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No Time To Be Nice: Now Is Not The Moment To Remain Silent

Rutgers University junior Carimer Andujar shouts to a large crowd gathered to protest some of President elect Donald Trump policies and to ask school officials to denounce his plans at Rutgers University Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in New Brunswick, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP)closemore
Rutgers University junior Carimer Andujar shouts to a large crowd gathered to protest some of President elect Donald Trump policies and to ask school officials to denounce his plans at Rutgers University Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in New Brunswick, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP)
COMMENTARY

Nice people made the best Nazis.

Or so I have been told. My mother was born in Munich in 1934, and spent her childhood in Nazi Germany surrounded by nice people who refused to make waves. When things got ugly, the people my mother lived alongside chose not to focus on “politics,” instead busying themselves with happier things. They were lovely, kind people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the stories my mother told me; I feel like I always knew them. She’s dead now. If she were alive, I imagine she would be quite sanguine; all her anxieties would be realized, so there would no longer be anything left to fear.

“I choose not to discuss politics publicly,” one friend said. And posted a picture of puppies.

I thought of my mother’s neighbors right after the election, when apolitical friends of mine breathed a sigh of relief that we could stop talking about politics. “That’s over!” they said happily. “Let’s focus on other things.”

But then a white nationalist was named chief strategist to the president-elect. Aren’t you alarmed? I asked.

“I choose not to discuss politics publicly,” one friend said. And posted a picture of puppies.

Another friend messaged me privately. She agreed with me, she assured me. She was just as alarmed as I was! “Count me among the silent resistance,” she said.

The silent resistance? What did that even mean, to resist silently?

I thought back to the primary, when so many people I knew were quietly supporting Hillary Clinton but refused to say so out loud. I am a member of multiple “secret” Hillary support groups — shout out to the Bitches for Hillary! — but we had to speak out for her, too, didn’t we? Not doing so only allowed the narratives that she was too flawed, too unpopular to win to take hold — despite the fact that she's on track to receive more votes than any white male candidate ever. When I pointed that out this morning on my Facebook page, a white guy pushed back immediately. “Is that true?” he said, asking me to prove it, as if Google didn’t exist. Yes. It’s true. Why aren’t more people saying it? Where are our voices?

The morning after the election, I woke up my daughters to a rainy, gray morning. “Who won?” my 12-year-old immediately asked.

I thought back to the primary, when so many people I knew were quietly supporting Hillary Clinton but refused to say so out loud.

“I don’t want to tell you,” I said.

She began to cry, so I sat on her bed and told her, “We live in Massachusetts. And we are citizens," I reminded her. "We have the least to worry about. And we live in Northampton — a sanctuary city. People who live here are as insulated and safe as can be. You do not need to worry.”

I told her this because I am her mother, and I want to quell her fears. But this week our president-elect announced he will cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. We are one week in.

I miss my mother. I am speaking for her now.

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Naomi Shulman Cognoscenti contributor
Naomi Shulman is a freelance writer in Northampton, Massachusetts

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