Saturday, December 3, 2016

First They Came …

[First They Came is a protest poem written by Martin Niemöller during the Nazi rule of Germany. He ultimately spent seven years in a concentration camp for his views.] 

When Trump became the US president-elect on November 8, I was confused. How did this happen? And more importantly: what do I do about it? As I watched protests spring up on the American streets I felt a certain futility and, I must admit, fear. The potential of violence scared me. The response to the latter question soon rolled off my lips: I am not an American. There is nothing I can do. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Recently several Muslim-Canadians have been assaulted in eastern Canada. Many say it is a result of the emboldened Alt-right. Of course, I am outraged but when I ask myself what I should do, I whisper: they are too far away for me to provide support.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

When racist flyers were distributed in Richmond, the second batch in a few weeks, I thought, yes, it is time, I should go and stand with the Asian community. Too bad, I cannot. I have to go to work.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

A few days ago, the federal government pronounced the death toll for Southern Resident Killer Whales with its approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the resultant seven-fold in tanker traffic. I felt betrayed and angry. But I didn’t march and the protest letters to my MPs have yet to be composed.

And just yesterday, that same government suggested 2019 might be too soon for electoral reform, that “it would be ‘irresponsible’ to go ahead with the plan before the next election.”

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

*  *  *

Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale, offers some practical advice for Americans facing four years of Trumpism. He’s derived twenty lessons from the rise of fascism, Nazism and communism in the twentieth century that are not only applicable to the States but to citizens in any country to help keep their government in check.  Click here for a summary on each point.

1. Do not obey in advance.

2. Defend an institution.

3. Recall professional ethics.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.

6. Be kind to our language.

7. Stand out

8. Believe in truth.

9. Investigate.

10. Practice corporeal politics.

11. Make eye contact and small talk.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

13. Hinder the one-party state.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can.

15. Establish a private life.

16. Learn from others in other countries.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed.

19. Be as courageous as you can.

20. Be a patriot.



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1 comment:

  1. A person asked me why some of us Manitobans protested against Kinder-Morgen. I was shocked! We need to wake up to Reality! We only have one Earth. It's everyone's business!

    We need to speak out and not lose faith - we will be heard. And I believe, it will help! If we all keep on keeping on, our message will slowly but surely sink into people's consciousness and we will effect change. It may not be as fast as we'd like, and it will not be easy or fun. But let's just keep on!