Sometimes I think back to the time at the end of January, when I had just found out that permanent residents and green card holders in the US could legally be deported along with “illegal immigrants”.
I was upset, and in my opinion, justifiably so. To me, any instance of an act or behavior that is outright unjust is enough of a reason to be upset.
My friend, who was joining me for lunch, asked me how I was doing upon settling in the seat across from me.
“Not so great,” I responded, as I continued to scroll through the articles that told me just how quick and severe the impact of having a xenophobic (among other things) president was.
Tell me about it he said, and I proceeded to explain the situation to him. “Isn’t it awful?”
He quietly stared at me before interjecting with: “But aren’t you American? Like a citizen with a passport and everything?”
“Yes?” I was not sure where he was going with his question.
“Then you’re okay!” He smiled at me. “This doesn’t affect you.”
Then it clicked.
Of course. My friend was indicating that because this particular instance of injustice did not personally affect me, there was no reason for me to be upset. There was no reason for me to be concerned, to care.
What happened to empathy? To collective unity as humans?
I stared at him, aghast. Here was my friend, a perfectly good person, suggesting such a dreadful thing. How do I respond to this?
How do I respond to every single person that effectively agrees with him?
Allow me to share Martin Niemöller’s famous pesudo-poem here:
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.
Must we wait until injustices affect us personally before we decide to feel angry? To speak out and take action?
Please have empathy. Because matters are only going to become worse from here on out if we fail to do so.