As we have recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Law in this country, we have been reminded of the critical role played by the Great Leaders of the Movement for Civil Rights and Social Justice, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King. Both followers of the great Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi, who brought freedom to India without benefit of Semiautomatic Weapons, they knew and understood the importance, from both a tactical and strategic standpoint of fierce adherence to the principles of Nonviolence. Chavez, time and again, stood up to opponents who would try other ways, and responded with Marches and Hunger Strikes instead of violent confrontation. King, likewise, led epic marches and eschewed any form of violent response despite intense criticism from such as Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and H. Rap Brown.
As difficult as it often was to cling to these principles of Nonviolence, both men understood the Moral Clarity and High Ground that it brought to the Movement. Both were ultimately vindicated, both by their tangible accomplishments and their unique place in history. You never saw a picture of either man with a weapon in his hand.
In recent years, however, thanks to the fierce efforts of the NRA and others, there has been a reflexive and widespread resort to violent means--for conflict resolution, for defense, for anything it seems---instead of the peace we once sought. This tug and pull is currently being played out, to some extent, in the contested race for Ed Pastor's Congressional Seat in Arizona's CD 07.
Mary Rose Wilcox, probably the favorite, has been endorsed by Ed Pastor, Henry Cisneros, and, this week, by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who flies to Phoenix this week to stand with her on two critical issues----Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and Curbing Gun Violence. Gutierrez has been the undisputed National Leader on the issue of Immigration Reform, and he looks forward to have Wilcox by his side to fight on this issue going forward. Her mettle has been tested as, for years, the only Democrat on the Maricopa Board of Supervisors that theoretically holds sway over Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his budget. She has been his constant nemesis over they years---on Budget, On Racial Profiling, on Deaths in his Jails---and he has struck back, hounding her for years, ultimately bringing 40 spurious felony charges against her and her husband (since dismissed with disdain).
She has led those fights in the hallways and in the streets---in fact, her activism can be traced back to her meeting Cesar Chavez while a student at ASU. More than that, she has been, throughout the years, an unflinching voice for Unity---recognizing that Blacks, Browns, Natives and others must hang together if they were not to hang separately, in the words of Ben Franklin. She was co-Founder of the critical Black/Brown Coalition, and, thanks to her and others, the years-long fight to restore the Martin Luther King Holiday in Arizona has always been about more than any one ethnic group, involving all People of Good Conscience---Black, White, Brown, Asian, Native American, etc.
And Mary Rose is no Ruben-Come-Lately to the issue of Nonviolence, seeing on a daily basis the corrosive effects of Gun Violence in the neighborhoods of Phoenix that she and Earl have called home. She initiated Gun Buyback Programs in the 1980's, then again in the mid-1990's and once more in 2012. She has, in other words, walked the walk.
Her primary opponent, Ruben Gallego, on the other hand, seems to have had a very recent and stunningly sudden conversion. Although in the Arizona Legislature for just over 3 years before he leaped at the chance to run for Congress, he managed to vote for and support a disturbing array of quite-radical NRA Pro-Gun Measures---to Remove the Limit on Hunting Rifle Magazines altogether (HB 2460, 2012), to Broaden the Rights of Individuals to Use Deadly Force in Supposed Self-Defense (SB 1469, 2011), and to Ease the Ability of Seriously Mentally Ill Individuals banned from purchasing weapons to regain that right (HB2645, also 2011).
In the most direct contrast to Mary Rose, who consistently supported Gun Buyback Programs, with the recovered weapons being destroyed, Gallego voted in 2012 in favor of SB1241, which permitted such guns to be sold to Gun Dealers instead of being destroyed.
All of the above support for Radical Pro-Gun Measures Promoted and Supported by the NRA earned Ruben a B+ Rating from the Gun Lobby.....B+!!! Many Repugs never attain such a lofty rating. And this is not ancient history---all within the past three years!
This unstinting record of support for Gun Legislation provides a stunning backdrop to his apparent Campaign Conversion to the Gospel of Gun Safety. He has been stung by the truth of the facts cited above, and has been openly testy in public forums when reminded of this troubling record. He put out just this week an incredibly defensive glossy 4-page peace where he touts his supposed support of Gun Safety, claiming to stand in opposition to the NRA he so fervently supported.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, in Phoenix this week for several appearances and a Major Town Hall and Rally with Mary Rose, has endorsed her because of her steadfast fight on the frontlines of the Immigration Battles against such as Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu, but he is also coming because, coming from Chicago, he also believes in and trusts her strong and consistent opposition to Gun Violence.
Mary Rose recalls the lessons of Chavez and King, and, with Gutierrez and others, plans to put them back in action in DC.