First they came for the Communists, wrote Pastor Martin Niemoller during the grotesque misery that was the Third Reich, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Communist. That’s not the end of the poem, of course, but most of you will already know that. It’s been used so often in the last three years that it’s almost become a cliche. Just the same, it’s really been on my mind the last few days, as Donald Trump’s wicked attacks on the four Democratic congresswomen, that being Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, alternately flip-flops and intensifies.
I have been thinkhe poem’s very last line.
“Then they came for me. And when they did, there was nobody left to speak up for me.”
We’ve all got to learn from history.
Taken from this angle, it becomes clear this is not purely altruistic. It isn’t just about Representative Omar and the others- who are all nonwhite women, by the way, always favored targets of the Donald Trump variety. They have faced terrible odds to get where they are, and that is commendable. There is no question they ought to be safe in speaking their minds! To #StandWithIlhan is to stand for the rights of all humans this time. If we let them send her back, what will we ourselves deserve if and when the going gets rough? It’s unthinkable to leave her to her fate.
For one thing, she’s a human being. She’s received a massive spike in death threats since Trump pinned that awful video on hisYou don’t turn your head when somebody’s in trouble. For another, she’s a Democrat. Until we’ve got reason on a Tulsi Gabbard-level to assume she’s just controlled opposition, she’s one of us. Even if she is a terrible pest (which is only about half true, she is much less shrill than Ocasio and still eloquent), we’ve still got to have her back. It’s about us all when it comes down to it. This is about loyalty, national honor, freedom. Can we be outspoken in this country and have our voices duly heard? Can we disagree without deporting one another? Are we really going to let a big orange demagogue make us forget that in America, we fight just as hard for an opponent’s right to say something dissident as we would for our own?
That’s what it means to stand for a principle such as freedom to speak freely. To fight hard on behalf of those who annoy you, to stand up for people when it’s hard, may not be peaches and cream- but it’s necessary.
So here I am, speaking up for the socialists, even though I am not a socialist, against something that a socialist state would do to me.
Doggone it, man.
When this whole thing came to a head, when Trump’s lunatic supporters started chanting “Send her back!” I took a long, tired sigh, and shook my head glumly. Man, oh, man, I thought, repulsed and dejected. After all the swearing to God and chanting muttered mantras vowing I wouldn’t, here I am just the same, going back on my word completely, because I really have to have to stand for good old Ilhan, again.
How many times is this going to happen? I can’t believe I’m having to do this. Omar has muddied our pond quite habitually by now. After last week, when she and the other socialists voted together in a bloc to deny children toothpaste, I felt completely used. I swore that I would never defend her again. We stood for Ilhan before, after all, the actual day she blew her smokestack with her comments about September in 2001.
I was in New Jersey on that dark backward abysm of a day. On top of a mountain where on clear days you could see right into New York City across the Bay. On 9/11, it was clear as an unmuddied lake, or an azure sky of deepest summer, even with all the smoke. We all sat there silently for hours that day, praying they could somehow save at least the building, it was not to be. We had nothing but each other that day, all but two of us had been strangers before, but afterwards our bond was thicker than a sad, mute despair as we watched the towers fall together.
My dear friend’s fiance was on the top floor and he lost her within seconds. Hearing her refer to the worst day in America’s history so cavalierly made me wonder if she wasn’t really a terrorist, and even when I was satisfied through research that was a slander and told everyone so in my first #IStandWithIlhan article, but’s not like she appreciated it. We gave her a chance the first time, we cheered her victory which took place in the Year of the Democratic Woman, we even ignored her repugnant involvement with the Democratic Socialists and hailed the entrance of a new Millennial Democrat onto the stage of current events in politics. But she keeps on blowing it. With her votes, and with her mouth. “Some people did something” is not the way to refer to 9/11 inside the borders of America. I doubt I was disgusted less than Trump himself was, as the sound of that, but that is not the point. I will still fight for her right to disgust me just as hard as I would my right to disgust myself- like I’d do if I said nothing here and let the Trump crazies do whatever they want.
The strategy Trump is using is pretty basic, actually, it’s the well-worn Remington of Evil Politics textbook tactics- the old Divide and Conquer trick. He knows his base truly hates Omar, almost as much as they hate Ocasio-Cortez. They don’t just dislike these women, or find them pesky (like when Ocasio-Cortez stages a protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office over climate change which we were doing anyway). They hate them. And some of them wish to do violence to them. I’ve seen and heard things on Facebook you wouldn’t believe. We had a guy come on our Facebook Page one day and say “Understand this Democrats. If Trump gives the order I will kill as many of you as I can.”
You can see I too have had to deal with death threats- not to mention more than half a thousand attempts to hack our blog out.
That is what we live with, Americans. That is what we live with, world. Threats of gang-rape, attempts to use doxing by finding our people in real life to lay in wait for them, even people coming to our houses. Taking pictures of our pets. Writing ugly letters to our loved ones! There is absolutely nothing these people will not stop at, and it’s best not to kid ourselves that they’re all just blowing smoke. Remember that James G. Hodgkinson who shot Steve Scalise a few months after Trump took power? He was a crazed Bernie or Buster! We had mutual friends on Facebook.
Trump’s singling out of Omar, in particular, is dangerous because of all the Islamophobia over the last twenty years and before. His twisting of her words out of context puts her actual life in peril. They might kill her over this. Black and white lives have been taken for this kind of thing many times. Most of us remember who John F. Kennedy was; a guy named Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind as well. I have always hoped to come together with Trump supporters on the need for stopping the spread of socialism, but now they have gone way too far with it. Someone could get killed here. A friend of mine pointed out that Ilhan Omar doesn’t have the kind of security Hillary Clinton does. She’s gotten multiple death threats made against her already. They spiked massively In Trump’s world, where he and his money are untouchable, consequences don’t seem very real. The guy lives in a bubble made of excessive wealth and dementia. He has to be stopped.
I struggled with this. This group of people has given me absolutely no end of trouble. At first, it was just policy points we disagreed on, but soon I came to realize the differences were far more irreconcilable. Socialism is a plague. They’re Bernie Sanders people, and Bernie’s the reason Trump won in the first place. Ever since 2015 they have viciously attacked both us and me personally- and it’s creepy how every time I write an article criticizing the Bern Chinese hackers come in the night and try for many hours to take our site offline. One girl, a charming young thing called Crystal Sproul, said that she and my other millennial peers were all going to get rid of me and “Continue berning your party to the ground.” It does not fill my heart with joy to have to stick up for them.
But that’s exactly when doing it full-hearted really counts.
Omar and I may well disagree on just about everything. But it’s still not right to say nothing while Trump goes around stirring up his people against her. When you go down that road, you’ll end up in the council-fires of the Nazis. An American Dachau is not something we can tolerate, even for those who want to go around lighting things on fire and berning them.
It is sometimes very hard to be part of a team. I wonder if Representative Omar wouldn’t agree. You want to stand by your own principles, but still use what little power you do have to help people out and raise awareness with, that’s what power is for. If Nancy Pelosi, who like Odysseus has been harried for years on end by the freshmen antics displayed by these women, can forgive them for the sake of decency and for the party, so can I. Therefore here we are, standing with Ilhan- again.