Sunday, February 19, 2017

Two voices, two centuries, one timeless truth

At once time Mr. Douglass was travelling in the state of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his colour, to ride in the baggage-car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same price for his passage that the other passengers had paid. When some of the white passengers went into the baggage-car to console Mr. Douglass, and one of them said to him: "I am sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner," Mr. Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting and replied: "They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of his treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me."

p. 100, Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington

[...] when I was being stripped and searched, I decided it was best to treat my captors like the weather. A storm can cause you problems,  and sometimes those problems can be humiliating. But the storm itself doesn't humiliate you. 
Once I understood this, I realized that nothing they did could humiliate me. I could only humiliate myself -- by doing something I might be ashamed of. During my first few days in Lefortovo I repeated this principle over and over until it was part of me: Nothing they do can humiliate me. I alone can humiliate myself. Once I had absorbed that idea, nothing -- not searches, not punishments, and, five years later, not even several attempts to force-feed me through the rectum during an extended hunger strike -- could deprive me of my self-respect.

p. 8, Fear no Evil. Natan Sharansky

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