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Then They Came For Me

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.

Martin Niemöller

When are we going to wake up and realize that when we remain silent, we give power to those who continue to sow hatred and prejudice? Somehow we want to believe that we are different if we are not the White Nationalist marching in the streets or openly expressing hatred of others. Yet when we fail to speak out when others are oppressed because of their race or gender identity, or when a mosque or Muslims are attacked because of their beliefs, we are complicit in the emotional and physical assaults on others. We want to soothe ourselves by saying that we are concerned for others, that "people are people," or "I don't see color." We can even convince ourselves that we can't be prejudiced because, "some of my best friends are _____" (fill in the blank). If we really didn't see color, race, religion, etc., then we would not turn a blind eye to violence against others. We would not fear the other. We would not be threatened by the belief that someone else is taking "what is right fully ours." We would not be offended each time someone points out their struggles or shares their stories.

If we are going to heal the world, we must begin to see our shared humanity. We must learn to see ourselves in one another and understand that when one of us hurts, we all hurt. Once we open our eyes, we become conscious that the world is different for some people than for others. Once we are conscious, we can no longer remain silent. For if we do, OUR very lives are threatened, and we suffer personally.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." We cannot be the light or love without opening our eyes to the pain of others. We cannot be the light or love without our voices being heard. We cannot be the light or love without seeing our shared humanity.

So, what do we do today, this minute -- when rioting is happening in the streets of Charlottesville? We take a long hard look at how we ended up in this place, examining our individual and collective responses when we see others being targeted. Then, we make a commitment to listen, really listen, to the plights of others without wondering what will be taken away from us. We listen to the perspectives of others, even when they differ from our own. More importantly, we make a commitment that we will not support violent rhetoric in our conversations with friends and colleagues, even against those who want to harm us. This is not an easy task, but violence, hatred, and nastiness only beget violence, hatred, and nastiness -- and do not leave us in a state of mind to create alternatives to such behavior. And this behavior is far from light and love.

So, I invite us to collectively practice light and love today in the hopes that it will help us to see our shared humanity and how we can personally help to stop violence and hatred in our communities and in the larger society.

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