|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon. The most high-profile openly gay congressman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was heckled with anti-gay chants.There's no excuse for this. I remembered that day while I was watching a recent episode of PBS's Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. featuring Cory Booker and John Lewis. If you are not familiar with the show, Professor Gates and a cadre of genealogists, archivists and DNA experts trace the guests' lineages to unexpected places and surprising people. Every episode has been interesting; this one may be the most important television you see this year. Please, please, please set aside 51 minutes and 2 seconds and watch it all the way to the end. I can't speak with certainty about the complex feelings of another person, but those do not seem to be tears of unmitigated joy.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement late Saturday saying that he was spit upon while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote, leading the Capitol Police to usher him into the building out of concern for his safety. Police detained the individual, who was then released because Cleaver declined to press charges.
"The congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The congressman would like to thank the U.S. Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care," said Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Cleaver.
Protesters outside the Capitol hurled epithets at Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) as they left the building after President Obama delivered an 11th-hour speech on behalf of the health care bill. Carson told reporters that protesters yelled "kill the bill," then used a racial epithet to describe Carson and Lewis, who is a revered figure on both sides of the aisle.
And Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement, "On the one hand, I am saddened that America's debate on health care - which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect - has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor."
"This is not the first time the congressman has been called the "n" word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans," said Rotert, Cleaver's spokesman. "That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting."
The incidents followed a noontime protest on the west side of the Capitol that drew several thousand people from around the country for a "Code Red" rally against the health-care bill. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) addressed the crowd.
It would be tempting to regard this as someone else's life, but we are actually talking about American history, our American history, as minority voting rights are under attack yet again.