Which Side Are You On?

I know a lot of people who don’t want to take sides. They don’t like reading the news. They claim that all politicians or parties are alike, so they don’t want to be involved with any of them. They want to be neutral, uninvolved. If you are one of my friends or relatives who have tried to avoid taking sides or reading the news, this is a message to you. 

Neutrality is not an option today. Being neutral means acquiescing in the rampant white racism and violence that threatens to destroy our country.  

Taking sides today does not mean choosing between Democrats and Republicans. Taking sides today means choosing between our elected government and violent white nationalists who are trying to overthrow it. Taking sides means rejecting lies and supporting democracy.  

If you are a Republican, listen to a half-dozen Republican Senators who have denounced the violent white nationalist attack on the Capitol and the lies about the election. Or watch the schmaltzy but heartfelt video of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican and former governor of California. He begins: 

“I grew up in Austria. I am very aware of Kristallnacht, of the night of broken glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys. Wednesday was a night of broken glass right here in the United States. 

“The broken glass was in the windows of the United states Capitol,  but the mob did not just shatter the windows of the capitol. They shattered the ideals we took for granted. 

“They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed the American democracy. They trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.”

Schwarzenegger goes on to denounce Trump as a liar. 

Trump lost. He lost by seven million votes. He lost more than 60 court cases that he hand his supporters filed over the election. No one in any state or any court case has presented any credible evidence of problems with the election. Instead, he and his supporters have presented doctored videos and lies about what happened. The judges—including judges he appointed—rightfully threw these cases out of court.

Trump still continues to lie about the election. On January 6, he urged on the mob that violently attacked the Capitol. This mob was led by white racists. They carried Confederate flags and Nazi emblems. They are the haters.

This mob tried to find and execute Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” They beat police officers with flag poles and fire extinguishers, killing one and injuring many more. They broke windows and trashed the Capitol. They smeared their own feces on the walls of the Capitol. They stole computers and papers and podiums. They terrorized staff members hiding in locked offices as they tried to batter down doors. 

Taking sides means standing up against the racists and the haters. Taking sides means standing up against the lies and the liars. 

In Hitler’s Germany, a lot of people did not want to take sides. They just wanted to live their lives and ignore the politicians. They thought they could be good people without taking sides. Pete Seeger wrote a song about one of these “good Germans,” a woman named Liza Kalvelage. The song’s lyrics are Liza’s words, twenty years after the end of World War II: 

“My name is Lisa Kalvelage. I was born in Nuremberg and when the trials were held there nineteen years ago, it seemed to me ridiculous to hold a nation all to blame for the horrors that the world did undergo.

“A short while later, when I applied to be a G. I. bride, an American consular official questioned me. He refused my exit permit, said my answers did not show I’d learned my lesson about responsibility.

“Thus suddenly I was forced to start thinking on this theme, and when later I was permitted to emigrate, I must have been asked a hundred times where I was and what I did in those years when Hitler ruled our state. 

“I said I was a child or at most a teen-ager but that only extended the questioning. They’d ask, where were my parents, my father, my mother, and to this I could answer not a thing.

“The seed planted there at Nuremberg in 1947 started to sprout and to grow. Gradually I understood what that verdict meant to me when there are crimes that I can see and I can know.”

Liza goes on to describe how she now stands up against injustice, and why she has come to a protest. She says she hopes that her own children and grandchildren will not have to fall silent when one day they are asked “Where was your mother, when?” 

Where are you, today? Which side are you on? 

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