First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist…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.
Do you know this provocative statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemoller? It refers to the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis coming to power and their purging target groups one after the other.
My husband quoted it to me a while back as we discussed a situation in which a crazy CEO began acting in destructive ways years ago while other executives remained silent. One by one he purged people he could not control until finally, he drove a going concern into the ground. And even as it happened, those with a stake in the issue said nothing.
Were they silent because they didn’t want to be targeted next? Because they had no guts? Or because it was in their interests to stay silent as long as they could?
I don’t know.
But here’s the thing. I’m one of those people who simply can not keep their mouths shut when they see stuff happening. An injustice that needs a bright light shone on it? I’m searching for my flashlight.
Usually these would be situations that have involved me or that I have a stake in.
I try to stay out of other people’s stuff. But if I’m involved, I’ll speak. I’ve never been afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. Because if you don’t have integrity, what do you have?
But how shocking to see the glaring silence–and yes, silence can glare–from those who had the biggest stake of all. It’s ironic, too, in ways I can’t tell you.
A disappointment, watching others involved turn their heads, avert their eyes to avoid seeing what’s so obvious. What couldn’t stand a direct gaze.
Here’s the thing:
If you don’t speak out for others, who will speak out for you when the time comes?
Because the time WILL come, in one way or another. You WILL wish you had someone to step up for you.
Chances are, those people will turn their heads. Just like you did with them.
Yes, what goes around does come around.
Yes, it does.
Karma is a bitch.