The Courage of One's Convictions

The Courage of One's Convictions
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Twelve of my relatives were murdered in Hitler’s concentration camps. Whenever the ugly head of Nazism rears itself, I feel morally compelled to speak out.

Why? Because Hitler’s rise to power and the murderous reign that followed was fueled, in part, by the “good German.” The “good German” went along to get along, did not speak out, and justified his actions because he felt powerless to do anything to stop Hitler’s ascent.

As I noted in a recent editorial in my local paper, The Schenectady Gazette, I refuse to be a “good German.” When I saw the torch-bearing marchers in Charlottesville, images of late 1920s Germany flashed before me.

I have always felt strongly in the near-absoluteness of the First Amendment. Speech should/must be free at almost all times. If one starts to limit it, one heads down a very slippery slope. No, one cannot cry fire in a crowded theater. Barring that limitation, though, and barring of course calls for armed violence, we must allow people on each side of every contentious issue to speak or march freely, regardless of how hateful their words or actions may be.

But we must also speak out. In the past, presidents, regardless of political affiliation, condemned hatred and calmly helped us through difficult times when a racial or religious crisis arose. Not so with this president.

In running two colleges over 24 years, I always gave someone who made a mistake a second chance. Well, almost always. For ethical or legal violations, one chance was clearly enough.

People say I should give Mr. Trump a chance. My response: “No.” He already has had far too many chances.

Come on, Mr. President! When torch-bearing marchers chanting “blood and soil” (the English translation of Hitler’s “Blut und Boden”) and “Jews will not replace us,” the President, who didn’t travel to Charlottesville for the memorial service for Heather Heyer but was quick to remind us he had a winery there, said there were some “fine people” in the crowd.

“Fine people”? Was the President referring to the neo-Nazi who said on camera he hoped we would soon have a president like Donald Trump, but one who was more of a racist. Added that “fine” person, he was amazed Trump allowed Jared Kushner, a Jew, to steal his daughter.

Where is the President’s outrage? For a president to be willing to be associated with racists is unfathomable. And to remain silent, hardly one of Mr. Trump’s attributes, when his son-in-law is attacked because of his religion is mind-boggling.

The president has become divider-in-chief. Should we be surprised when he was one of the architects of the birther movement?

So, where are the resignations from the President’s cabinet, especially from the Jewish members of his cabinet? Where are the Republicans willing not just to decry the actions of extremists but to name the person—the President—who has unleashed racists’ vitriol and emboldened them to shed their hoods and robes?

Will more members of the Republican Party replace profiles in cowardice with moral courage and move against the President in the House by filing articles of impeachment? Perhaps—but probably not until after the date for filing primary petitions next year passes, so they cannot be challenged by Trump acolytes.

Can we expect Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to be invoked? It gives the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet, “or such other body as Congress may by law provide,” the right to declare the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” We can only hope.

Elections have consequences. The Republicans won; the Democrats lost. However, those consequences should not include a President more willing to support Nazi-like elements than the Heather Heyers of this nation.

The right to speak (and march) is embedded in the First Amendment. But the right comes with the responsibility to speak against hatred and prejudice.

I wish the President would summon the moral fortitude to speak forcefully and with conviction against the forces of evil. It is, I am afraid, wishful thinking, as the Phoenix rally demonstrated.

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