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Rule #11 - Don't be sheep, speak out when you see wrong Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century
Writing was Ivan's way of speaking out.

"Don't be sheep.."

Sheep are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. With approval. They provide food, clothing, and lambs make the best sacrifices.

Sheep stay together. They are docile. They do as they are told. If one is foolish enough to leave the flock, someone will find them and bring them back to the safety of the group. They have shepherds to watch over them. Dogs are trained to push sheep in the direction the shepherd wants them to go. Barking at them is a doggy management tool.

While it is uncomfortable to view 21st century society as flocks, in many ways it is. All goes smoothly when members follow the shepherd, a leader they trust to take care of them. Fulfill a duty to ensure safety of the flock, keep the predators away. Provide shelter from storms and dangers. The flock rewards the leader with admiration, respect, and support.

But what happens when the shepherd fails? When the leader is inadequate? Sheep won't rise up and replace the bad shepherd. It is not in their nature. They patiently wait. They huddle together to protect themselves from storms and predators. In the direst circumstances, the flock breaks apart and individuals scatter with disastrous results for the oldest, the youngest, the weakest.

Stability calls for flocks. Following rules, laws and statutes makes for a stable society. But stability is not always right or just or fair. History is full of examples of those who spoke out, took action, changed the world. When wrong is seen, waiting for someone else to come along and fix it is sheeplike. Jumping the fence and blaring a warning is not going to be popular with those who want things to stay the way they are. Comfortable.

Speaking out. Leaving the herd. Saying what you know to be true even if the flock is content to wait for a better day. Leaving the safety of the group is hard and it can be dangerous. Speaking out is not the way to become popular with most of your peers, your family's peers, your community and its leaders.

The 21st century has provided multiple opportunities for voices once quieted by distance and position. Sharing our opinions has become easier on social media. Post a video. Use an assumed name.

Find a meme. Share.

Memes have become our shorthand. "The word "meme" comes from the Greek mimema, meaning something that has been "imitated." www.Buffer.com We see ourselves as a modern Hugh Haynie, the artist who drew beautifully insightful cartoons for the Louisville Courier Journal for many years. When what we are doing is imitating.

Internet sharing isn't what Ivan meant in Rule #11. He meant a more personal, more thoughtful approach to seeing a wrong and pointing it out.

Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, saw corruption and greed in the leadership of his church. It was probably not in his head to branch off into a new vein of Christianity. But when the leadership wouldn't address and fix the 99 theses he nailed up, he was left with little choice.

When faced with death or excommunication, Luther told his inquisitors "I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God".

America's Independence Day just passed. The writing of the Declaration was a long time coming. Pleas from the colonies to the mother country of England went largely unanswered. There came a time for the Framers to follow Martin Luther and stand and do no other.

Ivan and I talked often of the problems we saw. We wrote about them. He graphed, charted, photographed them. When the Kentucky Educational Reform Act was passed, he snapped a photo of a pick up truck parked outside the building housing the Education Cabinet loaded with surplus state computers ready to be dumped. New contract. New day. New spending.

The saddest article I ever wrote followed a union rally in the Capitol Rotunda. Workers were protesting the relocation of a garment factory to Mexico. Hundreds would lose their jobs.

I stood next to a worker. We got to talking about why she was at the rally. She showed me her arm scarred by burns from the chemicals used in the dye process. When I asked if she had complained to management, she said no. If she did, she lose her job. The factory moved. Her job was lost.

Sometimes there is no happy ending.

Being a sheep is comfortable. Living in a crowded world, it is a necessity. No one can fight all day every day everything they think is wrong. It is too exhausting.

On my wall hangs a counted cross stitch with a quote from the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird".

Going the same direction as everyone else is a choice. It can be an easy choice.

Or it can be a matter of conscience.

When the time comes you can do no other, speak out.

Addendum: We found Ivan's Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century while going through the many pieces of paper he left behind. I was his editor, correcting his grammar, his creatively spelled words and his bureaucratic run on sentences. He didn't share these twelve rules with me so I am not sure when he wrote them or even what prompted him to write them. The rules have made me stop and think. They have pushed me to write again and to share thoughts on each rule and what I think it meant to him. And what it means to me.


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