Many Americans who are opposed to Donald Trump, indeed most Americans who are appalled by Donald Trump, view him as an aberrant turn in the wheel of American history. The view persists that whatever damage he inflicts upon American citizens, no matter the seeds of turmoil that he spews all over the world, America (and the world) will recover and prosper once again. The consequence of this thinking has been too many Americans are engaging in passive aggressive behavior – on the one hand cursing his very name and turning his every misstep, misdemeanor or felony into entrees the progressive dinner table and then moving on with their lives – earning a living, planning their next vacation and planning for the future. And I am reminded of the poem written by the German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller:
“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.”
Even though every single day, Trump reminds us that he is so intent on wreaking damage and destruction in his pursuit of Making America Great (and White) Again that the damage that he can cause to America and Americans is incalculable. Yet the protest and resistance to the Trump regime has been muted given the grave danger that he represents.
The truth is the majority of Americans cannot envision themselves as actual and direct victims of Donald Trump and his enablers. And this self-insulation did not begin on January 20, 2017 when Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States. For example, this country has the unenviable record of being incarceration nation with 4% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s prison population. More than two million American citizens languish in American prisons despite a declining national crime rate. Yet most Americans believe that they do not need to speak out against mass incarceration because they are not prisoners.
The truth is that most Americans are covered by some kind of health care, either through their employer or through Medicaid or Medicare. And so even though America is the only developed country without a comprehensive national health care system, too many Americans do not see a linkage between their own lives and the tragedy of millions of Americans who do not have health care coverage. They do not speak out because they are not without health care coverage.
During the sad and sordid history of race-based slavery in this country, most white Americans did not speak out against this outrage until a constitutional crisis resulted in a Civil War. And even after the Civil War and Emancipation, most white Americans did not speak out against lynching, Jim Crow and legalized segregation because they were not black and would never be slaves, would never be lynched and would never be denied their rights at birth. And so too many white Americans (and black Americans) so not speak out because they believe they will not be treated as black Americans and have to drink from the bitter cup of racism, discrimination and the denial of basis human rights.
On this very day that you are reading this column, millions of women are being denied reproductive rights, in the process being cast into an abyss of misery, degradation and hopelessness. Of course no man can understand the full impact of the denial of reproductive rights and too many women who believe that their reproductive rights will be protected. And as a result, too many Americans do not speak out because they are not at risk of losing their reproductive rights.
Most Americans are not from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico. So most Americans view the grim and grotesque Hell the Trump regime has created for immigrants at the Mexican border as being irrelevant to their lives because they are not from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico. While some Americans recoil from the horror of parents being separated from their children, most Americans will not hold their elected representatives accountable for this monstrous policy. And most Americans will not speak out until this policy is stopped, because they are not from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico.
So while most Americans view the travesty that is the Trump regime as an unfortunate moment in American history. The media, the LGBTQ community, black and Latino Americans, advocates for gun control and supporters of environmental protection and reform are already targets of the Trump regime.
Now might be good time for all of us to remember the last lines of Reverend Niemoller’s poem before it is too late:
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”