“And I did not speak out”

Kris Kobach, a member of Donald Trump’s transition team, had suggested that the new administration could reinstate a national registry for immigrants from “suspect” countries. So then yesterday, Carl Higbie, a prominant Trump supporter and fund-raiser, told Megyn Kelly on Fox News that he supported that idea.

“We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region,” Mr. Higbie said. “We’ve done it with Iran back — back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese.”

Ms. Kelly seemed taken aback. “You’re not proposing,” she said, “that we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope.”

Mr. Higbie said, in response, “We need to protect America first.”

My very first thought, when I heard that, was that if they start rounding up Muslim Americans, I will immediately go out and register as Muslim. This evening I was heartened to read in the NY Times that the chief executive of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, had had exactly the same reaction. “If one day Muslims will be forced to register,” he said, “that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”

Reading all this, I am reminded of a quote from pastor Martin Niemöller of the German Protestant Church, as he looked back on the Nazi policy of rounding up successively larger groups of “undesirables”:

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.

7 Responses to ““And I did not speak out””

  1. Jason Smith says:

    If those on the left could hold a sensible conversation among themselves about the problems with Salafism without falling to pieces and attacking each other with acussations of Islamaphobia, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation where right wing nut jobs who lump all of Islam into one basket end up hold the highest office in the US.

  2. david says:

    Jason… wtf?
    Are you saying that the blame for the possibility of internment caps re-emerging from our murky past is to be found among the left?

  3. admin says:

    David… I think Jason was suggesting that the inability of the left to communicate a clear message contributed to the effectiveness of fear-mongering by the far right.

    It’s a hard problem. In the age of Twitter and fake news, how do you get across to the American people that the main target of ISIS is actually moderate Islam? ISIS seems less interested in attacking us mere infidels than in waging war on non-extremist Muslims.

    There are times when we know better than to make false equivalences. This just doesn’t seem to be one of thm. When Timothy McVeigh, who was brought up Catholic, killed 168 people and injured 600 more, and then asked for Catholic last rites at his execution, we didn’t respond by demonizing Catholics.

  4. Dagmar says:

    Niemöller was not talking about socialist, but about social democrats, which is quite a difference.
    During the war he was a member of the “Bekennende Kirche”, literally translated into “avowed church”, which was the very small part of the German protestant church working against Hitler.
    In general it took the German protestant church, after the forcible coordination – Gleichschaltung – a long time after the second world war, to get rid of their past, at least 10 to 15 years.

  5. admin says:

    Thanks Dagmar. Niemöller’s statement went through many iterations, and at various times it mentioned different groups. I used the extremely pithy version that he composed later in the form of a short poem.

    For the purposes of my blog post, his salient point was as relevant in all versions: If you see your government going after “them” and you do nothing, don’t be too shocked if one day that government goes after you.

  6. Dagmar says:

    I am totally aware of the different versions, he actually talked about communists, but never about socialists, which would not have made any sense any way, since the socialists haven’t been a relevant group in Germany before and during the second world war.

  7. admin says:

    From what you are saying, it looks as though the version of the quote that I found contained errors in translation. Thanks for catching that!

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