“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.”
Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), translated into English in 1947
Many people in the U.S. today are brazenly coming after Mexicans, Syrians, Muslims (be they American or not), and other groups of scapegoated people, while many of us sit quietly and watch it unfold. There are others who are speaking out against the rising tide of hatred, and voluntarily showing up to be witnesses to the phenomenon of group rage while becoming targets of that rage. We should honor them for their courage. How?
We can honor these witnesses by continuing the cultivation of civility and respect, by celebrating inclusivity and diversity, and by protecting others and ourselves against dehumanization and violence. We have some life or death decisions to make and we need to make them now.
As I reflect on Neimoller’s statement, written during the rising tide of Nazi hatred towards the Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, same-sex loving people, people with mental illnesses, people who did not side with the Nazis, and people who were sympathetic to others, I know that now is the time to decide whether I will side with death or life. You are also being asked to make a choice. I am choosing life, and I ask you to do the same. I need you to do the same. Why?
I am not making this decision and making this request just so we can be on this earth together to be consumers and observers, but in choosing life, and asking you to do the same, we can better ensure that Mexicans, Syrians, Muslims, and other scapegoated people may taste freedom. We cannot just want freedom for others in our hearts, we also have to act now and be vocal now. My choice for life now must include acts of resistance against hatred and death, right now. Why now?
We are already running behind the rising tide of hatred. My act of resistance, right now, is this simple invitation to State of Formation writers specifically, to consider co-authoring your blog entries with writers from scapegoated groups. I would like my next blog entries to be co-authored with people from targeted groups because perceived voicelessness is perceived weakness and perceived isolation. Can our co-authoring impact perception making? Rather than speak for others, can we speak with others? Can we provide platforms for those who have not had a platform yet? Yes we can. Will we? I think we must. How do we determine what we must do?
When a political party in one’s own country turns against citizens of that country, that turn against its own citizens poses an existential threat. (Ironically, the U.S. has gone to war in countries where political parties pose an existential threat to their citizens.) Existential threats call us into life or death decision-making processes. One of my long-time friends, a Mexican-American woman married to a Persian man, wonders if her politically conservative White neighbors are going to become uncivil toward her family. Is this a reasonable concern? She is being very reasonable, given the press coverage at Donald Trump rallies lately. Where will her voice, her husband’s voice, and their children’s voices be heard? We can and we must provide platforms for people to be heard. Let us co-author. Let the search for our co-authors begin now.
Image (of a scapegoat) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.