarked that we should give the Salvation Army bell ringers coffee because they must be cold. I continued talking about how this was the very spirit I wanted to foster in my children – seeing when others were in need and being ready to help meet that need if they could. I was a little surprised when my friend responded that one had to be careful with that these days. I was surprised because she is a person that I know to be empathetic and to truly hurt over the horrors all too common in this world. So I asked and she answered. Look at how many people have been arrested in Florida for feeding the hungry, she said. Things are crazy these days. You can’t risk provoking the police. And I understood. As much as she agreed with the principle behind what I had said, fear polarized her. Not so much for herself maybe, but for her family. But even as I understand the view she is taking, I cannot agree with it. She seemed a bit shocked when I voiced that I would risk being arrested, just as those in Florida have. That I would encourage my own children in the same course of action. Because for me, there is no question. One does not leave people to starve, to die, simply because a law prohibits offering them food. This is wrong. There need be no argument, no fancy words. It is simply wrong. And I would feel only pride to find that my children shared this belief, even if it meant bailing them out of jail. Now it is not that I encourage resisting police orders. If stopped by police officers and questioned I believe a person should be respectful. We have charged our police officers with a heavy responsibility, one many of us could not bear up under; it should come as no surprise when one of them falters under that weight. Their purpose is to uphold the law, whether they agree with it or I agree with it. Since we have determined that we need laws and enforcers, it follows that we must allow them to do this. So if stopped and questioned, you cooperate. If arrested, you cooperate. But cooperating does not mean abandoning one’s principles. Yes, I would allow myself to be arrested for breaking a law that says not to feed the homeless. But I would not allow the arrest to stop me from continuing to feed the homeless. And this is exactly what I want to teach my children. Because if we abandon our principles because of fear, if we teach our children that to be safe is better than to be moral, if we tell them to fall in line and keep their mouths shut…what world will we create? Consider what monsters would assume kingship over a world of bowing, submissive citizens concerned only with keeping themselves safe. Consider also what good teaching our children a solid moral code is if we tell them it is okay to abandon it when they feel threatened.
There are many things to be concerned about in the world today. Many things within our borders, at our very doorsteps. But giving in to the fear is not the answer. Because if we do not teach our children to fight these battles, then who will there be in the next generation to fight them?