Civil Rights

In this time of national sorrow, let us look to Dr. King (Rep. Maxine Waters)

This 25th anniversary of our national celebration of the life, times and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – his legacy of nonviolent resistance, community activism, and social change through peace, love and tolerance – is an important milestone as we reflect upon a national tragedy that has shocked us to our very core and left us trying to understand a heinous act of violence.

Last week, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was critically injured and many of her staff members and constituents were killed or wounded in a mass shooting that lasted only seconds but will be seared into our minds forever. Indeed, this monstrous attack upon innocent lives, and the representative democracy we cherish so dearly, has given us pause and broken our hearts.

No words can give adequate justice or much comfort to the injured who are recovering, the families and friends who are grieving for the loss of their loved ones, and the American people who are trying to understand what happened. What we do know is that Gabby and the other victims, their loved ones, and the first responders and volunteers who leapt into action are all fighters, they are all heroes, and they are all our brothers and our sisters.

Also weighing heavy on my heart is a recent wave of violence in my district in South Los Angeles, violence that is often traced back to gangs that continue to act with impunity and terrorize my constituents like: five-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr., hit by a bullet in his own backyard while showing off his Spiderman Halloween costume to his family; Kashmier James, a young woman killed while visiting friends on Christmas day; 14-year-old Taburi Watson, shot while riding his bike a few days before New Year’s; and Mr. Lewis Smith, who sadly was removed from life support earlier this week after surviving the initial shooting.

In some sad and tragic twist of fate, Mr. Smith was wounded in a shopping plaza and memorial area named after Dr. King, one of the greatest minds to have lived and graced us with his wisdom, his strength, and his vision for a better world for all people, especially African Americans in our fight for equality, justice and freedom. But I understand that already, in the spirit of cooperation and brotherhood, some business owners and other leaders have come together to address this act of violence against Mr. Smith and stand united as a community.

So I believe it is as relevant as ever to look to Dr. King and his words to help us understand these and other tragedies – and perhaps more importantly – understand how we go forward as a stronger community, a stronger nation, and a stronger people resolved to be: vigorous in our debates, but never violent; impassioned about our opinions, but never intolerant; steadfast in our efforts to work together and implement effective social change, but never scurrilous; and demonstrative of respect toward our fellow man and woman, but never derisive.

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A reminder not to be silent on gun violence (Rep. Bobby Rush)

“…I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963

I share these words at a time when our nation has, once again, gone through another period of national mourning because of the wanton acts of a disturbed individual with a loaded gun. Undoubtedly, this passage from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is as relevant now as it was when it was written almost 48 years ago.

When my colleague, the brilliant and beloved Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was targeted by a gunman on January 8th, in that moment that small, idyllic shopping plaza in Tucson, Arizona became America’s latest ‘Birmingham.’ The brazen, unprovoked attack in broad daylight that left Giffords critically injured, six people dead—including a nine-year-old child—and more than a dozen seriously wounded evoked the outpouring of positive spirit from a shocked nation. In that moment and in the days that followed, King’s view that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” was the sentiment that held sway in our nation. Our shared grief and concerns for those who survived and those who lost their lives was powerfully on display last Wednesday night at the memorial service where more than 30 million viewers watched as the President lent a soothing voice of comfort and solace to a grateful nation.

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MLK Day couldn't come at a more appropriate time (Rep. Mike Honda)

As our country continues to mourn and heal from Arizona’s inexplicable violence, we are reminded of the timeless and transcendental teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose life and legacy is remembered this Monday, January 17, 2011.

Dr. King’s commemoration could not come at a more appropriate time. Arizona’s violence is a sad reminder of the culture of violence that pervades this country and propagates such actions, manifesting in a myriad of ways, be it by pistol, pen, podium or a policy.

Dr. King spent and ultimately sacrificed his life seeking to transform our culture of violence. At the height of foreign and domestic conflict – whether it was our war with Vietnam or our nation’s racial and economic inequalities – Dr. King preached peace, promoted equality and shook the structures of segregation with love, not violence.

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Iraqi refugees need a lifeline

It has been a brutal and violent few weeks for Iraqis.

At the end of October, over 50 Christian Iraqis were massacred at a church in Baghdad. Since then, organized attacks on Christian Iraqis have escalated throughout the country. This is not the beginning of such persecution: of the estimated 1.2 million Christians in Iraq in 2003, only approximately 600,000 remain today. But with this latest wave of violence, numerous Christian leaders have called for stepped up efforts to address the resulting refugee crisis. 

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Stop the police state, repeal the PATRIOT Act (Rep. Ron Paul)

The year 2011 brings in a host of opportunities and challenges to America. Will we accelerate toward economic insolvency by continuing the policies that have created this crisis, or will a new Congress elected on the energy of the Tea Party movement find the courage to change course?

With the new Republican majority in the House I will have the opportunity as a subcommittee chairman to take a careful look at our domestic monetary policy. I’m excited by the prospect of real oversight of the Federal Reserve, but I also hope to focus on the important ways in which our foreign policy and monetary policy are related. Just last week the Financial Times reported that the limited oversight of the Federal Reserve allowed by the passage of a watered-down version of my Audit the Fed bill revealed that approximately 55 percent of the loans made available under the largest Federal Reserve bailout program – termed “auction facility” – went to foreign banks. This is just but one example of the real cost to Americans of maintaining its empire overseas and it cries out for more transparency and oversight.

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President Obama: It is my honor to sign the repeal of 'Don't ask, don't tell'

You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. (Applause.) And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this. I couldn’t be prouder.

Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. The men were traveling along a narrow trail. They were exposed and they were vulnerable. Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy. 

And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back. And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground. 

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Repealing ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ makes our military stronger and more united (Sen. Harry Reid)

Today, our military reflects who we are as a nation. By repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” we showed that discrimination has no place in our military, just as it has no place in America. In addition to ensuring that our military reflects our nation’s values, our military leadership has said that repealing this policy will make our armed forces stronger and more united.

I commend Chairman Levin, Sens. Lieberman and Collins, and all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for leading passage of this landmark change in policy. I am hopeful that our bipartisan work on this issue signals that Democrats and Republicans can continue to work together.

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The Senate must put our nation on the right side of history and repeal 'Don't ask, don't tell' (Rep. Jared Polis)

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the only law in the country that encourages people to lie or be fired if they choose to be honest. It’s a law that hurts not only the men and women who put themselves at risk serving in our armed forces, but also jeopardizes our national security. And it is a law that must be repealed.

A recent study found that 8 out of 10 Americans support repealing the law. Regardless of their political party, people recognize that on the battlefield it doesn't matter if a soldier is gay or straight. What matters is they get the job done to protect our country.

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Give up on repeal? Not now, not ever

Tomorrow the Senate may finally get to debate and vote on repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. A determined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has put the standalone repeal bill the House passed 250-175 on Wednesday (H.R. 2965) before the Senate, along with a cloture petition to cut off Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) endless and endlessly embarrassing filibuster.

So now the ball is in the Senate’s court — but it will take more than a dogged Majority Leader to see repeal through. A simple majority does not rule in the Senate. Repeal of the “Don’t ask” law prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military still needs a super majority of sixty votes to cross the finish line.


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