Letters from Boston: First they came for the Muslims, and we said, “not in America, you don’t.”

1/29/17 BWI Muslim Ban Protest

Letters from Boston, January 31, 2017

“First they came for the Muslims, and we said, ‘not in America, you don’t’.”

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What are we to do when a man sworn into office as President of the United States in one week, begins to use his powers in cruel, bigoted, and arbitrary ways the very next week?

I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbor — there is nothing on that American beacon of hope that discriminates against refugee families based on their religious affiliation. If there were, we would not be a world power.

(R. Ian Lloyd/Masterfile/Corbis)

The child victims of ISIL are children of every faith.

They are children of the same God — the One God; the God that commands us to be kind to strangers. For those of us who are Christians, He is the One God who was Himself a refugee child fleeing murder gangs in the Middle East.

So, what do we do — what actions do we take — when our half-elected President begins to use our power to apply religious tests to the plight of refugees fleeing murder, genocide, and oppression?

What would our immigrant parents, grandparents, or great grandparents have us do?

The answer is that we must stand up, speak out, and do everything in our power — individually and collectively — to stop the injustice being perpetrated, in our names, against our neighbors.

This is not a time for acceptance, acquiescence, or “wait and see.”

This is a time for peaceful, loving, and law-abiding citizens to come together and rise up in solidarity for one another.

Come together — protest, dissent, make your voice heard — at the highest scale and at the deepest and most local levels. And by all means — bring your kids.

It was Germany’s Rev. Martin Neimoller who penned the oft-repeated lines about the creep of an elected fascism in 1930’s Germany: First they came for the trade unionists, then they came for the gypsies, then they came for the homosexuals and the artists, then they came for the Jews — “…and I did not speak out” because I was not of those groups… “Then they came for me,… and there was no one left to speak for me…”

Fascism comes to power — let us never forget — by first being elected under the guise of being something else: a redressing of old grievances. A promise to return to better days. A promise to punish the elites. A promise to protect a frightened majority from having their greatness stolen by a religious or ethnic minority — people not like us.

So, let it be remembered that when first they came for our Muslim neighbors in America, the people of the United States rose up and said, “not in our country, you don’t.”


Martin O’Malley is the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School for the spring 2017 semester. He is teaching a class on Leadership and Data Driven Government, while also participating in several panel discussions as part of the Rappaport Distinguished Public Policy Series. Every Monday he is publishing his thoughts in a series titled, “Letters from Boston.”