Would You Risk Your Life For Your Principles?

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As a Humanist, in a generally liberal western nation, the most I ever have to worry about is being called names, smeared as un-patriotic, or being blamed for the ‘ills of the nation’ like abortion and same-sex marriage. It usually is a war of words or debates in comment sections of websites or newspapers. What if the abuse got physical. Would I risk my life for my principles? Would you?

50 years ago, several hundred protesters wanting voting rights for African-Americans and an end to racial discrimination, were attacked in Selma, Alabama by state and local police.

photo of Selma protesters being beaten by police
Protesters attacked during the Selma to Montgomery march for civil rights March 1965

Just after the second attempt to have the Selma to Montgomery march, a Unitarian Universalist minister, James Reeb, was murdered by a group of Ku Klux Klan just because he and two other UU ministers came to Selma to support the march.
I like to believe I would risk my life for my principles and I think that is the ultimate question when evaluating our world view. Would you risk your life for your principles?

The risk doesn’t only mean death. It could also mean one’s place in their community, maybe the loss of a job, friends, family, or property.

I’m lucky I haven’t been put in that position yet, but I am ready to take the risk if the situation calls for it.

I would march with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri against abuse by the police. If abortion were to be made illegal again, I would help women obtain them in secret. If I needed to take up arms to prevent religious authoritarians from putting me in prison, or worse, for my beliefs, then I would.

If the thought of risking your life for your principles gives you pause, then you might need to reevaluate what your principles mean to you.

If you aren’t able to put yourself out there, risking everything including your life, then maybe you don’t subscribe as deeply to those principles as you thought.

There is this quote from the famous speech by Founding Father Patrick Henry in 1775:

Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

That is why I admire people like Dr. Avijit Roy and Raif Badawi. They were prepared to risk their lives for their principles.

How about you?

Selma March – 1st Attempt March 1965

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