These were the words written on a protest sign at the Capitol Building in Madison, WI one day this week. They rang a bell for me, but I wasn't quite sure why that was. So I did a little research.
These words are attributed to a man named Pastor Martin Niemoller, and were written soon after World War II. Pastor Niemoller served in the German army during WWI. He began as a supporter of the Nazi party, but eventually spoke up against them. He opposed Hitler and was sent to Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. After the war, Pastor Niemoller became a leader in the Evangelical Church in Germany and in the World Peace Movement.
These are his words:
"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
I want to thank my former high school teacher, and I'm sorry I can't remember which one, who referenced these words. You made me think then and I have remembered still some twenty years later.
So Wisconsinites, I ask you to "speak up." Exercise your First Amendment rights to practice free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition your government for a redress of grievances. Three of the Five Freedoms in one shot. Forward Wisconsin.