How bad does it have to get?

You might think calling someone a “fascist” today is just hyperbole.  But fascism creeps up on you.  Martin Niemöller, who died in 1984, was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who emerged as an outspoken public critic of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps; he is best remembered for his postwar words, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out.”

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.

Each new horror is just a little bit worse than the last, normalizing the ones that came before and numbing people to the ones to come.  It’s easy in hindsight to see that strong action should have been taken earlier — but in the midst of a tyrannical fascist assault on our democracy, it’s easy to convince yourself that things aren’t really that bad, especially if you’re not one of the targets.  Niemöller would append the word ‘yet’ to that last sentence.  We already have historians who study fascism saying that yes, fascism is on the rise in the United States.

First they came

How bad does it have to get before you’ll recognize that America is in a state of crisis?  How bad does it have to get before you’ll stop seeing this as a problem that can be addressed with civility — the old trope in support of the status quo that would have us believe that “agreeing to disagree” is what mature, thoughtful, educated people do?  How much violence does this lawless American regime have to inflict before you’ll accept the morality of self-defense and realize that patriotism has been co-opted by nationalism?

in hot water

What would you, thoughtful reader, consider business as usual, and what would you consider to be crossing a line?  Don’t let another day pass thinking that it is certainly getting very hot ‘round here but it isn't boiling, so the people screaming about the heat are just being hysterical.  Don’t shy away from the fight for survival because you haven’t been thrown in the pot of rapidly heating water, yet.

Donald Trump represents a real and an existential threat, not only to America and Americans but to the planet and to humanity.  Perhaps you had to have experienced an existential threat first hand — like the Holocaust, or the AIDS crisis — to recognize one.  But Niemöller’s words are at once prophetic while being a call to arms.  He ignored the gathering storm and paid a heavy price.

But out of that he took the time to warn us.  How bad does it have to get before we listen?

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