We must speak out

First, they’d come for the rapists and murderers (they claimed), and the crowds chanted and cheered. Then, they’d come for the “bad hombres” (they promised), and the rallies went wild. Then, they came for asylum seekers at the borders and the children in their arms, and the true believers claimed they were dangerous “illegals.” Then, they kidnapped thousands of those children and sent them all around the country, holding them for a ransom called fear and flight, and the apologists said they deserved what they got.

Then, they tried to rescind DACA and come for the Dreamers who have made lives here legally for decades. Then, they came for families here on the Temporary Protected Status program, rescinding their legal status and giving them 18 months to relocate to the countries that had driven them out. Then, they came for immigrant spouses of citizens and tried to deport them. Then, they came for natural-born citizens whose birth certificates may have been lost in fires or not filed properly by doulas, and denied them the right to get a passport. These people are dangerous only in that they are not likely to support the Trump regime’s policies, so this is nothing short of a purge.

We who have lived long and studied history know that speaking out in defense of those who are persecuted is both benevolent and selfish. After all, if a few men can change the rules at any moment about who is or isn’t a criminal, who is really safe? Authoritarianism does not discriminate between one “enemy of the people” and another; the Trump administration has made it plain in countless speeches, tweets, and actions that its answer to any opposition is to call it the enemy and do everything it can to pay it off, intimidate it into silence, or get rid of it.

Citizens of every political stripe just celebrated the life of Sen. John McCain, because he exemplified the personal qualities we admire: devotion to service, generosity of spirit, honesty and integrity. People like Sen. McCain know that patriots aren’t protecting this chunk of the earth’s crust or the people who happen to be briefly in charge of it, but a set of ideals we aspire to. If we forsake those, there is nothing left to defend.

If we truly admire McCain and those like him, we must become them: honest, courageous and tireless. We must speak out clearly, in great numbers, now and in November. We must elect representatives of character to every level of government who will check the morally and politically corrupt federal Executive Branch. We must uphold America’s bedrock belief: human dignity and the rule of law are for everyone, or they don’t exist for any of us. We must do this for those who are being injured now, and for ourselves, because in the end, autocrats only protect their own.