January 24, 2015

First They Came for the Muslims

Most of us have heard  some version of the "First They Came" quote, one of which is below.
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.

There's some disagreement over who wrote it, or what the original version was; it's generally attributed to Martin Neimoller, a German pastor and lecturer, although it supposedly could have been written by some counter-culture types who figured no one would pay attention if they put it out on their own, so they tagged Neimoller with credit.  

Regardless of the true origin, the meaning is clear, as is the evergreen and challenging nature of it.  Watch:

First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Seem relevant? It should; all you have to do is watch the news coming out of France on anti-Muslim attacks since the terrorist acts on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery store; or Germany, where there are regular anti-Muslim rallies; or read any number of articles right here at home, or listen to our politicians:
  • John Bennett of Oklahoma, who professes to have read the Koran and has determined that Islam is a "cancer that needs to be cut out of our nation" among other things.
  • Bobby Jindal, Catholic convert from Hinduism, Louisiana Governor and possible presidential candidate, on the need for Muslims to assimilate, and stop with their Sharia law stuff and those unnamed 'no-go' zones where women are afraid to go without veils.
  • Jack Whitley, a Republican party hack from Minnesota, who pronounced last November that we should "frag" Muslims when they make their pilgrimage to Mecca - I mean we know they're going to be there, right? 

Or, read your state's political party platform, such as the one from Texas which specifically calls out Sharia Law as something from which protection is needed; even in the face of cases where American people and companies have benefited from our courts taking such laws into consideration.

Some of us at least appear to have difficulty differentiating between a faith and terrorists. For some people, it's a definitive choice; hatred for others who are not like us is not unheard of. For others, though, it's possibly a lack of understanding or it's perhaps because they've never thought about it.  That's the way it is for us in majority America when it comes to race and racism (it doesn't exist, right?) and religion (mine is good and yours is OK as long as it's a lot like mine or at least resembles mine a little) and free speech (as long as it's not critical of anything I believe in or even remotely critical of America. If you need examples, look no further than 'American Sniper' discussions).

What would happen, I wonder,  if this were the next verse we wrote today:

Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up, 
for I was not a Catholic.

Catholics? Why would anyone come for the Catholics? 

Catholic priests abused children, tens of thousands of children around the world; the true number terrorized by these men of the cloth may never be known.  The Catholic church at different times feigned ignorance of the abuse, then denied it ever happened. They failed to protect the children from the abusers, and instead focused on protecting the Church and her leaders; they moved abusers from parish to parish, expanding the problem instead of limiting it. Had church officials been school teachers or doctors or bus drivers or coaches or politicians or people from any other walk of life, they would surely have ended up in jail. Permanently in jail.

These men were terrorists, plain and simple. They were priests, yes, and they were Catholics, yes, but they individually were terrorists.  They did not represent the entire Catholic clergy, and their behavior is not presumed to be representative of all Catholics.  In fact, the opposite is true.  

The presumption (from people who were not victimized by these men) has always been that these individual priests were monsters, and that maybe some of the leaders of the church were complicit in the cover up, and that maybe some did not do enough to take care of the victims. There are still Catholics who believe this never even happened.

But has there been a call to round up all Catholics, to ban all Catholics, to evict all Catholics, to bomb and shoot at Catholic churches, to burn down Catholic houses of worship? Any calls to 'frag them' on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday? Of course not.

It would be wrong to brand an entire faith and all her followers as terrorists, simply based on the bad acts of a small minority of them, wouldn't it? 

Well, sure, that would be wrong.

Unless of course they're not done taking care of the Muslims.