This year’s set of Al Copeland Humanitarian Award nominees was particularly strong, making selection of a winner exceptionally difficult. As Greg noted in a comment, “this is clearly a ‘political’ year for The Al, in the sense that we’re all nominating witnesses against injustice rather than the creative entrepreneurs who usually dominate.”
Well, almost all. Matt, as is his habit, nominated the entrepreneurs, Tim and Karrie League, who developed the Alamo Draft House chain of movie theaters. The Alamo Draft House is one of the greatest places on earth. The theaters carefully select movies, audience activities, food, and drink to create a completely engaging and entertaining experience. Some people give hundreds of millions of dollars to art museums that fail to package their offerings nearly as well as Tim and Karrie League do. And the Alamo does it without any donations while making a profit. Improving the human condition while also making profit is a quintessential characteristic of winners of The Al. And I almost slected Tim and Karrie League for this honor.
But as Greg said this seems like a political year in which selecting a traditional entrepreneur-type as the winner just didn’t seem right. All of the other nominees fell in the “witnesses against injustice” category and with so much injustice all around us, I felt like I should choose one of them. I could have chosen Jason’s excellent nominee, Remy Munasifi, whose musical parodies expose and help rebut oppression, hypocrisy, and other types of foolishness. I could also have chosen my own nominee, Yair Rosenberg, whose trolling of neo-Nazis and other anti-Semites on Twitter deprives these bullies of the sense of power that drives much of their behavior.
Instead, I have chosen Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds over Remy Munasifi and Yair Rosenberg because Edmonds was more than a witness to injustice. He actively took steps, at enormous danger to himself, to promote justice in the world. By refusing to comply with Nazi orders to separate Jewish POWs and insisting that he and all of the soldiers under his command were Jewish, Edmonds risked being shot to defy the Nazi’s hateful and murderous plans against Jews.
I hesitated for a moment in selecting Edmonds only because The Al does not typically go to people who have been widely recognized elsewhere, like Steve Jobs or John Lasseter, and Edmonds was recently honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. Unfortunately, being honored by Yad Vashem does not constitute being widely recognized, so drawing more attention to Edmonds seems important and fitting.
As much as I love Remy Munasifi and Yair Rosenberg, mocking injustice on the internet just isn’t enough. As Ken M, last year’s winner of The Al, taught us, social media is a pretty useless forum for trying to improve the world. So, that silly video you shared on Facebook or that sly remark you made on Twitter doesn’t really do much other than amuse you.
There’s nothing wrong with some amusement. After all, that is the Prime Directive of this blog — to amuse ourselves rather than to change the world. And being amusing is a lot better than those insufferable political rants or self-righteous internet petitions, which are all talk and no action.
If you want to fight injustice you can’t really do much with a blog, Twitter, or Facebook. You need to find real injustices, not trumped-up (pardon the pun) minor slights like:
And then you need to follow the example of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds and take action that might even put yourself at risk. Evil will always remain in the world, but we will suffer less from it if we have more people like Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds.