What civil rights, impeachment, and PETA have in common
by arenwin, Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 03:45:05 PM EST
This hasn't yet received much play outside the Atlanta media market, as far as I am aware. However, I was quite struck to hear WABE (Public Broadcasting Atlanta) report tonight that U.S. Representative John Lewis has responded to the domestic spying scandal by calling for the House to consider impeaching President Bush.
The Associated Press has now picked up the story.
This is such a striking statement because of Lewis' enormous stature. For those not versed in civil rights history, Lewis was chairman of SNCC, the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, back in the 60s. On this Wikipedia page, you can see a picture of his arrest on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the famous Selma march that served as a major rallying point for the civil rights movement.
Top civil rights figures have a unique, personal vantage point on how domestic surveillance powers can be abused. The FISA act was created in large part in response to the "watch lists" that the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service used to monitor "subversives" in the 60s and 70s - anti-Vietnam war activists and civil rights leaders were major targets.
Lewis has unequaled stature as a leader of the old guard of the civil rights movement, as well as a distinguished congressman. But the message, I think, goes beyond the specific issue of President Bush's possible impeachment. We of a younger generation interested in civil liberties, civil rights, and anti-war activism need to recapture the synergies that accrue when we recognize that these issues are inherently interconnected. War, the abridgement of civil liberties for all, and the diminishment of civil rights for some are profoundly intertwined.
We need to find the voice to talk about them together again.
I'd love examples in the comments of specific instances of the younger generation of leaders (not limited to, but of course including the African American community) doing so. E.g., Charles Rangel has made similar connections - although not yet, to my knowledge, calling for impeachment - but he's also of the old guard.
Update [2005-12-20 0:28:1 by arenwin]: Well, could it be that the FBI is spying on domestic political groups? Color me unsurprised. Different agency, same mentality: the enemy within. Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and PETA both targeted.
But I have to say that this spy scandal makes me feel that Bush deserves impeachment in a way that no previous event in his presidency has. It is a breathtaking arrogance of power. It is a terrifying throwback to less happy times in our country's history. Even more than the war - despite the deception that went on - these acts are a fundamental assault on our system of checks and balances. And Bush is proud of it.
And yet... is impeachment the wisest course? Lewis' statement, at least for me, has bearing on this because it makes me start to think: sometimes an action has to be taken on principle, for the long-term good of the country, as a way of saying: NO, we will not take this sitting down. In that case, political calculus aside, I may be about ready to throw in my lot with the impeach Bush crew. It may truly be time.
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