Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Madonna Makes a Difference

How can one person make a difference? Unless you're
Oprah with an audience, or Obama with the power, how can someone step up and make a pathway for change?

I have believed since I can remember that a single individual can have influence beyond any conventional measure. Although Kirk tells Spock in an episode of the original series of Star Trek, "Mirror, Mirror," "One man can make a difference..." My influence did not originate with that.

When I worked as a volunteer for the election of anti-Vietnam War candidate Joseph Duffey for senator in Connecticut in 1970, I remember the slogan of one person making a difference from that time.

Turns out, with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, the memory returns of that saying coming up repeatedly throughout the 1960's from JFK, to Bobby, to Ted. In fact, Jacqueline Kennedy wrote the following on a card "...for an exhibit which travelled around the US when the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston was first opening (1979), quoted in Respectfully Quoted : A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) edited by Suzy Platt:" "One man can make a difference and every man should try."

Well, Madonna's not a man, and her outspoken remarks in Bucharest can indeed make a difference. Even though the headlines say she was booed for criticizing the discrimination against Gypsies while performing on stage in front of 60,000 fans --some observers say many people cheered as well.

"Roma, or Gypsies, are a nomadic ethnic group believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent. They live mostly in southern and eastern Europe, but hundreds of thousands have migrated west over the past few decades in search of jobs and better living conditions.

Romania has the largest number of Roma in the region. Some say the population could be as high as 2 million, although official data put it at 500,000.

Until the 19th century, Romanian Gypsies were slaves, and they've gotten a mixed response ever since..."

Madonna had this to say during her concert:

"It has been brought to my attention ... that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe," she said. "It made me feel very sad."

Thousands booed and jeered her.

A few cheered when she added: "We don't believe in discrimination ... we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone." But she got more boos when she mentioned discrimination against homosexuals and others...

Discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice are a human preoccupation worldwide. In the case of Gypsies, the Europeans may even have outdone Americans in the wrath of biased hatred of a single group.

It's always good to speak out against irrational hatred, and when a celebrity like Madonna takes a stand in front of thousands, it's even more effective.

If anyone wants to question the courage of such an act, let that person try telling off someone who makes a bigoted remark out loud. If you have the guts to do it, wait for the unreceptive reaction--it's never full of smiles and agreement. And it always makes a positive difference in at least one person's life.

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