And lo, we are in a time where thousands of migrant children have been kidnapped, stolen from their parent’s arms, and snatched away into waiting hands of strangers without benefit of being identified or tracked so that they can be eventually reunited with their loved ones. Those of us who are enraged by seeing this done with our tax dollars and with our name (America) attached to it have resorted to loud methods of public protest, public outcry, and direct confrontation with the architects of these inhumane crimes, only to be told that we are too “uncivil.”
“Has the left really lost its collective mind?” asketh Fox News talking head Judge Jeanine Pirro, which was repeated (echo chamber-style) by Fox and Friends. “But the left has gone and lost their mind …“ they opined. “It breaks down the basic fabric of our cities and towns and neighborhoods,” they wailed.
Trumptarian Steve Cortes has called Rep. Maxine Waters “a disgrace” and called for her to resign.
Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have stated their opposition to Waters’ advice to publicly oppose Trump’s enablers, as has former Obama adviser David Axelrod, who said he was “amazed and appalled" to see the left adopt these tactics. David Gergen, who advised four presidents, argued that this is not the path of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and that the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, which were “much more civil” in their time.
The Anti-War movement in Vietnam ... The Civil Rights movement ... both of those were much more civil in tone": @David_Gergen on the 'uncivil discourse' of politics in 2018 compared to other historical divides.
Yeah? Well, let me just say this in the full spirit of civility: that is a crock of shit.
The fact is that the Trump administration is completely violating the law and the Constitution with their efforts to block asylum seekers, treat them as criminals, imprison them, and take their children away.
If the above video doesn’t rile you up, please read Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s personal account of her trip to the border detention centers.
In Dr. King’s day as now, there were calls for the “rabble rousers” who were responding to the injustices of that time to simmer down and stop raking up so much muck.
In 1965, Will Herberg wrote in the National Review: “For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country.” By calling out “mobs” to protest against injustice, Herberg argued, King and his acolytes “have taught anarchy and chaos by word and deed.”
The Chicago Tribune, in an anti-King editorial following a 1966 march through the city, juxtaposed the tranquility of daily life with the disruption of protest. “Families ordinarily would be enjoying the chance to sit on the front porch reading the paper, to sprinkle their lawns and work in their gardens, or to go to the park or beach. Instead, they are confronted by a shuffling procession of strangers carrying signs and posing as martyrs. The spectacle is repulsive to right-thinking people.” In other words, why couldn’t the rabble-rousers leave Chicagoans alone to enjoy their weekend in peace (just as Sanders should have been allowed to enjoy a quiet evening out)?
So apparently Dr. King was much too uppity even for those genteel times. Some even argued that King's ultimate assassination was his own damn fault.
Nor was it just conservative outlets that believed King and his methods contributed to incivility — or worse. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak penned a column calling for “civility” and “tolerance” to be restored to America. They found the seeds of national violence in the “un-civil disobedience” of direct action, and traced a single line from sit-ins to urban uprisings to the assassinations of King and Kennedy.
King himself responded directly to criticisms such as these, including a letter from eight moderate white clergy who urged him to tone it down after he was jailed for staging a boycott of whites-only business in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
King himself knew that making people uncomfortable and creating that “crisis and tension” was precisely the point. Confrontation is the point. Protesting quietly and civilly in a designated “free speech zone” would not be effective and impactful. No one would care, and no one would be made uncomfortable and be required to respond.
This is exactly what Rep. Waters has called for—not “violence,” as both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump have falsely proclaimed.
“There’s no place for this,” Ryan said, unprompted, at a press conference Tuesday. “She obviously should apologize. When we in this democracy are suggesting that because we disagree with people on political views, on policy views, on philosophical views, that we should resort to violence and harassment and intimidation, that’s dangerous for our society, it’s dangerous for our democracy.”
“Violence and harassment and intimidation,” he says? No, she didn't.
“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd,” Waters said at a “Keep Families Together” rally in Los Angeles, a protest of the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy. “And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
There's no call for violence in there. Rep. Waters further elaborated about this on the air with Chris Hayes.
Just as Ryan and Trump and others have deliberately distorted Waters’ call to “make them unwelcome” as a call to violence, not-so-subtly reminding people that we have reached the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, we’ve also had the Washington Post editorial board make this amazing whopper of cluelessness.
We nonetheless would argue that Ms. Huckabee, and Ms. Nielsen and Mr. Miller, too, should be allowed to eat dinner in peace. Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment. How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?”
Hard to imagine? No, it’s not fucking hard to imagine that anti-abortionists would decide that judges and doctors who support abortion rights “should not be able to live peaceably.” In fact, they’ve made it so that they aren’t able to live at all during the years since Roe v. Wade.
A new report finds that anti-abortion violence last year was higher than it's been in 20 years — and now that newly confirmed conservative Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions will oversee law enforcement initiatives that protect providers from harm, many advocates are on edge.
According to the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey published last Thursday by the Feminist Majority Foundation, 34.2 percent of U.S. abortion providers reported "severe violence or threats of violence" in the first half of 2016.
That number is up from 19.7 percent in 2014 — and before that, the highest recent peak came in 1995, with an average of 24 percent.
Anti-abortion terrorism peaked in the mid-90s as a wave of shooting murders and bombings took the lives of doctors, medical receptionists, clinic escorts, and off-duty police officers. But it peaked again in 2015, according to the National Abortion Federation's (NAF) 2015 Violence and Disruption Statistics report, spurred by a widely publicized series of videos aimed at smearing Planned Parenthood
An anti-abortion activist bombed the Atlanta Olympics. Their cohorts have firebombed clinics, glued their locks shut, stalked their employees and forced them to require 24-hour security, murdered Dr. Barnett Slepian, shot down Dr. George Tiller in foyer of his church after Bill O’Reilly waged an all-out rhetorical war on him, and they staged a deadly attack on Planned Parenthood killing three people immediately after some Republican presidential nominees falsely smeared them as “selling baby parts.”
There’s a word for that: it's called terrorism.
And yet did we hear calls for “civility” in our discourse after any these events? Did we hear anyone decrying our dilapidated discourse over public policy issues?
In the last year, Las Vegas suffered one of the deadliest mass shootings in our history, perpetrated by someone who has turned out to be a radical pro-gun rights activist.
A jailed man whose gave a statement in November to police and the FBI recalled a man he believed to be Paddock telling him that Federal Emergency Management Agency “camps” set up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were “a dry run for law enforcement and military to start kickin’ down doors and … confiscating guns.”
“Somebody has to wake up the American public and get them to arm themselves,” the man said Paddock told him less than a month before the Oct. 1 shooting that killed 58 people and injured hundreds. “Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.”
In a handwritten account, a woman said she overheard a man she later said was Paddock talking with another man at a Las Vegas restaurant just three days before the massacre. She told police that Paddock seemed angry about the 1990s standoffs at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Rep. Waters was certainly not calling for any of that, yet the false claim that she was launching her own public jihad against the Trumpsters has nevertheless been a common refrain. The simple fact is that it really doesn't matter what the opposition thinks about what we do or how we do it. No matter the reality, they’re going to demonize and mischaracterize it anyway.
They’re going to falsely claim that NFL players who are quietly and non-violently protesting police violence are really disrespecting the flag and our troops. They're going to claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. They’re going to falsely claim that Black Lives Matter and Antifa are “terrorist” organizations.
Now we have Attorney General Jeff Sessions claiming that “the left has become radicalized.”
"The rhetoric we hear from the other side on this issue — as on so many others — has become radicalized ... These same people live in gated communities, many of them, and are featured at events where you have to have an ID to even come in and hear them speak. They like a little security around themselves, and if you try to scale the fence, believe me, they'll be even too happy to have you arrested and separated from your children."
So we’re al-Qaida and ISIS, when you guys still have Dylan Roof in your camp?
We’re supposed to stand down and be civil while Corey Lewandoski shows the empathy of a dung beetle as he goes “womp womp” when hearing about a traumatized little boy with Down syndrome being separated from his parent?
Meanwhile, Trump essentially endorses the doxxing of CNN staff and their families, allowing them to be personally threatened, and now the doxing of the staff at the Ren Hen, while other Trumptarians bombard the wrong restaurant with death threats. Yet they cry foul, continuing to work the refs for more and more benefits while they fail to tamp down their own violent radicals.
Instead of addressing their own violence-inspiring and enabling rhetoric, Trump would rather further threaten Rep. Waters.
None of that is “civil.” Tearing children away from their parents and throwing them into cages with strangers where they’ve been forced to go without a shower for days, even weeks, where they've contracted lice, bedbugs, and chicken-pox is not “civil.”
There are of course good reasons to wonder if this tactic of shaming people that have implemented this policy may possibly be as effective as Dr. King’s "direct action.”
Is shaming effective at highlighting issues of public policy, or does it go too far? Harvard Professor Steven Levitsky has an answer to that.
Harvard professor Steven Levitsky, co-author of the book How Democracies Die, was asked that question on Dean Obeidallah’s progressive SiriusXMProgress show last night.
His answer was an unequivocal yes: Shaming works.
“Public shaming has an important role. When the members of the government and when a government crosses the line and engages in unacceptable and some cases illegal and immoral behavior, they should be shamed,” he said. “This is not the government taking action to bar people from restaurants. This is essentially society itself engaging in shaming of people who arguably ought to be shamed. This is not a normal situation, this is not normal politics descending into some type of illegitimate incivility.”
In his time, Dr. King was called a communist, a Marxist, and a Leninist. He was illegally surveilled by the FBI, who sent him a letter which tried to blackmail him into suicide. He was frequently vilified as a radical and as violent, despite the facts. Still, he stood against blatant and obvious injustice by making people uncomfortable, by confronting them, and by creating a crisis of tension to which they had to respond.
Sometimes their response was violent. Often it was dismissive. He didn’t stop, he wasn't cowed, and he didn't acquiesce.
Neither should we. Then as now, they simply want us all to pipe down, shut up, and stop making them feel guilty and uncomfortable.
Frank Vyan Walton ·
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