First the Nazis came

“First the Nazis came for the Communists,
And I did not speak out –
For I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists,
And I did not speak out –
For I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
And I did not speak out –
For I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
And I did not speak out –
For I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me –
And there was no one left –
To speak out for me.”

The above poem (with certain variations of it from time to time), was written by Martin Niemoller, 1892 -1984. As for Niemoller, there is much controversy surrounding him: his beliefs, when he wrote the poem – even questions as to his authorship of it. A German, he served in their Navy during the First World War. Some years after the end of the War he decided to study Theology. He also became a strong Nationalist and Racist. So much so that in the early 1920’s he found a compatible voice in Adolph Hitler, and became a follower. Even voting for the Nazi Party in the 1924 election.

By the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Niemoller had become an ordained Pastor in the Lutheran Church. In his sermons, he praised Hitler on his views of German Nationalism and Racism, of which Niemoller was in complete accord. However, when the Nazi leader started attacking the Protestant Church, Niemoller quickly became a very vocal critic of Hitler. By 1937 Hitler arrested Niemoller and sent him and other Religious activists to concentration camps, where he remained throughout the Second World War, until liberated by the Allies in 1945.

After the end of the war, Niemoller became very active in urging the German population to acknowledge its complicity in the Holocaust.

A second quote relative to speaking out is:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This has been attributed to Edmund Burke, or John Stuart Mill, and perhaps one or two others. Whomever it may some day prove to be, I will leave to the “Quotation Investigators.” For me the beauty and truth of it stands for itself.

Fortunately, and thanks to our Founding Fathers, we citizens of the Republic of the United States of America, never had to contend internally with the Evil of an Adolph Hitler – and probably never will, assuming we never lose the words and light of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution – imperfect though it may be. Furthermore, our history shows that we Americans have never been short of speaking out, when our Liberties and Laws appeared to be threatened and curtailed by domestic individual or group ideologies.

Today, we may, or may not, have ideologues (either on the political left, or the right) to deal with – that’s a Philosophical and political term that, for now, I will leave to the philosophers and politicians. But we certainly have many major issues confronting all of us in this election- wherever you are on the political, economic or social spectrums: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, Capitalist, Socialist or Anarchist. Probably more major issues in this election year, than we have had in the last 50 years. Issues of major consequences impacting us politically, economically, socially, militarily, and even philosophically. Here are some, but not all, of those issues confronting us:

  • The Economy
  • Obama Care: Keep it, replace it, reform it, or abolish it?
  • Terrorism: Both domestic and Foreign
  • Immigration,
  • Taxation and Tax reform,
  • Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid reform
  • Government’s size: too big, or too small?
  • Government Debt – 19 Trillion and growing more rapidly with every passing year.
  • The Supreme Court: With possible retirements, in the next four to eight years of possibly two or three judges – given  their current ages – whomever is President could change the makeup and balance of the Court, with enormous consequences to the entire Nation’s future.

One of the advantages of living in a free Republic, is that every individual has the opportunity to choose to participate – or not, to some degree in the process of governing. It may be only through one’s vote, or more aggressively  as a dissident,  activist, or revolutionist. There are those in our past, who did just that – chose to participate – and changed the nature and course  of how we are governed. And today, there are those who choose to participate, and may some day change the nature to how we are governed. If you think that one or two activists can hardly change the course of government – think again:

  • The Anti-slavery Movement in Colonial America started small, years before our Revolution. But it continued to grow over the ensuing decades in strength and vehemence – culminating in a  Civil War of incalculable horror to end the immoral and pernicious act of Slavery. Followed by the four Amendments to the Constitution to give the former slaves their full Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. Sadly, it took some 90 years after our Declaration of Independence declared that, “..all men are created equal”, for our country to partly accept the truth of that statement.
  • Women’s Suffrage Movement, once again started in Colonial times with a few individual women, culminating in the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 – giving all women the right to vote.
  • Prohibition. The seeds of the movement to make the sale, production etc. of Liquors illegal, were first sown in the 1820’s and 1830’s. Interrupted during the Civil War, the movement grew once again, until Prohibition was passed as the 18th Amendment in 1919. Unfortunately, Criminal chaos ensued, until the 18th Amendment was, thankfully, repealed in 1933.

And nothing illustrates more the power of speaking out, than the confluence of voices doing so to create our Revolution of 1776, and the same for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

All of those Movements started with a few voices speaking out. It may have taken decades, or as we have just noted, a century or more, but those initial few voices speaking out, gathered over time, multitudes of sympathetic voices, dissidents, and activists, eventually culminating in successfully changing, not only our Constitution, but also the lives of untold millions. I would say they are pretty powerful examples of accomplishment.

Obviously, from what sits at the beginning of my blog site, I am a fervent believer in Free Will and Choice for every individual. So each of us has the choice: to vote – or not, speak out – or not, become even more aggressive as a dissident or activist – or not. Once again, the choice belongs to each of us. With one caveat:

If you choose nothing, then you leave the field of governance to others. I would hope everyone reading this has a belief system. Do you really want to leave something so precious as your beliefs to the control and governance of others  – others, whose belief systems may be diametrically opposed to yours?

(I heard the sad news of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia while I was writing this blog. He was an exceptional Justice, and from what little I know of him as a person, a wonderful human being and true Renaissance man. Sorry to say, but the process I just wrote about – the makeup and balance of the Supreme Court possibly changing through retirements – is now, with the death of Justice Scalia, about to begin. And I don’t think it is going to be pretty.)


One thought on “ON SPEAKING OUT!

  1. Well done Edward. I especially enjoyed the way you so seamlessly went from Nazis as a negative object lesson to the positive examples within our own American history (except for Prohibition, which is a great example of a few voices turning the tide but a horrible example of policy). And then tied it all back into something very personal: what we’ll choose to do—or not to do—to make our voices and belief systems heard in this election cycle.


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