WHEN THE TIME COMES, DO YOU DARE?
I’ve been doing some research lately about the “radical lawyer” and civil rights activist William Kunstler. He was a charismatic guy known for his controversial clients like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, The Chicago 7 and Jack Rubey. I came across a great excerpt from his autobiography and also a clip of him giving a speech at a 1995 college graduation. Something he said in both of these struck me and I wanted to share it with you.
He was talking about the moments in his life when he had to decide whether or not to take on an unpopular cause or client. Then he mentioned Michelangelo’s statue of David. He shared that he kept a picture of this particular statue of David near his desk in his law office. He explained how it is the only representation in art of David BEFORE he kills Goliath. All the rest – the paintings and Donatello’s bronze statue – show David standing with the severed head of Goliath, AFTER he has already defeated the giant.
Kunstler said, “Michelangelo is saying, across these four centuries, that every person’s life has a moment when you’re thinking of doing something that will jeopardize yourself. And if you don’t do it, no one will be the wiser that you even thought of it. So, it’s easy to get out of it. And that’s what David is doing right there. He’s got the rock in the right hand, the sling over the left shoulder, and he’s saying, “Do I dare, do I dare?”
“It is a moment that occurs often in my life. Every time I decide to take on a Larry Davis or a Yusef Salaam, I make a choice. While I’m hardly comparing myself to David, my choice is whether to take on the giant or to let it slide. No one will know. When I choose, I choose what I believe is the right thing, despite the odds against it. Over the years, my David moments have come more frequently. Do I dare? Do I dare? I usually do when I can take on the system or when I believe that a certain defendant won’t get a fair trial… I hope many of you, or at least a significant few, will dare when the time comes, if it hasn’t come already.”
The next day after reading this, I had a conversation with my sweetie, Chris. He told me that he’d just experienced something similar the night before driving home late from a gig. There was a car in front of him that kept swerving into the break down lane and then across the double yellow lines. At first he thought they might be drifting because they were texting while driving – but the driving got much worse.
At that point – he had to make a decision. Do I call the cops and report a suspected drunk driver or just ignore it and go about my business? It didn’t take him long to choose. After a mile, he called 911 and told them what he was witnessing.
The next day he got a thank you call from the police station. They’d found the driver, pulled them over and arrested them. Not only were they dangerously drunk and under the influence of drugs but they’d also had their baby in the car with them!
I read somewhere that – “Heroes, even humble ones, are ordinary people who overcome their fear to perform an act that is later regarded as heroic or courageous.”
We are all going to have moments in our life (some big and some small) when we see something going on – at the grocery store, in someone’s yard, in our community or even the larger world – that we know in our hearts isn’t right. The question is – what are you going to do about it?
The Universe is giving us an opportunity to make a difference. A chance to gently intervene or boldly stand up for what we believe in. To speak up for those who have no voice. To right a wrong, to say no to a bully, to protect the Earth, to call the authorities about suspected domestic violence, an abused animal or neglected children.
These moments will not always offer easy choices. And they’re not always going to be popular decisions. But when the time comes and you bear witness to a prejudice, an injustice or some other act of violence or cruelty – I hope that many of you, or at least a significant few, will dare.