NSL # Rule No. 12 “Don’t Talk About us Without us.”

“If the people most likely to be effected by a story have no voice in it, it is narratively unethical and morally irresponsible.”

When you apply this to our 2018 story world, you suddenly realize how rarely it is observed. The State Department experts tell us what Iran is intending, or the President divines what North Korea really wants, or Congress holds hearings on Womens health and asks the experts- all men! People are repeatedly denied the right to speak for themselves.

Democracy enshrines a fundamental principle about voice and the right of everyone to speak. “Vote” is a word that means vow or promise. When one votes, one makes a pledge, and expresses one’s judgment on an issue or a candidate. All voices are meant to count equally but they are not meant to all sound the same.

When democracy withers into oligarchy, it is the ruler and his family, the inner circle of son in laws and sons and daughters who speak for everyone else. That is how it used to be in the days of Kings and Queens.

When it lurches towards tyranny, voices that disagree are stigmatized and criminalized. The state cannot even tolerate dissenters to cross their borders. Opponents who gain notoriety are soon silenced permanently by prison or death.

When any one is voiced out or voiced over or silenced by threats, then someone is stealing their story, their right to have a say in the their own lives, and a choice in shaping their own destiny. The State tries it all the time. “We know what is good for you.” The Church tries it. “Eat meat on Friday and you will go to hell.” Communism and Fascism perfected it, preaching that Il Duce and the Furhrer knew best. War makes narrative larceny, also known as story-stealing inevitable because as they used to say in World War II, “loose lips sink ships.”

NSL Fellows are present in Washington DC, the nation’s capital, and in the corridors of power in Congress, where every day, lobbyists visit members to insist on certain self-interested policies regarding Israel and Palestine. Ironically most members have never met a real Israeli or Palestinian in their lives, or if they have, no one who currently lives there, and certainly no one under 30 from there. NSL is there to resist, persist and insist-

Don’t talk about us without us.
Don’t talk down to us as if we were children.
Don’t talk over us as if you think you can bully us into submission.
Don’t talk around us as if we were invisible.
Don’t talk policy when all you mean is politics.
Don’t talk like some neutral referee when you keep rigging the game.

We insist on the right to speak for ourselves. We insist on having our say about our future. Don’t talk about us without us. That used to be what democracy meant.

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