Friday, July 8, 2016

Then they came for me

Why Free Speech Now?

Normally I think about free speech about as often as I think about the air I breathe. It's in the background; I take it for granted. And it's only then, when I'm in the smog of Los Angeles or hiking at an altitude where the air is thinner do I become aware of the lack of oxygen. Sometimes, it is only when you are deprived of something that you remember how vital that thing is, that you once took for granted, to your well being...and sometimes to your very existence. And so it is with free speech.

My political sympathies generally align with the powerless, the less fortunate and oppressed members of human society, whose voices are less heard and less often represented. I am a supporter of justice for the Palestinian People, and I participate in their call for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against Israel. So, I was personally affected when Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that put limitations on the constitutionally protected right to boycott Israel. All of a sudden, I was faced with the fact that there wasn't as much oxygen in the atmosphere, that my right to non-violently express my opinions was being limited by my government, whose own Bill of Rights protects my right to freely express those opinions.

And then, as I thought about this, and realized that it's not just BDS that's at stake, but my freedom to exercise my First Amendment rights, did I remember the 1946 statement of Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor:

          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 Unionists
          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.
In this dangerous time, when our rights are under attack, when minorities are imperiled, when we live in constant fear and that fear is unnecessarily flamed by our "leaders," now is the time, this present moment, for citizens to speak up – to defend our rights and the rights of others. The Woodstock Free Speech (WFS) Campaign is a movement that encourages each of us to stand up against unconstitutional attacks on our First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

Please sign a petition at 
and join in asking the Woodstock Town Board to adopt a Resolution that affirms our First Amendment Rights.

Nic Abramson   

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