Perhaps you’ve heard of Martin Niemöller. Perhaps you haven’t. Even if you haven’t heard of Martin Niemöller, it’s likely you’re familiar with these words, which he wrote in rueful reflection after World War II:
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.
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “That could never happen here.” Perhaps you haven’t. Even if you haven’t heard it, it’s likely you believe it as it pertains to the United States of America. It probably doesn’t even matter to what that refers. In our insular bubbles of gullibility, naiveté, and complacency, we don’t have to see beyond the ends of our noses. We don’t have to consider any interests other than our own. And those interests are always special, indeed, and getting more special by the minute.
We don’t have to doubt or question. We don’t have to think or examine. We don’t have to assess our own notions of progress or recognize our increasing levels of dependence.
The proverbial they will always take care of it, whatever it is. And they is most assuredly politicians and their media minions. The last things we’ll have to do are take care of ourselves and take personal responsibility for anything.
Welcome to death by a thousand promises.
Perhaps you’ve heard this expression: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Or this one: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Or maybe this one, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” At this point, it likely doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we re-discover the purposes that once bound us, that compelled us to stand together in unity, rather than engaging in what a friend described to me this way: “Blind militance … more interested in dramatic nihilism than substantive change or reflection.”
If our project is to find fault, to exact misbegotten notions of retribution, and to engage in wanton acts of anarchy and destruction, we will, indeed, reap what we sow. And the vicious circle will never be broken.