MSNBC is reporting that five Congressional Representatives have been arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy after heading a Darfur protest. Those arrested were: Donna Edwards (D-MD), James McGovern (D-MA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA). They were bound with zip-tie handcuffs and driven away in a large white van.
One of those involved is my own Congressman, Keith Ellison, from Minnesota. Having been arrested more than once for acts of Civil Disobedience, I must question the reason and motive for their protest taking place now.
Taking a stand on ending the brutality in Darfur is, in and of itself, a noble gesture. Taking a stand is not the basis of my critique. These members of the political establishment have access to many other platforms to get this or any other issues out to the public. They have a "golden microphone" not accessible to others in the activist community. That is not the reason for my critique either. None of their righteous and legitimate concerns for the people of Darfur is in question. All of their records on Darfur have been, in fact, stellar.
My critique of their actions is based more on my critique of the reasons or motivation for this action, at this time, politically.
It’s easy to take a stand, appearing brave on issues that the political establishment allows. A perfect example of this are "polite" protest rallies held on weekends or when Congress is not in session, out of the presence of those in power. That is a pretend rally, pretending to speak truth to those in power.
The arrest of five members of Congress strikes this activist, who has been arrested himself more than once for acts of Civil Disobedience, as being simply political theatre. The issue of the situation in Darfur is a nice, safe event and policy to protest, in a nice, safe symbolic manner. The power structure will not frown upon any who participate in this approved action. Republicans are even being quoted as being supportive of opposing the policies of the Sudanese government in Darfur.
My question is this: Where have these Democratic Members of Congress been in events going on right here in the United States? Specifically, where were the acts of Civil Disobedience after the election frauds of 2000 and 2004 -- one of the most egregious assaults of democratic integrity in our nation’s history?
Where were the acts of Civil Disobedience in response to the lack of action from Congress itself in Impeachment against the Bush Administration, arguably the most lawless administration in our nation’s history? At this point, it must be pointed out that Congressman Ellison was on the Judiciary Committee, where two Resolutions for impeachment sat and eventually died.
Where were the calls for Civil Disobedience for those who were beaten, brutalized and arrested in Minneapolis and St Paul, during the Republican National Convention? Worse yet, where are the calls and actions of support for the RNC 8, most of whom are constituents of Congressman Ellison?
I personally challenged Congressman Ellison on his vote for and support of the Violent Radicalization and Homeland Terrorism Act (HR 1955) at an event hosted by the National Lawyers Guild.
Some will argue that Lynn Woolsey and John Lewis did stand against vote fraud, historically rejecting Ohio’s votes from 2004. They staunchly support the Voter Rights Amendment. It is true that Woolsey has long stood for Impeachment although she will not take a public stand against her own party leadership and its blockage of impeachment.
Others may argue that Keith Ellison has also stood for vote protection, introducing legislation to ban the voter ID requirement, which tends to disenfranchise the poor and minorities. It is also true that Donna Edwards won her first election in June 2008, so she was not even around in 2004 or 2000.
All of these facts are correct, but that is not the central point of this article. This is about acts of Civil Disobedience then and now. After all, enacting legislation is meaningless and irrelevant when the Executive Branch of the government is itself not legitimate.
Put in a nutshell, George W Bush was never president. He was never elected. The entire integrity of our so-called democratic electoral system itself was lost in 2000 and 2004. That would have been the time to participate in acts of Civil Disobedience. Those of us in the election integrity movement so desperately needed help, a voice and leadership. Especially since the establishment political leaders and their friends in the corporate media were shunning us and the issue of election integrity itself.
Where were the calls for acts of Civil Disobedience then, when our people and Republic so desperately needed it? Where were the calls of these members of Congress to participate in any such actions then? After all, one of the reasons for Civil Disobedience is to highlight an issue. That was the stated purpose of the Darfur actions. So where was their willingness to stand up and help all of us then?
Likewise, where were the acts of Civil Disobedience of these people in regards to impeachment, to highlight the need for Impeachment of arguably one of our nation’s most corrupt and lawless Administrations?
It was nowhere to be found. Instead, there was working within the system, which I argue does nothing but diffuse our legitimate and justified anger and outrage into safe channels. In fact, as those of us active in the impeachment movement will tell you, what stopped impeachment was not Republicans trying to protect their president. It was the Democratic Party establishment that blocked impeachment all over our nation.
These would have been the times that we needed acts of Civil Disobedience by Members of Congress. Instead, we have this now, surrounding the issue of Darfur. Being supported, in principle by Republicans. We must analyze the possible motives for these "brave acts" at this time.
I put forward to you all that the real reason for acts of Civil Disobedience by "renegade" members of Congress is an attempt to blanche the swelling sense of anger and betrayal by progressives with the Democratic Party establishment. This has much more to do with Bank Bailouts, Corporate Corruption, AIG and other American issues than it has to do with Darfur. That is the rational, the motivation for these actions. The Democratic Party establishment needs "street cred" with the activist community. Some will even fall for it, believing that the Democrats are standing up for something.
They are not and, frankly, on the real issues we all face, given their history of betrayals and cowardice, many of us understand that they never will.
This is a horse and pony show, these acts of "bravery" and "solidarity" to fool us. As Public Enemy puts it in another context:
Don't Believe The Hype.
Michael Cavlan , RN, was an Official Green Party Observer for the 2004 Ohio Re-Count.
He was the Green Party Candidate for US Senate 2006. A long time dissident peace, justice and media activist, he is committed to creating a truly open and (more...