Solidarity Over Vilification
--A reflection piece by Celeste Larkin,Public Policy Coordinator, and Liz Castillo, Immigration Organizer.
“First 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.”
-Martin Niemöller, German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, concentration camp survivor (1892-1984)
Presidential debate season is upon us. And it’s ugly. Violent, in fact. In the past several months, unless you’ve been blissfully disconnected from mainstream media and U.S. politics, you’ve probably heard some deeply xenophobic and racist comments coming from some Presidential candidates, then recycled time and time again through mainstream media. Whether or not we take said candidates seriously, we must acknowledge the implications of their public speeches and glean lessons for the ongoing work we’ve dedicated ourselves to.
CRLN stands in solidarity with those refugees, many of whom are Muslim, who are simultaneously fleeing from and blamed for U.S. funded wars in the Middle East. We express our solidarity with those continuing to organize around the important issues of refugee resettlement, who are combatting Islamophobia and White Supremacy by exposing exploitative political lies and spreading truth about communities in need of compassion. The CRLN also stands with Black and immigrant communities and women who have similarly been the victims of divisive and violent rhetoric and state violence. CRLN works on this solidarity by continuing to support folks fleeing U.S.-sponsored, low-grade warfare, legacies of genocide, and economic violence throughout Latin America who are then subjected to xenophobia, racism and sometimes even detention and deportation here in our country.
Because most folks fleeing violence in Latin America have little to no chance of gaining refugee status, our work often focuses on pressuring policy makers to lessen that violence in U.S. foreign and trade policies, or in supporting anti-deportation campaigns to make sure undocumented folks aren’t separated from their communities. In this instance, we encourage you to sign and share two petitions to support efforts aimed at ensuring that the United States continues to welcome refugees and so that undocumented detainees across the country who have been on hunger strike since Thanksgiving, exposing the various injustices of the immigrant incarceration system, can also experience a welcome through freedom. Know that these actions and your continued involvement in CRLN’s organizing is a way to start demanding alternatives to the imperialism that forces folks out of their homes; alternatives to the xenophobia that festers in Presidential campaign speeches; and alternatives to the broken legal system that fails working people again and again.
Finally, much of CRLN’s organizing happens in an interfaith network that includes Muslims whose faith preaches peace, love, and generosity of spirit, principles that are familiar to Christians, Jews and many other faith groups. Niemöller’s poem above is famous because it has everything to do with why we all fight for justice. No, it’s not out of purely pragmatic, “scratch your back now, you’ll scratch mine later” self-interest. It has to do with the knowledge that violence is systemic and while it affects different communities in different ways, it’s ultimately in our interest to dismantle systems of oppression, build alternatives to the violence before us, and to embrace each other in our paralleled struggles for justice.