First Trump Came for Mexicans, but I Didn’t Speak Up Because I Wasn’t Mexican. Then They Came for Me — and by That Time, No One was Left to Speak Up

WWII era Poem by Martin Niemoeller

I bought this poster at Revolution Books on Durant and Telegraph in Berkeley and I had it on my wall throughout college.  I suppose I was attracted to message because I am a journalist and a writer, so it’s fundamental to my being to speak up.

This poem, by German Pastor Martin Niemoeller, is about the cowardice of German intellectuals to speak up during the Nazi’s rise to power.  Niemoeller, a “Christian”, initially supported Hitler, too, but it was too late by the time he realized he was supporting a monster.  When Niemoeller spoke up, he was arrested and put into a concentration camp.

Today, we have a similar rumblings with the rise of Trump and his neo-Nazi, white supremacist, KKK supporters gathering new steam in the U.S.

Hate groups now have a high-profile, mainstream leader who’s been embraced by the media and the entertainment industry, albeit for the sake of ratings, not because they support the Trump platform. 

But, worse, Trump has been unconsciously bolstered and embraced by passive Democrats, progressives, independents and whoever else is “Never Trump”.

For Democrats to call on Republicans to disavow Trump after Pussy Gate is ridiculous. The GOP and Trumpers are not the problem. They have a right to support whomever they want.  We, the Left, are the problem.  We had the numbers, the voice and ability to stop him long ago with boycotts of shows and networks who carelessly promote Trump.

Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! to the Hollywood Reporter: “Donald Trump is a great talk show guest. He is everything you could possibly want. He is totally unguarded, he does not seem to care about offending people, he is so different from almost everybody else.”

…“I have to say it’s a pleasure to interview the guy, it really is, because almost everything out of his mouth is interesting.”

It’s a “pleasure” to interview a racist, xenophobic, sexist who is endorsed by David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?  Kimmel — like many others in the media — downplayed Trump’s dangerous rhetoric with words like “unguarded”. Why didn’t we call Kimmel on that? Why didn’t we boycott ABC? 

When Trump called all Mexicans rapists, we should have stopped him in his tracks.  We should have boycotted SNL in droves when they invited a blatant racist to host their show. We didn’t speak up. Instead, we watched and laughed and gave SNL, a sinking show, one of their highest ratings of the year — and we handed Trump the legitimacy he needed. Larry David, a Jewish person who knows where Trump’s language can lead, volunteered to join Trump on stage — he wanted to be part of the gag instead of the boycott.

When Trump got his goons to manhandle and throw out Univision journalist Jorge Ramos from a press conference — violating our Constitution, taking way Ramos’ First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press — not one major journalist stood up for their colleague.

After Trump said he wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the US — Jimmy Fallon invites him to share some laughs and giggles. Did we boycott Jimmy Fallon? Nope. We watched. We laughed. So, again, we — the Democrats, progressives, and independents — further legitimized Trump with passivity.

Trump went on to mock the disabled. He mocked prisoners of war and soldiers with PTSD, but…

I don’t have family in the military, so whatevs.

I’m not Mexican, so I’m not offended.

I’m not Muslim, so who cares?

Jorge Ramos is from Univision, so he’s a journalist for “those” people.

Yet, when Trump said something vile about a white woman, within mere hours, he becomes universally appalling and unequivocally unacceptable — 29 days before the election, and a year after making equally vile remarks about other groups.

The problem is Trump should have been universally appalling and unequivocally unacceptable from the moment he uttered a blanket statement about Mexicans. We had a chance again, to stop him, after his Muslim ban talk, but didn’t speak up. Then he hit the the disabled, POW’s and soldiers with PTSD.

FRANKENSTEIN IS ALIVE. IT SHOULDN’T HAVE GONE THIS FAR, BUT WE HELP BUILD HIM, MAKE HIM STRONGER, BIT BY BIT, BOLT BY BOLT. 

This is what happens when we compartmentalize our humanity, and only speak up when it affects “me and mine”. Now, Frankenstein is alive. Even if Trump loses, he is not going away, and neither are his supporters. They are energized, empowered and will actively grow their Alt-Right movement, and more of them will come out from under their rocks.

By keeping quiet for the past year, by not using our collective voice, by not actively boycotting anyone or any company promoting him, by not learning the lessons of the past when someone much like Trump rose up, by laughing along with SNL and Jimmy Fallon, we are now just as personally and collectively responsible for the Rise of Trump as the Republicans.

What will happen next depends on whether or not we finally choose to stop laughing along, letting it go, waiting until it affects “my group”.  The Greater Good depends on whether we are willing to Speak Up and stamp out the Darkside as soon as it rears its ugly dried-up, yellow-dyed, orange-faced head.

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