Contributing writer Laura Flanders is the host and founder of GRITtv with Laura Flanders, a daily talk show for people who want to do more than talk. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). A regular contributor on MSNBC, Flanders has appeared on shows from Real Time with Bill Maher to The O’Reilly Factor. Flanders is the editor of At the Tea Party: The Wing Nuts, Whack Jobs and Whitey-whiteness of the New Republican Right… and Why we Should Take it Seriously (October 2010, OR books). For more information, go to LauraFlanders.com or GRITtv.org.
This country sets aside two days to honor military service. On Veterans Day we celebrate the living; on Memorial Day we remember the dead.
I'd like to propose a third national holiday: Active Duty day. A day to celebrate those who refuse to leave their conscience at home. A day to cherish those who elevate this nation's morals by refusing to participate in illegal acts.
Leading this year's Active Conscience-on-Duty Day parade should be First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
Forty years ago, a handful of smart Americans had an idea how to end a war. They published a call for moral, political and financial support for those refusing to serve. Initially signed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Grace Paley, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Marcus Raskin, and the Reverend William Sloane Coffin among others, eventually, 20,000 signed on and the indispensable RESIST foundation was formed.
Listening as it was read aloud at a 40th anniversary party this weekend, "Resist: A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority" seems as relevant as ever. How about a second Call?
In response to those who've written to ask whether I read Louisiana District Attorney, Reed Walters' op-ed in the New York Times. Yes I did! And I asked Alan Bean about it today on the RadioNation program that will air Sunday on Air America and across the country this week.
Bean, of the Friends of Justice, says that contrary to Walters' assertions, there is sufficient stand alone legislation on the books in Louisiana to have covered the noose-hanging incident. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that the there were plenty of ways the local authorities could have responded to the noose-hanging, short of bringing criminal charges, that would nonetheless have sent a clear message about where the campus stood on racial equality.
Jena High needed to suspend the noose-hangers for a long enough period to make an impact (not just a couple of days. ) In addition, the principal could have convened a community meeting, held a public event, hosted a teach-in on lynching. You name it. Anything that sent a strong message to the parents, the school body and the public: this community will not tolerate hate-speech or hateful acts. Says Bean: "The principal needed to say clearly: there's no such thing as a color line on campus, no such thing as a black or a white tree." Handled firmly back in September '06, the whole incident need never have left the auspices of the school. No one needed to have gone to court; no one should ever have been beaten up.
"Jena is America," says Alan Bean, speaking of the Louisiana town where six black students are looking at decades in jail for a schoolyard brawl while white kids are facing nothing for hanging up nooses. Jena is America in the sense that the unequal justice there is not unique. There are "Jena Sixes" behind bars in every state. But it isn't America in the sense that the country as a whole has had no trouble at all ignoring Jena.
Bean is a Baptist minister from Texas who formed Friends of Justice in response to the now infamous Tulia drug sting of 1999 in which over half of Tulia's black males were convicted on the uncorroborated word of a corrupt and racist undercover cop. He was instrumental in getting that story out. In January he got busy in Jena. By that time, a young white man had already been beaten up and six young black students had been indicted, originally on attempted murder charges. One of the six, Mychal Bell, was legally still a juvenile when he was convicted of attempted second-degree murder with a deadly shoe. While five were released on bail, Bell remains in jail.
"If the media wasn't watching what was going on then every last one of those kids would be in jail," one of the Jena mothers, Tina Jones, told the Nation's Gary Younge.
When will Democratic leaders stop dissing their base? David Obey is making a habit of it.
Earlier this year, the Wisconsin veteran, who heads up the House Appropriations Committee called anti-war workers, "idiot liberals" for calling for a cut off in funds for Bush's Iraq disaster. This week, Obey told advocates for youth to grow up and stop complaining about the millions of dollars his committee intends to shovel to deadly, discredited abstinence-only programs.