What would the German Protestant Pastor, Martin Niemöller, say about contemporary Christian nationalists (which I would call American Herderites) who brand their fellow American Muslims with collective guilt for 9-11, and seek to prevent them, because of this collective guilt, from building a mosque and recreation center a few blocks down from the former World Trade Center site?
The below quote of Martin Niemöller is a familiar one, but I haven’t seen it used by anyone in the debate about the proposed Cordoba Mosque. I’ll quote Niemoller exactly as he is said to have put it to a Frankfurt congregation in 1946, then I’ll offer my contemporary rendition below it. He is illustrating one of the ways that individuals rationalized their failure to offer resistance to right-wing political escalation in Germany in the 1930s:
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
And here’s how I think that Pastor Martin Niemöller might put it to a contemporary American congregation on a Sunday morning in 2010, commenting on the right wing in our country:
THEY TARGETED FIRST atheists,
and I didn’t speak up because I’m not an atheist.
THEN THEY TARGETED gays and lesbians,
and I didn’t speak up because I’m not gay or lesbian.
THEN THEY TARGETED illegal immigrants,
and I didn’t speak up because I’m not an illegal immigrant.
THEN THEY TARGETED American Muslims living in NYC,
And I didn’t speak up because I’m not Muslim.
THEN THEY STARTED TORTURING terrorist suspects.
But I’m not a terrorist. I said nothing.
THEN THEY GOT RID of Miranda rights.
I don’t need them.
THEN THEY MADE a group of people carry special cards at all times.
THEN THEY REVIVED OLD LAWS against blasphemy, divorce, and sodomy.
I don’t blaspheme; my marriage is fine; I’m not homosexual.
NOW SOMETHING TERRIBLE has happened.
And rumor has it that they take you to these black sites.
THEY’VE STARTED COMING for liberals,
and I’m liberal on a lot of things. . . .