The short version:
Sheehan and crew talk with Conyers and they don’t like what he had to say. In fact they so don’t like what he had to say that they were willing to park their keesters in his office until they were hauled away by the Capital police.
And now they’re crying about how Conyers had the audacity, the mendacity, the [insert prefix here]city to throw them out.
Here’s Medea Benjamin’s story:
I remember before the 2006 election being at a fundraiser in Los Angeles for the Democratic Party when one of the featured guests was Rep. John Conyers. The issue of impeachment came up and the crowed roared in approval when Conyers said that if the Democrats took control of Congress, he would become head of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and would initiate impeachment proceedings. That, he said, was one of the reasons why it was so important to go all out to get Democrats elected.So here we have a situation in which highly emotional people are confronting what they believe to be an ally with his inaction on a promise. Given our recent history, this alone should alert everyone that the frustration level is already very high. Further stage setting requires us to acknowledge that Mr. Conyers’ (or at least his staff) knew these people were coming - they had an appointment.
Fast forward to July 23, 2007. About 300 of us gathered at Arlington Cemetery, convened by peace mom Cindy Sheehan, to march to Cong. Conyers office to demand that seven months after coming to power, he fulfill his promise about initiating impeachment proceedings. Shouting “Conyers, Conyers need a reason? Torture, lies, war and treason,” the angry crowd packed the halls outside the Congressman’s office while Cindy, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former Conyers’ protégé Reverend Yearwood met with the Congressman inside.
Rejoining the story:
A hour later, they emerged stone-faced and disillusioned. Cindy said that Conyers had told them that “impeachment isn’t going to happen because we don’t have the votes” and that “our only recourse was to work to get a Democrat in the White House.” The crowd booed and 45 people sat down inside and outside Conyers’ office. They were arrested by the Capitol Police as the supporters shouted “Shame on Conyers” and “Arrest Bush and Cheney, not the peacemakers.”
Imagine that, protesters being arrested in the Capital building. Surprise, surprise. And what’s also not surprising is that these good folk appear offended that they were forcibly thrown out by one of their “allies”.
But wait a sec, exactly why were they thrown out? Was it because they were blocking the important work of a powerful committee head? Was it because they were being unruly? I s’pose the answer is ‘both’. But let’s take a little closer look at what happened here:
Conyers (and his staff) knew they were coming. Certainly they knew the agenda and if they’d taken even a passing thought at the positions the two sides were taking, they (Conyers’ people) would’ve realized that there was going to be a confrontation and the police would probably be called.
So why didn’t they arrange for the Sheehan contingent to be accommodated? Couldn’t they have met in a more ‘crowd friendly’ location than the Congressman’s office? Couldn’t Conyers’ people have done just a bit more to prevent the bad publicity that (surely) they knew would result?
This is the point that makes me really wonder just what the fuck is going on here. Conyers and Pelosi did nothing at all to protect their “allies” in this situation. They’re standing their ground, hanging all objectors in the breeze and acting all powerful and hubristic just like, like - oh dear GOD! - George Bush.
Sure Sheehan and her people went there loaded for bear and they surely found it - they knew exactly where to look. And the result plays well to those that like that kinda thing. But the vast majority of us that casually observe these things will conclude that “they’re whackos” and their cause suffers a blow - to the head.
But why? Why does it lose credibility? Because it was “in your face”? Or because they “broke the law”? Or is it ultimately that their rudeness is an embarrassment to those of us that prefer a more decorous approach to conflict?
Well this is yet another example of how decorum and protocol are used to disarm, insult and nullify an opponent. I believe the real rudeness, the real incivility here comes from the Democratic leadership. They’re using the time tested approach of allowing their opponent’s perceived “lack of civility” be used to stifle the discussion. By allowing Sheehan and her group to be labeled as ‘whackos’, they’re actually strengthening their position (from a public perception point of view at least) without actually having to defend that position.
By allowing this situation to progress the way it did (and I’m sure it went exactly to script), the questions surrounding Conyers’ and Pelosi’s “reasons” are never really investigated. They’re no longer required to justify and support their positions. They can simply turn their backs and smugly accuse anyone who disagrees as being “whacko” and “over the top”.
Civility? Decorous public discourse? Sure, there’s always a time & place, but when decorum is used against one, there is only one avenue left.
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