…to speak up about a few things, but first, the title of this blog, which comes from Martin Niemöller’s famous words–whether or not he ever used those exact words.
First They Came
” First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
” Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
“Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The above is one version of several attributed to Niemöller. See a little history of the poem here.
I’ve chosen this version, featuring “the Communists” for two reasons: one, there was a time when Communists, capital-C, were the evil in the minds of many Americans. It was a time when something like the McCarran Internal Security Act could actually pass over President Truman’s veto. A time when appearing to be pro-Soviet could land you in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, or just cost you your job. When “pinko” marked anybody who wasn’t sufficiently anti-Communist.
Two, this attitude was, sadly, an improvement on another national defense initiative: the circa 1942 idea that if we–ahem, locked up all the Japanese people living on the West Coast, they wouldn’t betray us to Japan. Opposing the internment policy wasn’t considered patriotic by any means. Colorado Governor Ralph L. Carr is noted as one of the few courageous voices at that moment in history who spoke up to say, “this is wrong.” Ralph Carr wasn’t rewarded for speaking up. It cost him his political future.
We now know it was wrong to lock up the Japanese. We’re even learning that it pays to take a more balanced approach in dealing with Russia. We’re a little slow on a few other things. This blog is about the other things, with digressions about “other things” in other countries, because wrong is wrong, wherever it happens.
This is me speaking up, because, you know what, I don’t want to be the last one standing when there’s nobody left to say anything.