Processing Charlottesville has been a challenge for me on many levels. Every day I hold a moment of silence for Heather Heyer and her family, the other Charlottesville victims and well as victims before that. I especially want to send my condolence to Heather’s parents and send them a virtual hug. Direct and indirect, I know as a parent it’s tough to see one’s kid go before one does. Know that you are loved.
I have been struggling to find the words to speak to our leaders, parents, and elected officials. I am asking you to listen. I am looking up to all of you and us.
Please, do the right thing by all of us. Stand up now. Stand up and say something to put an end to this growing evil in the name of the victims. Stand up and say something in the name of everyone who fought and died and lived for this nation.
Whatever ideology or impulse might be holding you back put them aside and take care of those you swore to be an example for. An example means looking to the history of leaders who fought for all of us to get this far. An example means you know being a leader isn’t about appealing to hate, but to love, to our better selves, and bringing human beings together.
You see a true leader is about standing in the front in times like these and saying home truths. Truths that speak to the pernicious culture and ideology that led to killing an innocent woman. Truths that emphasize the destructive power of evil and hate on the human race.
The human race is depending on you because your leadership role comes with responsibility. That is why you are called a leader. Leading means when something is wrong, you call it out. Call out hate groups.
Groups come in all forms. There will be those that follow you as a leader and those that disagree. The best leaders according to leadership research are the best partly because they learn from the awesome power of disagreements and forge unity among their followers.
The promotion of divergent views among us is one of the core values of this country. Past leaders have encouraged divergent views because it enriches our democracy. Please, step up; take the lead to work together to harness the fruits of these views.
Right now, democracy is at that crossroads where we are challenged with disagreements about everything democracy stands for. Now is the time that our leaders step up to the plate and help us redefine democracy if necessary and set a new course for this great experiment. An experiment fraught with pain and which is currently causing more pain.
But pain can be a good thing because it tells us that something is wrong and we need to address it. That is why we have doctors to heal us. In the role of a doctor is where our leaders are must be if they have to heal this country and the world so that the victims’ names can be remembered with grace.
What I see in the news and social media is that most of us are starving for someone to take the lead to bring about sanity, normalcy, and some sense of stability. I see the good in all of us. It is a sign that we care about each other and want to live in harmony. To do that, our leaders must do what is right.
This is not to dismiss anyone’s pain. This is not to put one group over another. This is not to say that we should not recognize our roots. It is to ask that our leaders call out others who seem to thrive on divisive tactics.
In history, a division has never won anything. Divisions have led to all sorts of societal ills. Divisions have caused more pain. In my view, it is time for our leaders to stand up and unite us.
Of course, unity is not without struggles. I’d be naive to think otherwise. But I have lived long enough in my short life to see the awesome power of unity.
My dad used metaphors to show me the meaning of persistence in the face of struggles. He said, “Kojo when you look at a stream of water flowing, notice a leaf or a stick (objects). Pay attention to the flowing water and how the objects flow with it. The objects continue to flow until they get stuck somewhere. But the water continues to flow. The water persists. Eventually, the water will break the objects free.
We cannot get stuck on hatred because like the water, the planet is still spinning and the sun is still shining and setting. We cannot continue to ignore the pain, the rotten part of the foundation of this nation that continues to keep us stuck on hatred. We cannot ignore that we have evolved so much even in the face of being “stuck.”
Like the flowing water, we must persist to do the right thing. We must persist to call on our leaders. We must persist until we break free of that leaf or stick of hatred.
I am asking our leaders to please, in the name of love, stand up and do the right thing to bring everyone together to begin a dialogue. Talking about difficult things hasn’t hurt anyone before and I am sure it won’t hurt anyone now. Talking like I am writing to appeal to you is probably the best medicine each leader can use to unite us.
Our children are watching.
They are future leaders and we must set good examples for them to follow. Each leader needs to step up and I see that happening slowly. But I think there are many who can help.
Remember, being a leader can be a lonely journey. At the same time, being a leader can be rewarding. The reward comes when the people we lead can look to us to do the right thing even in the midst of disagreements.
We currently seem to have a leadership vacuum. This vacuum is not new and it preceded Charlottesville. Most of us know that there have been several other ongoing divisive situations that called for our leaders to unite us.
But if that hasn’t happened, I think now is the time to see *all* our leaders stepping up in front of us to lead us in the right direction. I am calling for your help, leaders. I am asking you to please, come forward, take a stand against hate and show us how the awesome power of love can move us forward.
Please, stand up, say something and do something to bring us together.
Be a leader.