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Always right time to listen & act

| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 7:21 p.m.
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he walks to speak with reporters before boarding Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Morristown, N.J. (AP Photo | Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he walks to speak with reporters before boarding Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Morristown, N.J. (AP Photo | Evan Vucci)

When you try raising any issue that people do not want to hear about, you will likely be told, “This isn't the right time for that.”

That's what those protesting NFL players are being told, after taking a knee during the national anthem. For them, there could not be a better time to protest the racial divide.

But others disagree.

Donald Trump condemned the players for their protests.

Trump tweeted, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also thinks that it is not the right time for the players to speak out.

He says that the players “can expect to be condemned, and the president has the right to condemn them, and I would condemn their actions.”

Climate-change deniers use those same tactics.

Right after much of the South was destroyed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt dodged the role of global warming, claiming that such a debate would be “insensitive,” that the time was not right for such talk.

Pruitt said that “to discuss the cause and effects of these storms, there's the ... place to do that, it's not now.”

And you can bet that the time will never be right for that discussion because Pruitt is busy dismantling the EPA and the regulations that protect our environment.

In 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, 20 children and six adult staff members were slaughtered by a deranged gunman. That incident should have restarted the debate about gun safety immediately, when the horror was fresh and the issues were in clear focus.

Instead, calls for reform were met by claims that “this is not the time” to discuss these issues.

We heard the same response after Columbine and Aurora and all the other mass shootings.

For politicians in the North and the South, the time was not right for Abraham Lincoln to free the slaves, or for Lyndon Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

But they still did.

Women had been told for generations that the time was not right for them to get the right to vote.

If they had listened, they would still be second-class citizens, spectators of our American democracy. But Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others kept the fight alive, until they got fairness and justice.

And when Harry Truman ordered the integration of the U.S. military, he was told that the time was not right to confront the old traditions, especially while we had a war-weary fighting force. The process was slowed, but Truman pushed the change through.

For those who are afraid to confront the toughest issues — the big questions — there will never be a right time. And there will always be those who will place form over substance.

But when we have moved forward anyway, we usually look back and wonder why it took us so long.

When it comes to the public debate over fairness and justice, there is no right and wrong time.

It is always the right time to listen, and to do the right thing.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (

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