All tyranny needs to gain a foothold, is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
~ Thomas Jefferson 1821
What did we learn from his words?
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
The year was 1940 and Hitler was rounding up Jews and other “undesirables” and exterminating them while much of the world stood by.
Five years later Germany is defeated at the hands of British, Canadian, U.S. and Soviet Troops.
What did we learn?
I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was 1963, the height of the civil rights movement. African-Americans were marching, protesting, beaten, jailed and even murdered for the right to be treated as equal human beings.
Forty-nine years later how far have we evolved as a society? Of course there are those who would argue we have come a long way by virtue of the fact America elected its first Black president, even before that the election of President Nelson Mandela post apartheid. Surely these must be evidence the world is a better place. Proof that today’s world is a place of declining acts of moral turpitude. Unfortunately I, as do the facts, do not substantiate this claim.
From the genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, the war crimes in Iraq, the occupation and atrocities in Palestine to the police brutality at Occupy movements, crimes against humanity have not ceased. A sovereign country is invaded; it’s leader ousted and land occupied by foreigners. Young boys are given semi automatic weapons and forced to commit heinous acts or face execution themselves. A 17-year old boy, unarmed is gunned down, murdered in cold blood.
And who are we to sit by and do nothing? Is it because we do not feel a connection to those with whom we differ? What is it about the human mind that it cannot identify the suffrage of another individual as his or her own plight?
A couple of months ago my son asked me why I felt the need to involve myself in a protest by Ethiopians against racism in Israel. “We’re not Ethiopian”, he said to me. My response, “No we’re not. But their fight is our fight.”
Whether you are an American, Chinese, Angolan, Black, Brown, Yellow, Red or White you have a human duty to stand up and speak out against injustice. By any means necessary, be it protest, boycott or civil disobedience. Because my fight is your fight and yours is mine.
When we do nothing, say nothing we all are complicit. And what will we say to our children and our children’s children when the question is asked of us, “what did you do to help?”
Mikki Israel is an American-Israeli or Israeli-American, depending on the circumstances. Mikki currently resides in Israel but comes to the U.S. whenever Israelis become too annoying, then returns after the Americans have become a headache. She is a featured writer for Borderless News and Views, and a freelance writer for whatever media outlet is brave enough to print the news — minus the spin.