Roger Hull: Plenty of places far from idyllic

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2022

By Roger Hull

Ms. Ritchie’s “My Turn” corner of the world sounds idyllic (July 5). I grew up in a place like that, or so I thought. In my early teens, one of the farm wives shot and killed her husband. He had been abusing her for years. It was not so idyllic after all. As I grew older, I learned there were lots of corners of the world that were far from idyllic, even in this country, especially if you were Black. It’s easy to immerse ourselves in our “idyllic” corner of the world and ignore those who might not experience it as idyllic.

I asked an acquaintance if he’s concerned about the anti LBGT+ laws that are being passed in his state. His answer was, “I don’t care, it doesn’t affect me.” When I asked if he was concerned about books being banned, he responded with the same answer, “It doesn’t affect me so why should I care.” I asked about protesters, and he said, “They’re just trouble-makers and need to be arrested and locked up.” His corner was apparently idyllic as long as he ignored the not so idyllic things happening around him.

Martin Niemoller was a German pastor in the 1930s who felt the same way. He felt he wasn’t affected in his idyllic corner of the world so he kept quiet. He eventually found himself in a concentration camp for speaking out against the Nazis’ treatment of the church. In a speech after WWII, he said that if a few thousand Christians had spoken up, even at the risk of losing their lives, maybe several million other lives would have been saved.

Different versions of the poem below are based on the way Niemoller phrased it in different settings and impromptu speeches. The poem and its variants express Niemoller’s belief that Germans had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution and murder of millions of people. It’s worth taking a moment to read and think about it, especially if everything is idyllic in your corner of the world.

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then 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 out for me


Roger Hull lives in  China Grove. Contact him at .