“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.” Martin Niemoller.
As an American, and I am a proud one, we have a moral obligation to exercise our First Amendment rights now more than ever as we watch our country slip into moral decay. As a teacher of American History, I cannot recall any other time in recent history, perhaps since the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s where there has been such division in our country. Tribal differences based on political, racial, and religious beliefs stoked by the inflammatory rhetoric of those with a public platform and a specific agenda are ripping this great country apart.
How far and at what cost will political parties, their leaders and ideologues go to hang onto or achieve political power? Leadership is top down, and sadly and to the detriment of the moral fabric of this great country, none or very little is being exercised at this moment. The events of this past week are irrefutable evidence as to the consequences of the acidic rhetoric that is being spewed by those with a public platform. Assassination attempts on some of our greatest leaders, past and present, culminated at the end of the week by the brutal massacre of innocent worshippers at a Jewish temple; ironically one of the worshippers killed was 97-year-old Holocaust survivor Rose Mallinger. Imagine, surviving Hitler’s brutal “Final Solution” to be killed at the hands of a raving lunatic, possibly radicalized by the toxic political rhetoric being spewed daily by politicians and pundits and the infinite amounts of conspiracy theories to be found on the internet.
However, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we are NOT a part of the problem, we are. Every one of us needs to search our hearts. We need to see what our own prejudices and insecurities are. We need to acknowledge our distrust of other races, religions and ethnicities. I guarantee if we are honest with ourselves we will see our own faults. The solution which I have searched diligently for as it relates to our hate and distrust of others, lies within us. We have to look at ourselves and FIRST deal with our own shortcomings in the areas previously mentioned as a possible solution to this vile epidemic of hate sweeping over our country. Poisonous rhetoric cannot penetrate our being if we have the antidote, which is of course our common humanity. We need to stop seeing each other as the enemy because of our differing views on what constitutes the ideal. It is through public discourse and differing perspectives on all matter of issues, protected under our Constitution that this country has emerged to be the greatest modern democracy the world has ever seen.
To our leaders, you have a moral obligation to lead by example. You are held to a higher standard like it or not, such is the responsibility of of the positions you hold. To my fellow citizens, you have a moral responsibility to espouse basic human decency to your fellow man regardless of their religious, political, ethnic or racial differences. What hurts one of us as a part of the human whole, should hurt ALL of us in our entirety. The events at the synagogue in Pittsburg should be as hurtful to us as it is to the Jewish community. It should be condemned by us for the reprehensible act that it was as if we were a part of that community. We never know when it will be our turn to be victims of a similar crime.
“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”. Martin Niemoller.