Corbin is professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa
Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor, composed a post-World War II confessional titled “First they came ...” The four-line composition explains, in straight-forward language, how the Nazis rose to power by methodically silencing German intellectuals and clergy.
The best known version of the prose is housed in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:
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.
Let’s be frank. Since the Tea Party’s founding in 2009, several groups – on their own accord and/or in conjunction with political parties, biased think tanks, political action committees and politicians – are trying to silence you and me via multiple measures. If Niemoller’s 1946 verse reflected America in 2024, it might read:
First they came to restrict women’s reproductive rights and the rights of LGBTQIA, transgender youth, people with mental health issues, the physically disabled and the homeless, and I did not speak out – because I decided the issues are too complex to handle.
Then they came to ban books and dissing public education, and I did not speak out – because I don’t have kids in school.
Then they came to denounce Black Lives Matter and people from other countries while accepting white nationalism and evangelical Christian nationalism, and I did not speak out – because I didn’t know how to get involved.
Then they came to disrespect diversity, equity, inclusion and sexual harassment claims, and I did not speak out – because I’m only one person.
Then they came to praise the autocratic leaders of Russia, China, North Korea, Hungary and Argentina, and I did not speak out – because I didn’t know who to express my concerns to.
Then they came to push isolationism, dismantle America’s allies and throw global free trade, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, NATO and the United Nations under the bus, and I did not speak out – because I’m not in a leadership position.
Then they came to reduce funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare, and I did not speak out – because I’m too busy working two jobs to make ends meet.
Then they came to eliminate eminent domain and a total ban on asylum immigration laws rather than pass needed comprehensive immigration reform despite 98 percent of Americans being of immigrant descent, and I did not speak out – because my elected representatives are also ignoring the issues.
Then they came to ridicule and to defund the Department of Justice, IRS., Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation and Department of Defense, and I did not speak out – because that’s for politicians and not me to resolve.
Then they came to free the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrectionists, eradicating votes of fellow citizens, threatening the lives of volunteer election workers, identifying legal judicial actions as witch-hunts, claiming presidential immunity reigns supreme, and I did not speak out – because I decided that’s up to the courts to decide.
Then they came to ignore bipartisanship, the $34 trillion national debt, $1.7 trillion federal deficit, aid to Ukraine and climate change, and I did not speak out – because I was afraid to take a stance against my political party’s wishes.
Then they came to impose politically favored gerrymandering, the unification of church and state, hands-off for any type of reasonable gun control legislation and re-electing politicians who put their party before the people and claim to be your “revenge and retribution” candidate, and I did not speak out – because I’m getting tired of political shenanigans.
Then they came to realize that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing” and that knowing democracy is not a spectator sport, and vowed to vote on Nov. 5 so America would not revert to dictatorial-authoritarian control – because, if not, “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”