OK, actually I'm pretty sure that Bree Newsome -- the Spiderwoman-y. Scripture-spouting superhero of social protest who shimmied up that South Carolina flagpole last Saturday and took down the Confederate flag, however briefly -- wasn't actually still in jail when she wrote this manifesto defending her actions. On the other hand, I do think you have to go back to the time of Dr. Martin Luther King and his travails in Birmingham in 1963 to find such a stirring defense of the act of civil disobedience.
Here's an excerpt:
We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.
UPDATE: Annnnd this pretty much proves my point. The business of America is business, and Supreme Court is still the business agent, even in the rays of "Liberal Spring."
When I think of the political zeitgeist in America in the 2010s, I think of one man -- Michael Bloomberg, the former non-partisan mayor of New York -- and of one night, October 1, 2011. Bloomberg was in Washington, D.C., that black-tie evening, hobnobbing with elites from President Obama to Sarah Jessica Parker and accepting a major award from the Human Rights Campaign for his tireless, outspoken support of LGBT rights, especially same-sex marriage. “In New York, government of the people, and by the people, is now for all the people – as it should be,” the billionaire mayor said in his acceptance speech. “No place in the world is more committed to freedom of expression – religious, artistic, political, social, personal – than New York City.”
At the very moment, Bloomberg was speaking, New York City's police force -- highly militarized, with its own spy outfit and even the ability to shoot down planes -- had kettled a huge march of peaceful protesters from the incipient Occupy Wall Street movement who'd been guided onto the traffic lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge and was throwing more than 700 of them in jail. The Occupy movement was a short-lived spontaneous combustion fueled by massive income inequality, and that was a conversation that Bloomberg -- currently worth an estimated $34.5 billion, a great protector of Wall Street -- did not want to have on his streets. The mayor who was swooning about "freedom of expression" in NYC had his cops from working tirelessly to crush Occupy, from the cops who protected Lower Manhattan's "Charging Bull" statue on Day One to the officers who crushed the Zuccotti Park encampment at the end. With his grey-flecked, practically Roman bearing, Bloomberg was almost a cartoon of the 21st Century benevolent dictator -- with zealous support of the liberal issues like LGBT rights, or handgun control that wouldn't topple a world order where almost all wealth flowed to the 1 percent.
Exit, stage left!
That was the rallying cry of TV's Snagglepuss (I'm speaking now in a frequency that only Baby Boomers can here..see below) but it also could be the motto of the Surpreme Court as it ends a fairly remarkable session, one where it drifted to the left almost as fast as a Tiger Woods tee shot.
Did the Supremes uphold Obamacare and affirm the Fair Housing Act of 1968, passed in the embers of the MLK assassination and riots, because it was just common sense? Or is the Roberts Court -- which is widely expected to affirm the right of gay marriage next week -- getting more...dare I say it, liberal? If so, why do many Republicans (Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun, David Souter, Reagan appointees Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor, and arguably even John Roberts) become almost progressive once they're freed of political considerations? It's almost as if smart people are drawn to liberal ideas!
The presidential field for 2016 -- especially on the Republican side -- continues to amaze. There seriously could be 20 people in this thing, including a three-term governor of the third-largest state in the nation who's polling at less than 1 percent. It's all probably a grand conspiracy to get Jeb! Bush the nomination, but we'll discuss that some other time. Today, I want to talk about how we can winnow the field down to a manageable 17 or so. (And don't worry, we'll get to the Democrats.)
Here's my idea: Let's just #Disqualify a candidate when he and she says something beyond stupid. OK, I realize we might be down to three by next week...I mean, Trump's already out of the picture, right? This afternoon, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham took himself out of the race..at least in our sane (and thus fictional) world. He took to the floor of the Senate today to denounce mass murderer Dylann Roof and his hate crime against nine of Graham's constituents, and managed to utter a hate slur against 1 billion or so people:
"I don't know how you can sit with somebody for an hour in a church and pray with them and get up and shoot them. That's Mideast hate," said Graham, referring to the Middle East. "That's something I didn't think we had here, but apparently we do."
A couple of memories have been bouncing around my brain the last 24 hours. The first is a favorite song from the late '60s/early '70s -- "The Night They Drove Olf Dixie Down," written and recorded by The Band, later a Top 40 hit for Joan Baez. Indeed, it was hard to get that tune out of your head on a night you never thought you'd see in your lifetime, with Confederate flags falling like so many dominoes.
It was just last Thursday that I wrote a piece called "Capture the Flag" and became part of a virtual choir of dozens and then hundreds and then finally thousands of voices urging South Carolina to yank down the Confederate flag that inspired a racist mass murderer. But few expected the hardened hearts of the Dixie establishment to actually listen.
What's happened since Gov. Nikki Haley declared at 4 p.m. yesterday that she wants lawmakers to vote to remove the flag from the state capitol grounds has been remarkable. Not only did Haley's plea get instant support from the state's GOP U.S. senators and most key state lawmakers, but in short order the most powerful legislative leader in Mississippi -- once the dark heart of racial oppression -- called for removing the Stars and Bars from its state flag, Virginia's governor blocked the Confederate emblem from license plates, and Wal-Mart, eBay and Amazon stopped selling Confederate paraphernalia.
UPDATE: I watched Haley's news conference, and of course I still applaud her action, even though it was years overdue and finally is happening -- the South Carolina Legislature willing -- only because of the heartbreaking actions of a mass killer. I do take issue with one of her comments. She said:
"For many people in our state the flag stands for traditions that are noble—traditions of history, of heritage, and of ancestry. The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it."
Last week was a hard one to fully process for an adult-ADD-addled news junkie like me. A momentous and arguably uplifting event -- Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, a powerful document that folks may still be talking about in the year 2525, if Man (and Woman) are still alive -- was drowned out, at least in this country, by by the sound of gunfire and the manifestation of raw hate that occurred in Charleston. (And who exactly was Rachel Dolezal again?)
The tragedy of Charleston and its "Mother Bethel" church absolutely needs to stay on the front burner of the national conversation -- crossing the the hot wires of how we choose to remember America's racist history and how we struggle to cope with our violent present. But Francis' remarkable statement on the environment also demands a second reading -- one that makes it worth pondering whether the dark roots of America's addiction to oil and our epidemic of mass murders, in fact, deeply overlap.
Here's how. In his encyclical, Pope Francis does the world a valuable service by acknowledging the science of global warming -- the same science that's accepted by more 98 percent of the world's climatologists yet denied by millions, many of them people of faith. But what's striking is that he doesn't just frame this problem in pure kilowatts, as a matter of energy efficiency. Instead, Francis is a spiritual leader who sees a spiritual sickness in a culture that can't even address the crisis -- a culture that venerates freedom but promotes isolation, of consumerist humans unable to appreciate a common good, let alone act on it.
When Dylann Storm Roof drove toward Charleston's historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last night, he did so with the .45 that his dad so thoughtfully bought him for his 21st birthday, with at least 10 bullets, with a hatred that surpasses all understanding in his heart, and a "Confederate States of America" placard on the front of his Korean-made car.
His odyssey will live in infamy, provoking unbelievable sorrow...and a necessary form of rage.
Unbelievable sorrow for the loss of nine souls in last night's Charleston massacre. They are not symbols of a too-often violent and racist culture. They are wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. #SayTheirNames and never forget them...including recent college grad Tywanza Sanders, librarian Cynthia Hurd, high school track coach Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator. The fact that these people were killed by a man who pretended to pray alongside them for nearly an hour, who was calculating enough to leave behind a witness to tell of their pain and suffering, is twisted beyond comprehension.