Speaking Up While We Still Can   Leave a comment

When I was a kid, my mother posted this quote inside a kitchen cabinet.

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.


Martin Niemoller was a prominent Protestant pastor who became an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent several years in Nazi concentration camps. Niemoller believed that Germans, particularly the leaders of the leading Protestant churches, had been complicit in their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution and murder of millions of people.

There was a time when I was a conservative and I felt comfortable with tough laws and long sentences, but with the passage of decades, I have come to realize that a great many Americans are locked up in our prison system because … just because. They didn’t hurt anyone. They offended some people by what they said. They made government officials uncomfortable. They demanded people think.

I don’t usually mock when others say things I disagree with, unless it’s directly to me, because I respect the right of everyone to make a fool of themselves. The world is a better place and liberty is best served when the marketplace of ideas is open to all … even to ideas that are ludicrous.

It’s time we learned to speak up for the right to speak up, even when we don’t like what’s being said.

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