First They Came
“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.”
– Pastor Martin Niemöller
Pastor Martin Niemöller was confined to a Nazi Concentration Camp for seven years. His now famous poem, First They Came, did not receive worldwide recognition until after World War II came to an end.
Friday was a significant and somber anniversary for the world. January 27 is recognized as Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day of awareness and advocacy for the 11 million people killed during the Holocaust.
President Trump’s immigration executive order was set in place on Friday as well, making travel to and from the United States virtually impossible for immigrants. The order is titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”, and halts refugees from seven Muslim nations for the next 90 days. The order also forbids Syrian immigrants from entering the U.S. entirely.
While I understand the need for homeland security and monitored borders to protect citizens from terrorism, I could not help but recognize the irony between these two events on the same date. Across the country, people are protesting this executive order. Green card/visa holders were detained in airports across the nation – with only some being released at the time of this post. As of 3 p.m. on Sunday Jan. 29, Homeland Security told CNN that these green card holders can come back to the U.S. but will face “secondary screening.”
This lead me to reach some interesting thoughts about immigration, refugees, and terrorism. Race and division have become more magnified with every year I age. I become more aware of my white privilege and citizenship with each coming day.
If it weren’t for the open arms of this country toward generations before me, my family would not have made it to America and I would either cease to exist or have an entirely different life elsewhere. If it weren’t for the Statue of Liberty’s open arms, I wouldn’t have the freedoms I have taken for granted from time to time as a born and raised American.
Due to these past and present events such as the Holocaust and Trump’s immigration order, it is my goal to never take these freedoms lightly. It is my greatest hope that other families will continue to have the same opportunity as mine did: a shot at the American Dream.
Thus, I will end this post as I began it — with a poem.
An Excerpt from The New Colossus, or “The Statue of Liberty Poem”
“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”