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 is credited with this quote. He used to say it at his various post-war lectures he delivered about the Nazi regime.
The words are just as heartbreaking today as they were shortly after World War II.
As you know, Martin Niemöller was talking about what the Nazi’s did to the Jewish people during the war. Many people ask how is it possible that a horror like that could have been allowed to happen in a country like Germany. Many scholars have explained the economics, the politics and the nationalism that was the result of the end of World War I and how it created the psyche that led to World War II. All of these had a part in the rise of Hitler.
However, the true nexus to what happened to the Jewish people is simply the result of a population looking to place blame on outsiders for the country’s problems. It is also about too many people not caring about what happened to others, because it didn’t seem to affect them at the time. The political speeches resonated among the German population because it blamed outsiders for the problems that they had little to nothing to do with. It was the Gypsies and the other marginalized people who were to blame for the economics that were driving the Germans to ruin were the subject of Hitler’s speeches. Never mind that the erosion of economic prowess and German nationalism was the result of geopolitical gamesmanship. It was easier to blame those among them that looked or acted different.
For the Germans, it was a Jewish problem and thus they didn’t want to get involved. By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late.
Unfortunately, we haven’t learned from the past. Today it is the Muslims and the Mexicans, instead of the Jews, except that Donald Trump hasn’t excluded them from his hate, either.
Just a few weeks ago, an Arab man was attacked by police simply for wearing traditional Muslim attire outside of a hotel in Ohio. Emirati citizen, Ahmed Al Menhali, in Ohio recovering from heart surgery, was violently arrested because a hotel clerk’s family called in a terrorist 911 call because the hotel clerk assumed Al Menhali was a terrorist simply from his attire.
This isn’t the first time that simply wearing traditional Muslim garb is enough to cause people to assume that someone is a terrorist. In April, Southwest Airlines kicked off a Berkley student off a flight because a passenger had complained that he was speaking Arabic.
There is no doubt that radical Muslim terrorism is a serious problem. But not all Muslims are terrorists. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. This is also true for us Mexicans, we are not all rapists nor murderers. Like all people, there are bad apples among us.
The problem is when all are assumed to be bad because of a few bad apples. It has been pointed out numerous times that Christianity should not be equated with violent fundamentalists. This is true and it should also be true for the Muslims and the Mexicans as well.
Therein lies the danger in Donald Trump’s political rhetoric when he equates all based on the few bad apples within the group. If Donald Trump has his way, no Muslims will be allowed to enter the country, a wall would be built on the US-Mexico border and millions would be deported.
What will happen to you, when no one is left to speak up for you? Or, do you really believe that Donald Trump isn’t going to throw you in the mix when he runs out of Muslims, Mexicans and undocumented immigrants to blame for the country’s problems, as well?