Sixty-five years ago, on December 9, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Polish American lawyer Raphael Lemkin is generally recognized as the driving force behind this convention. He coined the word “genocide” in 1944 and made ending genocide his life’s work. He is praised among anti-genocide advocates as the the man who gave name to these atrocities. Who worked tirelessly to raise awareness of these atrocities. Who did everything within his power to ensure these atrocities would never happen ever again.
Seven people attended his funeral.
Raphael Lemkin was not very popular.
As it turns out, the difficult work of lobbying for a cause, of being the person who won’t shut up when everyone else wants you to, of being a relentless reminder of what is right…doesn’t earn you too many friends.
Just think of the people you know who are like this. You’re in a community meeting, which you went to after work. It’s 7:30 pm and you haven’t had dinner yet. Maybe you have a bit of a headache. You’re glad you went, but you also can’t wait to get home. And then, Old So-And-So gets up to speak. And before they open their mouth you’ve already rolled your eyes and tuned out – you already know what they’re gonna say, cause you’ve heard them raise the issue a thousand times before. Yes, it’s important, but can’t they see it’s just not practical?
It’s possible your thoughts are less than charitable.
Nobody wants to be that person. Everybody dislikes that person.
But if we ever hope to to change things for the better, then somebody must be that person.
And as difficult as it is, each of us should try to be that person. We must speak out against injustice and refuse to remain silent in the face of oppression.
Otherwise you’re just a bystander.
Honestly, I don’t know that I have the fortitude for such a life. But, I believe, it’s a noble calling if you can do it.And perhaps, I would say, it is a life worth striving for. As poet Charles Mackay puts it:
You have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.