Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Troubling shades of past in Trump executive order

Like most of you, I spent last weekend watching movies and avoiding stresses of the world. Once I turned off the television, I checked my phone for any text messages, which inevitably leads to checking social media. That’s when I saw crowds gathered across the nation’s airports in protest of President Trump’s executive order banning entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days; barring Syrian refugees indefinitely; and blocking entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States.

A wave of dread washed over me, since this was the second weekend of protests in the two weeks of this president’s administration. I was not a Trump supporter and am not surprised by his actions, but I must admit I was hoping he was blowing hot air just to get into the White House and these offensive actions would be few and far between. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

I struggle with my opinions of friends and co-workers who were outspoken supporters of Trump. I have had several say to me they do not understand why that vote has labeled them as racist, but of course these conversations took place before last weekend. I am a firm believer in diversity and unity, and what some don’t realize is that means everybody, even Trump supporters. That is why I maintain these relationships and conversations. We have far more in common as humans than we have differences.

However, naivety is not an excuse. We have easy access to history and the consequences of similar actions that were taken in the past. The man that came to mind while I watched Americans being detained at American airports just days ago was German pastor Martin Niemöller.

He was a supporter of Adolf Hitler during his rise to power because Niemöller was concerned about Communist immigrants and their diaspora. Then his personal area of religion came under fire, and he finally became outspoken against Hitler and was detained for eight years for it. It was after that experience that he said this statement in an interview:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then 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.

Our system of government has things in place to keep a dictator from emerging, so it is not a fair comparison to match our situation to that of Germany’s decades ago. However, I do caution anyone blindly critical of those who are protesting. This isn’t about losing a contest, it is being vocal to make sure people tap into the best of themselves and not the fear-based paranoia that proved disastrous to those who practiced it before. Niemöller’s words should serve as a reminder we are all in this together.