Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wendy Davis, "Democracy," the rule of law, and civil disobedience

From the Ghost of Sam Houston

June 26, 2013 -- updated July 1

Just what in tarnation are you people thinking?

And by "you people," I mean those who inhabit the governing bodies that I helped create: Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov David Dewhurst, and you Senators and Representatives who tried to make a mockery of our government through your conniving, scheming ways.

I don't mean to be partisan. I just want to be against the stupid, the bullies, and the overreachers. It's not my fault they all have decided to be in the Republican Party in Texas right now.

Over the last several days, and especially the last 18 hours, I have seen the best and worst that our representative democracy has to offer. On the side of the best, I have Senator Davis, standing for her convictions. Literally standing for her convictions. And then the hundreds of people who stood with her literally, and the tens of thousands who stood with her virtually.

I saw Senator Kirk Watson give his own mini-filibuster, reminding me of this great Venn Diagram I once saw:

And I saw Senator Leticia Van de Putte, in my opinion as much of a star of this filibuster as Senator Davis. First of all, I saw here there-- pulled from the funeral of her father. No one should have to sacrifice what she did. But she did. There is a special punishment in hell reserved for Senator Duncan, Lt. Gov Dewhurst, and the rest for the dismissive and nearly abusive way they treated a woman who by all rights shouldn't have needed to be there today. But she was. And while the gallery and rotunda echoed with chants of "Wen-dy! Wen-dy!" if only "Leticia" or "Van de Putte" were a little more bisyllabic (and therefore suitable for cheering), I daresay she would've gotten those cheers from the assembled crowd as well. And she was the one who inspired the Citizen Filibuster with her pointed jab after being denied a lawful recognition for her motion because Sen Duncan claims he didn't hear her:

Can you hear her now? Can you hear all Texas women now?

Obviously not. As Governor Rick Perry went on to mainsplain later in the week,"Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters."
Between that and comments by House sponsor of SB5 Jody Laubenburg mistaking rape kits for having the ability to prevent pregnancy, you have to wonder about just how dumb these people are. I don't think they're bad people. I just don't think they understand at all how embarassingly stupid, how patronizing, how sexist these comments are. In 2013. 
Look, believe me. I come from a different time with different ideas about men and women and roles and so on. But even back in the 1840s I knew one thing: don't f@#$ with Texas women. 
But eventually, all of this has to come down to process. What a silly form of government we have. Think about it. We have elected 150 people in the House and 31 Senators to make laws for 26 million people. Each house has weird rules and norms. Each of these rules exist because we agree that we must have rules to govern how laws are made. If this were a sports match, we would not tolerate it if suddenly, in the middle of a game, the winning team decided to change the rules to suit its advantage. And yet we saw this attempt over and over again by the majority. And when they tried to pretend a vote after midnight counted, it was simply an excuse for a team that came up short again and again, flummoxed by the simple ability at the heart of our system: to slow things down. 

Our system was built to not pass laws. Our institutions of government are designed in many ways to not be democratic, but to allow for an under-seige minority to stand up and stop overreach from occurring. I have no evidence one way or another that Texans truly support the far-reaching restrictions on abortions that have been proposed here. For every poll showing one way I have a contradictory one. But then in the absence of a true democratic fiat, why pass the most restrictive ban on womens' reproductive health choice in the country?
Because they are tyrants. At each and every step, they have shown it. I don't care where you come down on the abortion debate, this is unacceptable.

Rick Perry -- The Governor most likely to date rape you
Rick Perry and his ilk have shown that this isn't at all about abortion and entirely about the relationship between The State and The People. In Perry and Dewhurst's world, the people are plebians -- an annoyance to be dealt with but not truly listened to. The State knows best what a woman should do if she is considering an abortion-- not that woman, not her doctor, not her family, not her confidantes or clergy. The State knows best. And The People be damned. If we want their opinion, then we will give it to them.
And so the only rational response to this sort of tyranny is, simply, engaging in the peaceful protest and even slight civil disobedience in order to prevent more tyranny. That is the Texas way. It is the way of Martin Luther King Jr. It is the way of Henry David Thoreau. It is the way of Gandhi.

It is your duty as a Texan to peacefully resist. That includes marching, that includes shouting, that includes citizen filibusters. And it especially means breaking the decorum of any Legislative body so corrupt that they would try to pretend a vote taken at 12:03 is the same as one take at 11:58. Any body that does that has already thrown out the rulebook. So why abide by their rules if they themselves refuse to?

Good luck to all of those who will  be gathering in the Capitol throughout July. You're going to need it.

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