First They Came for Eric Garner …

I Remained Silent Because I’m Not Black

Preface: German pastor Martin Niemöller initially supported Hitler. But he later opposed him, and was imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp for years.

Niemöller learned the hard way that keep your head down doesn’t keep one out of trouble … in the long run, it increases the danger to all of us.

Niemöller wrote a brilliant poem – First They Came – about the manner in which Germans allowed Nazi abuses by failing to protest the abuse of “others” … first gypsies, gays, communists, and Jews, then Catholics … and eventually everyone.

This is my modern interpretation of Niemöller’s poem …

 

First they tortured a U.S. citizen and gang member
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a criminal

Then they tortured a U.S. citizen, whistleblower and navy veteran
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a whistleblower

Then they went after top NSA and CIA officials with guns, espionage prosecutions and imprisonment
For revealing corruption within their agencies
I remained silent
I don’t have any inside information

Then they locked up an attorney for representing accused criminals …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a defense attorney

Then they arrested a young father walking with his son simply because he told Dick Cheney that he disagreed with his policies
I remained silent;
I’ve never talked to an important politician

Then they said an entertainer should be killed because she questioned the government’s version of an important historical event
I remained silent;
I wasn’t an entertainer

Then they arrested people for demanding that Congress hold the President to the Constitution
I did not speak out;
I’ve never protested in Washington

Then they arrested a man for holding a sign
I held my tongue;
I’ve never held that kind of sign

Then they broke a minister’s leg because he wanted to speak at a public event …
I said nothing;
I wasn’t a religious leader

Then they shot a student with a taser gun and arrested him for asking a question of a politician at a public event …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a student

Then they started labeling virtually every innocent and normal behavior as marking Americans as “potential terrorists”
I remained silent;
I didn’t want to be called a terrorist

Then they threw political dissenters in psychiatric wards
I remained silent;
I didn’t want to be seen as crazy

Then they declared that they could label U.S. citizens living on U.S. soil as “unlawful enemy combatants” and imprison them indefinitely without access to any attorney …
I remained silent;
I didn’t want to be labeled an enemy

Then they assassinated an American citizen without any court trial
And they killed his son because he should have had a “far more responsible father”
I remained silent;
I live on American soil

Then they declared that they could assassinate U.S. citizens living on U.S. soil without any due process of law (update) …
I remained silent;
I didn’t want to be on the list

Then they forced down the airplane carrying the president of a sovereign nation, because they were looking for a whistleblower
I remained silent;
I’m not a foreign leader

Then they called for the founder of an independent publisher to be killed by drone
I remained silent;
I don’t want to worry about drone strikes against me

Then they started spying on all Americans, even though top experts say that doesn’t protect us from terrorism
I remained silent;
I didn’t want to call even more attention to myself from the spies

Then they charged the partner of an investigative journalist with terrorism for transporting whistleblowing documents to the journalist regarding illegal NSA spying
I remained silent;
My wife isn’t a journalist

Then they targeted prominent, peaceful American Muslim lawyers for total surveillance by the NSA and FBI
I remained silent;
I’m not a Muslim

Then they used military weapons used in the Iraq war on peaceful African-American protestors
I remained silent
I’m not black

Then they choked to death a peaceful, black, unarmed father of 6 who repeated 11 times the plea “I can’t breathe” whose only crime – not that day, but in the past – was selling untaxed, loose cigarettes
I remained silent
I’ve never sold loose cigarettes

When they came for me,
Everyone was silent;
there was no one left to speak out.

Postscript: I originally wrote this poem in 2007. I’ve updated it with additional verses as current events have unfolded.

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  • nomadfiles

    2007. Ain’t it sad that things only got worse under Obama? What irony, because he IS black.