The word activism is defined as, "the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change." It is a word and action synonymous with our present everyday life.
We wake up every day to some kind of activism on subjects and topics both politically and socially motivated. When actions or words are shared, in a way that questions the integrity of activism, there is an immediate disconnect related to accomplishing any intended goal.
On one level of understanding, a group of men and women with intentions of stopping a homeless shelter have every right to exhibit their views against having it built in the proximity of residential areas and local schools.
However, when doing so, no matter how peacefully and organized their protest, common sense and respect must always be a part of the campaign. Any activism without integrity can quickly be viewed as mob behavior.
It was poor judgment on behalf of the individuals demonstrating at the home of Michael Wilner in Jericho, Long Island, to extend their protests to his house of worship.
Such an act places him in an entirely different light. He quite possibly now enjoys a level of support from his community that may not have been there before.
At the core of the efforts to stop the building of a shelter in favor or a much-needed school, several factors must be addressed. Two entirely different narratives are being shared simultaneously by local officials and the ongoing construction representatives at the site itself.
If, in fact, there is truth to either side in the ongoing struggle to define what is being built, someone is not sharing the truth. In some circles residents are being informed that the mayor is behind having a school built at the location.
In other circles, residents are told about the mayor's initiatives to have local communities housing homeless men and women as something he labels our civic duty.
The culprit in this situation is escaping the proper ridicule by actively playing both sides against the middle. In this situation, the mayor can put an end to the strife by providing the community with the truth.
The activism, while noble in a concerted effort to stop the building of a shelter, invites scrutiny. The neighborhood itself becomes easy prey for individuals who see the housing of individuals in need of help as an act of humanity.
No one will deny such facilities are necessary and warranted. To quickly label anyone against it being built as uncaring lacks the perspective of understanding of where it is being built, which has nothing to do with why it is needed.
Beyond the scope of these particulars in explaining the ongoing efforts of all concerned, another questionable part of the bigger story is missing. The site itself on Cooper Avenue has not been without controversy.
Several stories in local papers reported the site housed toxic waste. Environmental studies were supposedly conducted adhering to this being true. We must question the integrity of these studies if there is a willingness to place homeless individuals or students at this site.
Again, the question has to be raised related to who's telling the truth? In recent months, workers were reportedly removing asbestos. Do toxic waste conditions with reports of chemicals seeping in to the ground disappear because asbestos was removed? Common sense dictates otherwise.
If we take a step back for a moment and look at the big picture, it becomes obvious where the energies need to be focused. While Michael Wilner can be seen as an opportunist, we must question who is providing him with the opportunity.
In the film “The Magnificent Seven,” a young Yul Brenner plays Chris, who is hired by villagers to protect them from a tyrant and bullies. Chris, seeking to find help from men who can assist him, is in a bar with the villagers.
One villager sees a man standing at the bar with scars on his face. He asks Chris, "look at him?" Chris responds by saying, "We need the person who gave him those scars."
The point is the efforts to publicly embarrass Michael Wilner are not without merit. However, he's the person wearing the scars, when what is needed is the person who put him in this position.
Craig Schwab is a Glendale resident and author of the novel Something in the Neighborhood of Real.