Saturday, April 29, 2006

Memo re: Civil Disobedience

ScrappleFace blog has a cutie:

Cops to Greet Alien Rallies with Civil Disobedience

(2006-04-28) — As May 1st draws near and America prepares for the hardship and suffering of “A Day without Illegal Immigrants”, the Justice Department announced today plans to mark the protest movement with its own act of civil disobedience.Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he’ll encourage federal, state and local law enforcement on Monday to respond to illegal immigration rallies by observing “A Day without Miranda Rights” followed by “A Month without Habeas Corpus” and “A Year without Bail.”

Hyperlinks to "Miranda Rights" and "Habeas Corpus" take the reader to helpful definitions of those terms, as well as a link to the word "illegal" which leads to a public opinion poll. Nothing in the post links to anything about the clever misuse of the term "Civil Disobedience" but I suppose that wouldn't conform to the cuteness of the snip.

What is about to happen Monday is anything but flip. It is very serious. Attempts at levity might be in order to lift the mood of those who might otherwise be tempted to take a nationwide expression of immigrant frustration seriously, but I think not. I am reminded of a description of one of the first battles of what was to become the American Civil War. The first major land battle of the Civil War took place in Manassas. Sightseers from Washington, DC, arrived in carriages with picnics to watch the action.

No war is about to begin, but the disconnect is just as sharp between those who will be in the streets and those who will be watching. And through it all very few people will have any idea that what they are seeing is, in fact, one of the largest expressions of civil disobedience in U.S. History. No single leader has emerged to be spokesperson for them all. The April 10 event, which turns out to have been a dress rehersal, had a group of mostly articulate high school students, of all things, taking turns at the lectern on the Washington Mall.

My guess is that Monday's events will not have the same measure of civility and innocence that we saw three weeks ago. No, a formative moment has been lost during which experienced organizers have been able to set their hooks in a movement that can very easily become one of the worst domestic challenges of our lifetime. It is significant that a critical mass which began to form April 10 is now about to once again show its size and presence. And it is no accident that May Day has been chosen -- not by any number of representatives of that critical mass, but by others with a more far-reaching agenda -- as the next big event. In the intervening days a controversial musical expression has been hatched, a montage of vocalists stringing together a "soulful" (or the Latino equivalent) interpretation of the National Anthem, entitled, interestingly enough, Our Hymn.

According to radio reports I caught yesterday the song was to be played last night all over the country at some appointed time "in solidarity" with the spirit of what is about to happen Monday. When I heard that word solidarity it brought back a lot of memories. The word is directly from the Marxist organizers' lexicon of political terms, loaded with meaning far beyond its common usage. Remember Solidarność from twenty years ago? Google the term solidarity and see what pops to the top of the page.

There are still examples of principled civil disobedience taking place. Just a few days ago a seventy-nine year old retired Methodist minister was sent to jail to serve time for an act of civil disobedience. This morning's WaPo has a real-life story that is not satire echoing the ScrappleFace cutie above which looks less humorous to me every time I read it.

Make no mistake about it. Whether or not anyone recognizes it, Monday's demonstrations are about to be the largest example of civil disobedience in our history. It remains to be seen what the response will be, socially, politically and officially.

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