Then they came for the Jews, But I was not a Jew, So I did not speak out.
The three small lines bear witness to the Holocaust. They stun. They make us look inward to gauge our own capacity for passive, complicit evil. The poem in which the stanza appears is thought to have originated in various postwar speeches of German Pastor Martin Niemoller.
Likewise, who cannot be stunned when the following statement is uttered by popular shock-jock commentator Michael Savage over America's Talk Radio Network?
"They say, u2018Oh, there's a billion of them.' I said, u2018So, kill 100 million of them, then there'll be 900 million of them.' I mean, would you rather die — would you rather us die than them?"
He was talking about Muslims — all Muslims — in his April 17 broadcast. Okay, Savage is a nutjob, right? A worst-case example of the failure of the human soul. He's not like the rest of us.
But, apparently, he's like a lot of us here in the United States. The Michael Savage Show is the third largest syndicated radio talk show in the country. As U.S. media continue their slide into the moral sewer of ultra-right propaganda, Savage's brand of hate talk is rather routine.
U.S. evangelical leader Pat Robertson labels Islam, "a bloody, brutal kind of religion," on the Christian Broadcasting Corporation's televised 700 Club. Commentator Ann Coulter writes in the Jewish World Review that "[T]he government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport." Civilized people would like to believe that Coulter is an anomalous hatemeister, lurking from the shadows of an ill-designed blogsite, with iron crosses and ads for assault knives in the sidebars. But Coulter is a welcome guest on cable TV giants like Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, and her column is syndicated by UPI.
James Madison, a founding father and fourth president of the United States, wrote, "When tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." For the sake of the republic, Madison would have been unswayed by the tinhorn patriotism and the anti-Muslim (in effect, anti-American) rants of today's media.
Consider a hater from another era:
"Let us make a new beginning today so that we can annihilate the Jew."
That was Julius Streicher, in a speech given in Nuremberg, 1925. Streicher was publisher of Der Stuermer, a viciously anti-Semitic newspaper. He was a favorite of Hitler in the buildup to the Third Reich. Like the United States' Talk Radio Network, Der Stuermer was a key player in the mass media of its day. And, like Julius Streicher before him, Michael Savage serves up a constant, genocidal background chant for an administration bent on imperial war.
Now the president claims that Iran's nuclear capability is a threat to the United States. Those who love this country will remember that he said the same thing about WMD in Iraq before sending the country's sons and daughters into the slaughterhouse.
Hardliners in Washington and Jerusalem cheer as the president announces, "You bet, we'll defend Israel," from Iran. But informed observers, like Israeli military expert Martin van Creveld and U.S. physicist Gordon Prather, have assured us that Iran is years away from creating a nuclear weapon if, indeed, they are creating one at all.
Lacking a legitimate casus belli, the administration knows that in order to wage war it must make the people hate. In order to control them, it must make them fear. So the administration offers up a decades-long war with "terrorists." And who are these terrorists? Why, "Islamofascists," according to media cheerleaders.
In its demonization of Jews, Nazi Germany bet on the moral somnolence of the German people, and it bet right. But the Third Reich collapsed under the weight of its own hatred and under the military might of the civilized world. U.S. citizens should pay heed.
If Pastor Niemoller were speaking today, would he add three more lines to his poem, for the sake, not only of Muslims, but of all humanity?
Then they came for the Muslims, But I was not a Muslim, So I did not speak out.
The Nazis deadened the soul of a nation. America, will you heed the genocidal call from the likes of Savage, Coulter, et al.? America, is your soul dead?
July 6, 2006