The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum attributes the well-known quotation “First They Came” to speeches given by Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) in the years following his liberation from the Nazis by U.S. troops.
“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.”
Even though people in Alabama are not being imprisoned in concentration camps, the pastor’s experience remains relevant today. When we allow injustice for others to go unchallenged, we are not only complicit through our silence, but we put ourselves at risk as well.
They passed biased, partisan, photo-I.D. laws, suppressing the vote of young, elderly and low-income Democrats, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Democrat.
Then they blocked federally funded Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians in need, and I did not speak out — because I had health insurance.
Then they decided employers could choose to exclude physician-prescribed contraception options from healthcare plans of their female employees, and I did not speak out — because I was not a woman in need of contraception.
We should remember the lessons of the past and speak out whenever so-called “others” are being treated unjustly by government, individuals or corporations. Any one of us could be next.
Who will be left to speak out then?
James R. (Jim) Moore