A frequent excuse is often stated when difficult situations are confronted. We may hear people say “I don’t want to choose sides.” Or even more obliquely, “There are two sides to every story.” This is a false argument in virtually every circumstance worth considering. To explain, I’d like to share a story from my own past (and present).
As a young man, while still in high school, I chose to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, father and uncle. I joined the US Navy. I chose to volunteer for submarine service, and served aboard Nuclear Fast Attack submarines. Like all Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen, I took an oath. I swore to “protect and defend the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Within a short time of that oath, I found myself hundreds of feet below the waves, in pursuit of Soviet submarines. Our job, as fast attack submarine sailors, was to locate and stay in pursuit of Soviet Missile and Attack submarines. In the event of hostilities, we would be in a position to use our weapons, our torpedoes, to sink the enemy before they had the opportunity to use their weapons against the United States or our allies. And here is the significance of that oath: I did not take any time wondering about the Soviet sailors in the submarines we were pursuing. They may have been great guys, but in the event of war, I did not need to make a decision if I would defend my country. I had already decided. I had already chosen a side.
I have made other choices. I committed to my wife almost 38 years ago. That decision is made. I have made other choices as well. I chose to do all I can to protect the innocent, the vulnerable and the hopeless. I do not need to see another side, if they are being attacked, abused, or misused, it is my responsibility to stand with them. What choices have you already made? Evaluate your actions in terms of these choices. Then decide, is there really another side? I believe when it comes to our children, and their safety, there is no other side.
The oath I took over forty years ago, when I joined the US Navy as a young man, did not include an expiration date, and no one has ever released me from that oath. This is true for everyone who has served in the US military. But we all have these lifelong commitments we honor. I hope yours include our innocent children. I believe there is no other side.
Any community, or society that does not choose to stand with and protect its children will not prosper. As author Marci Hamilton (a leading legal scholar) wrote in her book Justice Denied: What America Must Do To Protect Its Children, “It is an either/or choice: we can either protect the predators or the children.”