This isn’t most fun time to be an American. Politics are rife with divisiveness, and there are racial tensions unlike the U.S. has seen since, probably, the civil rights era of the 1960s.
A headline the other day in an esteemed, national publication read: “Is America on the Path to Ruin?” It was enough to make one stop and think about the downfall of other great societies of the past, such as Rome and Greece. Can this divisiveness bring us down?
Only if we let it.
No matter what you believe about protest groups, police, stupid internet hashtags or even what you believe about people of different races from you, you probably will agree that unless we all figure out a way to make peace with all our differences, the country isn’t going to become any better a place to live.
Minority groups aren’t going to do it. Police departments aren’t going to do it. Politicians aren’t going to do it. WE have to do it. Us. All of us.
That’s most likely what NBA stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul had on their minds when they opened the ESPN awards the other night by speaking about change in America. They argued against gun violence, racism, hate and divisiveness. And quite a bit of America, at least on social media, responded with one message:
“Stick to sports.”
That response made me think about Muhammad Ali, whose recent death, decades later, brought up ill will toward him, too, because he used his platform to protest the draft during the Vietnam war. A half-a-century later, the guy dies, and people still criticize him for that. Stick to sports.
Why is it that we discourage sports stars and other celebrities from speaking their minds on topics that are important? James, Wade and his friends are the best in the world at what they do. They get a lot of attention. So they know they have the ability to get a worthy message heard. Why do so many people resent that they use their platform?
If Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos stood on a stage and said the same thing, made a similar call to action, would people be saying “Stick to computers?” Heck, Bill Gates heads one of the largest charitable foundations in the world and DOES speak out on many social issues. Does anybody tell him “Stick to technology?”
I may or may not disagree with whoever says whatever, whenever, but I think that if you believe in something and have a platform to do something about it, you’d better use it. The whistleblower with a Twitter account. The anonymous caller to authorities reporting a crime. A small business owner with an e-newsletter. If believe something has to change, and you have the ability to affect change, you’d better speak up.
There are far too many people in this world who have no voice, no means of speaking up for what’s right for those who do have a platform not use it. There’s no justice in that. And this world is unjust enough.
I want people to speak up, even if I disagree with their position. So many problems this country has it has because things aren’t spoken about often enough. So if someone influential with a platform to use that influence merely gets people talking, dialogue started, then it’s necessary. We cannot and will not ever iron these things out if we do not talk about them.
And I don’t mean groups standing on opposite sides of the street shouting each other, throwing things, or, God forbid, shooting. I mean real, meaningful conversation that might be uncomfortable but is necessary if we ever hope to all get along. So if it’s going to take four famous millionaires who happen to play sports to kick it off, so be it. If we all did a little better job of starting the conversations that need to be had, of spreading the word that needs to be spread, maybe we wouldn’t have all the problems we have.
Use your platform.