Who will be left to speak for you?

May 1, 2014


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.


24 comments on “Who will be left to speak for you?
  1. Doreen McGettigan says:

    This is thought provoking, Carol. I have a big mouth too, and something my husband calls a poison pen. I am trying to re find my journalistic style in my writing. I want to be better at promoting conversation and less about opinion.

    • admin says:

      I haven’t noticed it in your blog (poison)…interested in what you conclude after thinking about this.

  2. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    I do and I will continue to do so. But I see an awful lot of head burying in the sand. I have a local rap for having a big mouth–stating what I feel–All the better to smile with when I know I’m right, I say.

  3. Great post and it is absolutely right. When I see some of the things that go on nowadays, it makes my blood boil. This morning I am ranting about disabled veterans WAITING for benefits! WTH is wrong with us as a country? We can send them to war, but some die at home waiting for help…why are they not top priority?

    • admin says:

      There’s so much injustice it can seem easier to just do nothing. But I do think we have an obligation to speak out–good for you!

  4. I do speak up in many situations and will ALWAYS stand up for my family and friends. I think the older I get the more comfortable I feel doing it. Carol, it’s clear to me you are a wonderful person who wants to do the right thing. I’m in awe of you!

    • admin says:

      You are so sweet to say that! I think it’s true that when we get older and have more life experience under our belt we see how little there is to lose by doing the right thing.

  5. Yvonne Wray says:

    Doing the right thing is the only way for an individual to go from good to better.

  6. ay Lickus says:

    Now-a-days it’s seems like there are a million causes to stand up for. It is truly important to take some time and define what we really stand for……do we have a “give me liberty or give me death” cause in our lives? A wise man once taught me “Pick Your Battles Wisely.” If you trust your intuition then your karma will give you direction.

  7. Mary Buchan says:

    This reminds me of a quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Author ?

  8. Elena Dillon says:

    We are living in times in this country where speaking out is getting scarier but it still must be done. We can’t just stand back and allow injustice. Good for you for being the kind of person who speaks up!

  9. I have always had a problem with people who don’t stand up for what they believe in or what they know is right. It’s called being a coward. Thanks Carol for this great thought provoking article. Gives everyone something to think about.

  10. I have often wondered if I were to be tested, how courageous would I be? I greatly admire people who can speak their truth even as there may be grave consequences to pay.

    • admin says:

      I so admire the Germans who hid Jews in Germany at risk of their own lives. I’m not sure I could rise to that occasion. I hope I am never tested that way. But in my world, I do speak out and always have.

  11. Sherri says:

    Wow, Carol… you hit on something there. I often freeze when confronted with a situation that might benefit from my response or action. Sometimes it’s because I am afraid, others just because I am shocked. Where my family is concerned, I jump in and attack. But there is a “good girl” part of me somewhere that doesn’t want to overstep my bounds or “hurt” anyone. She needs to go away.

    Something to think about today…

  12. This is really thought provoking, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because it seems to be happening more and more. People are often afraid to speak out. I often feel like that. I see people attacked on social media and in conversation all the time because they have a differing opinion. I tell my kids that differences of opinion are what make the world go round, that power grabs happen when there aren’t checks and balances. Whatever happened to free speech? Unfortunately it doesn’t feel very free anymore.

  13. Karen says:

    I’m with you, Carol–I try not to jump in too quickly, but I’ll try to observe a situation long enough to make an accurate assessment…after which the gloves come off. I’ve been accused of being “too direct” and “too outspoken,” and maybe that’s true…but I figure it beats the alternative.

  14. Calvin says:

    I have seen this happen and it was my wife who did not want to be with someone who didn’t stand up for others, this helped me go forward. I can say in my situation I was afraid for my job, my families income, and that those in charge would not be bound by truth or reason.

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