On May 8, North Carolina, whether we realize it or not, is going to make a big decision. The Amendment One referendum will mark an important turning point in our state’s history. Will we vote against this amendment and keep the door open for tolerance, or will we join the other states which have codified their belief in sexual bigotry?
This ugly chapter in NC history reminds me of a quotation attributed to German pastor Martin Niemoller in reaction to the Nazi extermination of what they called the “undesirables.” In Hitler’s deranged effort to achieve an Aryan nation, he very systematically eradicated groups of German citizens that didn’t fit the social mold he envisioned.
Niemoller’s quotation has been loosely translated to read:
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me, and no one was left to speak for me.”
This type discrimination and persecution, unfortunately, is not specific to one country or one era. It has happened throughout recorded (and probably unrecorded) history and continues today even in our own backyard.
A current version of Niemoller’s quotation might include women, non-whites, poor people, non-Christians, atheists, the educated, the disabled, environmentalists, the middle class, non-Protestants or any other group. In this particular case in North Carolina, it’s gays who want to marry and have legal protections and privileges.
If the ruling party in Raleigh is successful in this endeavor to eliminate the human rights of gay couples, who will they target next? We are all minorities in some of our affiliations. Will our group be the next to experience this insidious form of hatred or will we stand silent hoping they don’t come for us in their next round of “social cleansing?”
Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” If we vote to institutionalize this form of bigotry, we best be prepared for the guns to be trained on our group next.
Silence is not a luxury we can afford.