In 1917, Alice Paul and other women’s suffrage activists were arrested for blocking traffic to draw attention to an injustice.
Last Tuesday, 26 more activists were arrested blocking traffic to draw attention to a different type of injustice where a federal judge used his position to make a political statement. Judge Dee Benson wanted to send an intimidating message to those who support Tim DeChristopher that exercising your First Amendment right is a justification for jail time. He stated during the sentencing hearing that DeChristopher might not have faced prosecution, let alone prison, if it were not for that obvious lack of remorse and “continuing trail of statements …stepping to any bank of microphones he could find.” 26 activists chose to draw attention to the real crime of our nation’s lack of tangible outrage by demonstrating outside of the federal courthouse. Their citations are a small price to pay to show their support of Tim’s actions and their disagreement with Judge Benson’s abuse of our justice system.
In the minutes and hours following the peaceful demonstration, many others exercised their First Amendment right vilifying the actions of the demonstrators. In comparison to the Freedom Riders who signed their last wills or Chavez’s fasts, this demonstration was tepid when you factor in the devastating consequences of climate change and increasingly severe weather events. Detractors were so eager to express their disgruntled critiques in blogs and tweets that they failed to see the forest for the trees. Pointing fingers at each other and busying ourselves with our nuanced opinions prevents us from unifying our efforts to address the fact that special interests are controlling our justice system and our government. We are so busy arguing amongst ourselves that those who wield large influence know they can continue to pillage Medicare, Education and Social Security while the rest of us are distracted.
As your neighbor and your fellow American, I beg you to spend more time trying to understand the community around you. Take the time to entertain the motives of your peers before condemning them to your ire.
Our nation depends on your empathy.