For Whom the Bell Tolls Next

“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 Niemöller

The quote above is just one version/adaptation of the original, and it is the one enshrined in the United States Holocast Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (Niemöller penned multiple versions; earlier ones also list the communists, the infirm, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals.) Niemöller (1892-1984), a Lutheran pastor and theologian, wrote it to shame the German intellectuals who said nothing against the Nazis’ rise to power and ensuing atrocities, including the Holocast.

Now – please! – don’t think for even a minute that what I’m about to say, in any way, implies that I think Donald Trump is another Hitler. But one of the things he said during the election campaign that he was going to do, if elected, and has been said again by at least one of his proposed cabnet members since his election, is the registration of Muslims living in this country. 

Now, I personally think that’s a very fascist police-state thing to do. But it isn’t without precedent in the good old USofA. One only has to look back to the Bush (G.W.) administration, and Bush – for all his other failings – wasn’t (isn’t) a fascist (but I do wonder about some who were in his administration).

After the horrific terrorist attack of 9/11, Congress – in a panic to prevent anything similar by Islamic terrorist cells within our borders again – in 2002 passed (and was signed into law by Bush) the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS) that required men and boys ages 16 and older with temporary visas from 25 countries (mostly students, workers and tourists from Muslim countries) to register at an immigration center to be re-fingerprinted, re-photographed, re-interviewed and to consent to repeated follow-ups or face arrest, criminal penalties and deportation. 83,000 registered. NSEERS required no evidence of wrongdoing and  within 10 years the government initiated deportation procedings against 13,000 of those registered. By 2012 not one terrorist was found from that targeted group and, as a result, most of the law’s provisions were suspended.

Suspended, but not repealed, not annulled. It’s good to go with a little dust off. Now we have a president-elect who is whipping up the flames of bigotry. And given the state of high anxiety over ISIS and the irrational fear of Islam in general by a large segment of our population, the dust just may be blown away.

While NSEERS applied (applies) only to legally visa-ed aliens, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to amend it legislatively to include legal alien residents. And after awhile, why not citizens, if they’re of that targeted group? And why stop with Muslims? It’s a slippery slope, my friends.

Profiling – all Muslims are either secret terrorists or at least sympathizers, all Hispanics are illegal, all blacks are criminals or potential cop killers, all homosexuals are or will be child molesters, anyone concerned with people’s health, welfare and rights is a socialist (and all socialists are communists) – is ethically, morally and inherently wrong. If my government enacts or applies any law that effectively criminalizes any group through presumptive guilt, I will protest. 

What next group will be targeted? Trump recently said that he believes those who burn the American flag in protest of the government – a Constitutional right of symbolic free speech, according to one past Supreme Court – should be jailed and/or fined. What other forms of free speech might be deemed now treasonous, should a new, more conservative high court allow? A blog post like this one?

I hope there’ll be someone out there to speak for me.

– Bill

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