Protecting Each Others’ Rights
A visitor stands in front of the quotation from Martin Niemöller that is on display in the Permanent Exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
These days our news is littered with examples of prejudice and animus against groups of people because of the color of their skin, religion, or sexual orientation.
- Babies and children illegally separated from their parents who are seeking asylum in the US. Many were illegally turned away from legal ports of entry, but were undeterred because what they believed that what they left was far worse… until their children were taken away from them.
- Trump’s “Muslim ban” was upheld yesterday by our Supreme Court based on “national security”, the same argument unlawfully used to take more than 110,000 Japanese Americans from their homes to live in internment camps starting in 1942.
- Latest ACLU reports show that 8 states still have incomplete protection for our LGBT brothers and sisters, with another 15 states actually targeting transgender people for discrimination.
- Courts rule time and again in favor of police officers who wield their terrible power against unarmed black people.
- For-profit prisons continue to fill with people who are railroaded through the courts in the name of justice.
June is the month we celebrate Father’s Day, Juneteenth, LGBT Pride, Native American Citizenship, and the end of Ramadan.
But as June comes to a close, we find that we are still struggling as a nation to protect the rights of some of the very people we celebrate.
If we believe our country is better than that, if we believe that human rights are for every human, not just those who are like us, if we want to be on the right side of history, we must stand up to the authorities who would take those liberties away from others.
This poem is a stark reminder that limiting freedoms for some risks limiting freedoms for all.
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.
Martin Niemöller, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Introduction to the Holocaust.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392. Accessed on June 27 2018.