Taking Sides

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel

Damn I love that quote. When I first came across it I thought I fully understood it, but over time, and after some tough, isolating experiences, I started seeing the full breadth of its meaning. You gotta love a quote that grows with you.

“We must always take sides”. It’s so true. It is only when we voice a side that we can engage in effective conversation. And effective conversation leads to powerful change.

The truth of the quote, however, means that sometimes people will not take your side. They’ll follow their own instinct, even when their instinct is not to trust you. Ooph. Ouch. Shot through the heart.

But it’s also true that nothing gets done if people remain neutral. In fact, neutrality often worsens a situation. I believe that my role as an artist isn’t to be democratic or try to convince people which side to take. My role is to present the full picture of the side I choose, then allow others to take that information and make their own decisions.

My thought on creating today is that allowing our egos to get in the way of people’s core values is never helpful. Conversation is the key to powerful change, and artists open space for conversation to happen… they don’t force conversation into a certain direction. I’m beginning to understand that the most radical thing I can do is let people make their own decisions, even if that means they turn their backs on me.

If they want to hate me or my decisions based on the info they have and the experiences they’ve gone through, then they will.

The world would be a much prettier place if we allowed everyone to show their unique selves, giving them permission to walk into their own understandings. But we all have to allow for that. And in the process of allowing people to bravely show up on their own sides, perhaps we’ll see their motivations more clearly. The more we stay focused on the sides we believe they should take, the less we’ll appreciate them for who they are.

We don’t have to like people in order to love them. And I respect art that explores the honest complexity of that truth.

One thought on “Taking Sides

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