“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This poem was written by a German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller because he had lived through the horrors of fascism in Nazi Germany. He first supported Adolf Hitler because he was afraid of the Communists, and then he saw that fascism was supporting hatred and bigotry and spoke out against it by writing this poem. He was sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis but survived to right the wrong committed by his vote for Hitler.
I write this today because our country is in a time of rising fascism that is supporting racism and bigotry in the forms of white supremacy and neo-Nazism. And the leading cheerleader of this rise in fascism is the President of the United States. His failure to condemn these fascist groups is as great a danger to our democracy as the rise of fascism was to Germany in the 1930s.
Niemöller is saying, unless we speak out now, it will be too late. He is saying poignantly that we need to stand up against the rising fascism in the United States now, before we lose our democracy and maybe even our lives. This point is important for all who find democracy sacred as I do. It is particularly important for all those who voted for Donald Trump for President but still believe in Democracy. Stand up now and condemn his comments supporting white supremacy, racial bigotry and neo-Nazism. Your doing so will have more of an impact on the President and the country, than those of us who did not vote for him.
If President Trump sees his poll numbers falling among the groups that voted for him overwhelmingly (Republicans, Evangelicals, Catholics, and women – to mention a few), he will be inclined at the very least to shut up on these biases, or at most, to change his course. More importantly you will be a patriot for American Democracy, something much more important than any of the reasons that moved you to vote for Donald Trump.
Now is the time for Republicans and Democrats, men and women, white collar and blue collar, Atheists and believers of all faiths, to stand up for values larger than our own biases, namely, the cause of Democracy. Now is the time to unite as a people against hatred and bigotry and claim the blessings of Liberty for all of us. Let us together recall and reclaim those powerful words of Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these trues to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” These words will light our way out of this great darkness.
Do not wait. Do something now. Follow the admonition of Reverend Niemöller, and speak out now against the evil before us, before it is too late and we lose our freedom. It can happen here, unless we the people practice our first amendment right of free speech and defend like our patriot fathers before us, the values of freedom and democracy we hold so dear.
Egg Harbor, Wis.