17 August 2010

Olbermann: There is No Ground Zero Mosque

An excellent critique of the irrational Islamophobia that is sweeping the United States.



Transcript: Olbermann: There is No Ground Zero Mosque (MSNBC)

Excerpts:
Finally as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the inaccurately described "Ground Zero mosque."

"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.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 Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Pastor Martin Niemoller's words are well known but their context is not well understood. Niemoller was not speaking abstractly. He witnessed persecution, he acquiesced to it, he ultimately fell victim to it. He had been a German World War 1 hero, then a conservative who welcomed the fall of German democracy and the rise of Hitler and had few qualms the beginning of the holocaust until he himself was arrested for supporting it insufficiently.

Niemoller's confessional warning came in a speech in Frankfurt in January, 1946, eight months after he was liberated by American troops. He had been detained at Tyrol, Sachsen-hausen and Dachau. For seven years.

Niemoller survived the death camps. In quoting him, I make no direct comparison between the attempts to suppress the building of a Muslim religious center in downtown Manhattan, and the unimaginable nightmare of the Holocaust. Such a comparison is ludicrous. At least it is, now.

But Niemoller was not warning of the Holocaust. He was warning of the willingness of a seemingly rational society to condone the gradual stoking of enmity towards an ethnic or religious group warning of the building-up of a collective pool of national fear and hate, warning of the moment in which the need to purge, outstrips even the perameters of the original scape-goating, when new victims are needed because a country has begun to run on a horrible fuel of hatred — magnified, amplified, multiplied, by politicians and zealots, within government and without.

Niemoller was not warning of the holocaust. He was warning of the thousand steps before a holocaust became inevitable. If we are at just the first of those steps again — today, here — it is one step too close.




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