If You Don’t Feel Safe… #RRBC

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

~ Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was born into slavery in Maryland. After his escape, he became a social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and statesman. Douglass was committed to the cause of equality for all peoples, no matter their race or gender. He believed in the liberal values of the American Constitution and was said to have made a career of disturbing the American conscience.

Throughout my life, I have been a student of history and have been blessed with the realization that although there are very real cultural differences among humans, we are also remarkably similar. Significantly, we share basic needs and drives that we identify as belonging to our human nature. Besides our physical needs, we share emotional/psychological needs as well. Liberal-minded nations have enshrined many of these needs within their constitutions as human rights. A nation’s constitution is the bedrock of their society’s organizational infrastructure – their most basic law.

Frederick Douglass has identified several significant human needs in this quote and warns all of us that when a particular group in society feels denied, there will be trouble. In his day, there were slave uprisings and many slaveholding families didn’t feel safe. Douglass’ lifetime efforts helped bring about the end of slavery in the United States, but that achievement did not address his other concerns.

It is disappointing, but not surprising, that there is still discrimination and injustice apparent in our modern democratic societies. People often lament about the fact that we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past. This is true to a degree as there are so many people who don’t care for History and make no effort to learn about it. My students often challenged me about being forced to take the 20th Century Canadian History course in tenth grade. But it isn’t just ignorance of the past that allows modern injustices, discrimination and poverty to exist in wealthy first world countries. We lack the will to right the wrongs.

These words are chilling: “… neither persons nor property will be safe.” In recent years, families and entire communities have experienced the trauma of senseless killings and massacres at the hands of gunmen. Many people arm themselves with handguns and worse because they don’t feel safe. In the face of that fear and a lack of trust in the ability of the community to provide security, they buy more guns.

Look at what we’re doing. We’re attempting to protect ourselves from the embittered disenfranchised instead of treating the root of the problem. Douglass has identified, one hundred and fifty years ago, what the problems are that precipitate violence and crime. As a society, are we investing in our most important natural resource – our people? There are some social programs to help the poor, and there are groups lobbying various levels of government to tackle the social problems that grow like a cancer. I say that it is not nearly enough. Not by a long shot.

It gets worse. International terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda are using the Internet and social media to recruit and radicalize new followers from among the disenfranchised groups in first world countries. These countries, like the NATO allies, have banded together to declare war on terrorist organizations at tremendous financial and human cost. The solution to the threat they pose is simple… kill them.

I believe that human beings, no matter their national or political stripes, are better than this. More violence is not going to give us peace and security – within our own towns and cities or on the international stage. I am not the Prime Minister of Canada, nor do I have any influence over policy makers in Ottawa. But I do have tremendous power within myself. I must live my life in witness to the rights and liberties of all human beings. I must sow peace in my dealings with everyone I meet. I must live respectfully, courteously, generously and be willing to lend an ear when needed. If we sow the seeds of peace in our own little corner of the universe, it will make a difference.



About John Fioravanti

Author, John Fioravanti writes non-fiction as well as fiction in the sci-fi genre. He's a retired secondary school educator and a lifelong learner. He considers himself a work in progress and welcomes the opinions and insights that others may have about his work. He prizes dialogue about meaningful topics, so please leave your thoughts!

14 thoughts on “If You Don’t Feel Safe… #RRBC

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Shirley Harris-Slaughter

    August 18, 2016 at 3:48pm

    Well said John. Because it is so obvious that talking about it is not bringing about solutions. Most of our cities in the U.S. are riddled with concentrated poverty. The outer rims are concentrated with wealth. That is by design. Until some folks start sharing the wealth and knowledge, and until the downtrodden rise up to help themselves right the wrong, nothing will change. Its like a “Tale of Two Cities”.

    I was on the school board in my community at one time and we got nowhere fast because the problems in the classroom curriculum were not being addressed. I tried my best to bring logic to the situation to no avail.

    Anyway John, thanks for sharing this topic and reminding us that this cuts across the globe and we all need to step up and address our individual solutions to the problem.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      August 18, 2016 at 4:38pm

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion today, Shirley. It’s true, there’s no easy answers to this problem and it cuts across all national borders. I just hope we can apply some solutions before we self-destruct. I appreciate your support today!

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    Gwen Plano

    August 14, 2016 at 5:44pm

    This is a powerful quote, John. POWERFUL. I’ve always held Frederick Douglass in the highest regard – truly a man who lived his truth. There’s so much I want to say that…I’m going out on a limb and just state that, I think this needs to be discussed in a forum such as BlogTalkRadio. Are you up for it my friend? ♥

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      August 14, 2016 at 6:32pm

      Sounds like a plan, my friend! Thanks for dropping by, lending your support, and issuing this lovely invitation!

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    John Howell

    August 10, 2016 at 4:44pm

    Very passionate post, John. I wish I knew where we are all headed. Life becomes more complicated and then turns very simple when we read of the horror perpetrated by a very few. The government is not the answer. I think it is up to each of us to quit trying to lay blame for the cause and take responsibility for what goes on around us. If we see, injustice call it out. If we witness transgressions, testify against the transgressors. Let our neighborhoods know there is zero tolerance of illegal activity. It takes a village to raise a child, and I believe it takes a village to end all manners of antisocial behavior. We need to put our foot down.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      August 13, 2016 at 1:49pm

      Thanks, John – I wish we had a better idea about what the future will be. But since we can’t know these things, your recipe for no-nonsense involvement in local problems is a healthy one. I appreciate you took took the time to share your thoughts on this. Thanks for your support, John!

      • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


        August 14, 2016 at 2:57pm

        Hello John,
        Just want to add a thought to what John Howell said because he brought up an excellent point that I had not considered. “It takes a village to raise a child, and I believe it takes a village to end all manners of antisocial behavior.” So true. It does take a village to raise a child, but unfortunately, we have taken child raising out of the hands of the parents and the village and put it in the hand of government. In a society where most children are raised on Dr. Spock’s philosophy of child rearing, what else can we expect?

        I am not a mother, and I don’t believe corporal punishment is the acceptable way to raise children, but I do think children need to have borders. Children without borders grow up and terrorize those around them, and that is what we’re seeing today.

        I was careful growing up in my small village because I knew that the neighbors would not tolerate me doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. They didn’t hesitate to sit me down in their houses, and they would wait until my parents got home and take me to them and tell them exactly what I did. Of course, I was grounded but I knew I was wrong.

        Today, adults are afraid to correct another person’s child because the parents would be offended. Teachers are afraid to correct a child because it might seem like child abuse. We can’t have it both ways. We have to wake up and smell the coffee. We have to see that much of the violence that is taking place all over the world is because of adults who were once children that did not learn that borders do exist and did not learn to respect them.
        Shalom aleichem,

        • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

          John Fioravanti

          August 14, 2016 at 3:08pm

          Thanks for continuing the discussion, Pat. As a retired educator, all too often we could not get the majority of parents out to “Meet the Teacher” or “Report Card Interviews” events. There are some awesome parents in every community, I believe, but there are too darned many who seemed to have abdicated their parental responsibilities. Government seeks to be partners with the parents, but few parents bother. I find it fascinating that I need a licence to teach and to drive a car, but not to be a parent.

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Jan Hawke

    August 10, 2016 at 11:55am

    Injustice, poverty and ignorance are the 3 pillars of a failing society – I know most about justice and regrettably it seems that this is the one that, even though we think we live in a reforming society, is still the easiest to undermine, so that those at the bottom of the heap are almost guaranteed to stay there…
    I don’t have any answers, but there’s no doubt that a massive change in how humans treat other humans MUST happen, if we are all to survive, let alone thrive, in the current world political climate. The Olympics being a good case in point, from the imbalance of wealth and influence in Brazil and the ineffectual attitude towards drugs cheating that tarnish some participating athletes , guilty or no.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      August 10, 2016 at 12:25pm

      Right, Jan, humanity is a long way from Utopia! I think progress is possible, but it won’t happen quickly without some substantial changes in attitudes! Thanks for coming by!

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Pat Garcia

    August 10, 2016 at 8:09am

    True, John. If we sow seeds of peace in our own little corner of the universe it would make a difference, but we cannot start sowing seeds if we first do not alleviate our own fears. I am very familiar with Douglass’s thinking. His proposals are valid but only if we as a people are willing to change and change begins, first, from within each individual.
    You can establish one social program after the other but it will not eradicate the difference between those who economically have and those who economically have not unless you first ensure that there is a change of heart in both group of people. That means we have to deal with the petty jealousies and hatreds that stem from within; those emotions that deceive us into believing I am better than she is or she is better than me, so I want what she has or I’m going to take what he or she has
    Abraham Maslow in theory on the five basic needs of mankind maintains that men and women need more than a handout. I believe Social Programs can take away the incentive to achieve esteem and minimize the will for self-actualization. Those programs can weaken a person motivation to excel if they are not balanced with the person’s will to capitalize upon his or her own innate talents which are within them.
    The problem we are facing that prevents the above from taking place in our society today and almost in every country in the world is the political decisions of governments that say ‘We know the best way or Our way is the best way.’
    Most governments don’t believe that people can handle responsibility or make decisions. So people are treated like children and governments become unwanted parents that the children try to overthrow or rebel against.
    Peace and security will only rise when people are willing to change their inner vision not only of themselves but of others.

    Shalom aleichem,

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      August 10, 2016 at 12:20pm

      Thank you for this very thoughtful and detailed contribution to this discussion, Pat. I can’t argue with your logic – not an easy problem to solve. Clearly, just throwing tax dollars at the problem solved very little. As you point out, it is attitudes that need to change. Thanks for visiting today!!

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