Friday, June 24, 2016

The Sit-In: Democracy at Work

Hats off to the Dems. Showing an unprecedented unity in both spirit and action, the Democratic members of the House of Representatives staged a 26 hour sit-in over the last two days. It was done to force the House and its speaker, Paul Ryan, to call a vote on two moderate reform measures on gun control. It was impassioned and formed in solidarity with the victims of gun violence. Ninety percent of Americans want the reforms. The Republicans refuse to even consider it. Tempers were high, but at least the American public and the American voter knows where everyone stands. The minority party fell back onto the politics of demonstration to tell the world their position, to call out the members across the aisle, and to stand together as one voice on a very specific issue. That kind of demonstration is technically not allowed in the House. The Senate has the filibuster, but the House has no such recourse. But peaceful demonstrations, legal or not, have been a major force in United States politics for generations. This one yielded no vote, no concessions, no compromises. It looked like an exercise in futility, but in reality it was a symbolic line drawn in the sand. It made its point loudly and clearly. The Second Amendment is not being challenged here. The reforms are precise, and directed specifically against the ease by which people intent on mass murder can get the weapons they need to accomplish their terrifying goal. It does not look to limit gun ownership except under specific circumstances. It does not address the wider problem of gun violence: America's streets are a battleground in which a human being dies from gun violence every forty-eight minutes. It addresses limiting suspected potential enemies of the State from getting guns. The other side argues that it limits all citizens' rights to bear arms, that it violates civil liberties. Right now, I am concerned with the civil liberties of the 49 who died in Orlando on June 12, the 9 in Charleston, the 26 in Newtown, and on and on, plus the 30 a day who die one by one and two by two, not even tallying the suicides that are pandemic in this country. The participants in the sit-in were not asking for the moon. They only wanted the chance to vote. What they got was our attention. Will they get our vote?

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