Martin Luther King Jr and Germany’s Martin Niemoller
The world celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr who was a force for racial and societal equality and cohesion and is an enduring symbol of humanity at its best and most noble. His chosen vehicle for achieving his goals, which during his crusade would seem to have been nigh impossible, was to effect change by appealing to noble traits which were capable of being plumbed from the deepest depths and drawn from the darkest recesses of the human spirit. Martin Luther King Jr of whom volumes have been written and of whom it could be said, he made the ultimate sacrifice, by laying down his life as a down payment for his dream of a world in which racial injustice would no longer define and plague American society or indeed the world. His prescient, stirring and iconic “I have a dream speech” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, occupies a unique place in human history.
Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984) was a kindred spirit of Martin Luther King Jr who occupied another challenging time and space in history, which also questioned human values and the value of human life. Niemoller was a prominent Lutheran pastor and outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler, resulting in his seven year detention in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Although both Martins were champions of the innate dignity and inalienable rights of every human being, Niemoller’s iconic words were full of self-blame and regret, in contrast to King’s whose inspiring, uplifting ringing words echoed promisingly in the hearts and minds of his national audience and the world at large.
Niemoller lamented his role as a bystander, whilst Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party carried out wholesale acts of barbarity, violence and lawlessness against innocent populations. He said the following memorialized words: “First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. 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. Finally, they came for me and there was no one left to speak out.”
The fact that Donald Trump’s needless and heartless U.S. government shutdown is now the longest and intersects with the Martin Luther King Jr national holiday, gives pause for thought, as their respective leadership priorities, values and styles are juxtaposed on the global stage. Trump’s bad faith actions deprive circa 800,000 government workers of their livelihood, not factoring in their dependents and a myriad of sundry workers in satellite industries. Trump’s actions stem from his mounting fear, which is primordial and palpable, as the official probes into his presidential campaign’s financial illegalities and alleged complicity of colluding with Russia to bring its forces to bear in his favour and against his rival Hillary Clinton, are heating up apace. The conventional wisdom amongst American political analysts is that he hopes to stave off impeachment proceedings by remaining popular with his supporters, who demand a picturesque, costly and impractical wall on the southern U.S. border to deter brown hued asylum seekers. He has been cut off at the pass by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who denied him the necessary funds for his folly. In Trump’s bid to etch out a win to appease his base, he is in real time engaged in the sacrificial offering of hundreds of thousands of his compatriots on his altar of self-preservation and authoritarian ambitions. His actions are at once blood chilling and blood curdling.
Unfortunately, now into the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency, this latest act of cruelty is just another notch in his belt, with no doubt several more inhumane ploys to follow. In the mould of Niemoller’s narration of Adolf Hitler’s corrosive actions, we now have empirical evidence to draw on concerning Trump’s onslaught on humanity. In no particular order, Trump has “ come after” U.S. government workers and their families, African- Americans, Moslems, South Americans, Africans, political rivals, members of the LGBT community and the most heart-wrenching of all, infants and babies of migrants whom he has separated from their families and placed in cages. It behooves those with a platform to speak out before there is no one left of the moral majority, who will be permitted to speak out.
As Trump simultaneously stokes several domestic and International fires which he ignited, two or more of these conflagrations may eventually coalesce. The status-quo is fraught with peril as these debacles are happening against a backdrop of the fast encroaching investigations into his underhanded dealings. There is no doubt that he will not hesitate to launch a war following a manufactured crisis or on the flimsiest of grounds, in order to escape accountability. It is no surprise that he is publicly at odds with U.S. Military Commanders and the situation bears witness to his manifest unfitness for office, assuming further corroboration were needed.
Meanwhile, his Administration currently lacks a Secretary of Defense. The notion that Trump has the capability of unleashing Armageddon on the planet is paralyzing. Although, African nations do not have a seat at the G8 table, we are co-heirs of the planet and have every right to its bounty for ourselves and our future generations. According to Martin Luther King Jr ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Fowler is an International lawyer.