Martin Niemoller, the pastor and outspoken foe of Hitler stated, "First they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist."
The quote ends with — "and then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me."
When politicians introduce policies that they say are for the good of the community as a whole but will immediately affect the inner city, the disadvantaged or some other vulnerable aspect of a the city, I am reminded of Martin Niemoller.
Policies that can be defined as urban renewal, such as gentrification, blight enhancement, enterprise zones, or a number of other terms that allow and encourage financial vehicles to be developed must be examined carefully. The addition, modification or removal of laws to allow precedents to be set may later be utilized in other contexts with "new vulnerables" that may include you and me.
We are all in the same boat. If we are not the predators, we may soon be the prey. We do ourselves a great disservice when we disconnect from each other and fail to realize it's not just them. It's us, all of us, who will soon be affected.
Remember President Barack Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's excuses for not vigorously pursuing the perpetrators of the housing, energy and hedge fund scams. They were not sure that any laws were broken due to early modifications of previous laws. That same kind of encroachment is slowly taking place regarding invasion of privacy, unlawful arrest and even killings. Devious and diabolical schemes, i.e., insurance, payday loans and gerrymandering are constantly being devised for financial and political gain against populations we call "others" at the national and local levels. In reality we are all the others — all of us!
We are all vulnerable, but we are not necessarily weak. We have potential power if we choose to use it. We need to first recognize our kinship and interdependence with each other. We next need to organize, research and develop strategies to express our common interest. And jointly hold our elected, hired and appointed officials accountable for their behavior or lack of behavior.
We must all become aware and ever vigilant. We are all vulnerable and in need of our joint unified potential. We cannot abdicate our responsibility with lame excuses, i.e., we are living in a post-racial time. They have mothers and sisters and daughters. I know them personally, and they would not do it to me. They told me they have my interest at heart.
We need broad citizen organizations to participate in the decisions around predatory practices, with seductive titles. Such as enterprise zones and job creation or revenue generators. If we do nothing, we are complicit in the perpetration of the injurious acts.
Participating in the decisions that affect our lives can take many forms. We don’t all have to occupy, protest, attend meetings or make phone calls. Often dialoguing, researching and seeking clarity regarding policies with a friend’s relative and neighbors as well as political representatives will help. Generating other ways to make your interest known will help. Providing any resources you can to contribute resources will help. If we all do a little, it's not such a heavy burden.
Most importantly, allowing the decision makers to know that you care enough to be involved and that you are watching them could help in their decision-making. Passionately and fearlessly exercising our citizenship is a small price to pay for the freedoms we enjoy.
Remember, if you do nothing, they soon may come for you.
"The battle sir, is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active and the brave," Patrick Henry +said.
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.