Meeting Senator Tester and Listening to Dr. King Make Me Hopeful

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constitution-m.jpgMy six hours over the last two weeks were concentrated on civil rights movement immersion (through lectures and documentaries) and meeting my Montana Senator, Jon Tester.

Those two tracks merged last Friday at a Montana Human Rights Network MLK Day benefit. I got to shake my Senator's hand, chat, and give him a fact sheet on the full-on terrifying Homegrown Terrorism Bill. Meeting him was actually thrilling -- rarely have I so respected someone representing me.

Senator Tester assured me he's going to fight against Telecom immunity. He also opposes Real ID, along with Governor Schweitzer (who's turned out to be quite a bad-ass on this issue). He hasn't had the opportunity to dig into the ramifications of the Homegrown Terrorism bill yet, but I trust that he will find it as problematic as most of us do. (After all, the bill's vague language would have labeled Dr. King a terrorist.)

I also believe that Americans will come together to fight for our privacy and basic civil liberties/rights. Dr. King and so many nameless, faceless people gave their time and lives so that minorities would have access to the opportunities our Constitution affords. Now all of us stand to lose them. Those liberties are worth fighting and dying for. So even if in the short time we see our White House criminals get away with monitoring and spying on us, and using double-talk to scare us into giving up our rights, I know that we can make the integrity of our Constitution a campaign issue. I know that we will stand up and write letters and march and fight until we see an America worthy of Dr. King's dream.

~~ Senator Tester
     Montana Human Rights Network

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4 Comments

I'm a regular reader of your blog, and I generally agree with your positions. I'm confused, though, how the language of S. 1959 would have labeled Dr. King a "terrorist." Given that the bill's definitions clearly discuss "violent" radicalization and the use of force, I don't see how the pacifistic ideas of King would have fit the bill. Malcom X, probably, but Dr. King? I think not. I do think that S. 1959 is redundant, probably doesn't do much that is useful, and desperately needs a better system for civil liberties auditing. I just don't think it is useful to hyperbole the depth of this or any legislation's peculiar idiocy.

wanealy Author Profile Page said:

Great job. Kyann. And, unfortunately, Brice, I disagree with you. Dr. King was seen as a "threat to National Security" by the FBI. There was a COINTELPRO government program that used all manner of dirty tricks (including sending him a letter to ask him to commit suicide) in order to destroy this.

I'm a nonviolent peace activist, and my organization (which does not even engage in private property damage; we only do nonviolent protests) has ALREADY been spied upon by the government. This is PRE-S-1959. It's a sad fact that bills that sound innocuous like this are ALWAYS used by ruthless government officials to prosecute well meaning individuals. I wish it weren't so, but my years of activism have taught me that this government, which I love, can be extremely ruthless in prosecuting its people. Peace.

Kyeann said:

Brice,

What is creepy about this bill is precisely that it could define nonviolent action as "terrorism" through its vague definition of "force" in opposing the government.

From what this layperson can tell, the language comes from the Sedition Act, and there is a clear attempt here to tie "force" to "terrorism." Check out some of the other pages on it here, where other readers posted their letters to the Senators.

The bill emerged in part from a study stating that new terrorist threats will come from "environmentalists," "leftists" and anti-globalizatinists" joining with "jihadists." Though it seems like it's trying to target violent "terrorists" the bill seems at least partially aimed at people who participate in nonviolent action.

Brice Timmons Author Profile Page said:

First, I'd like to address the COINTELPRO point. That program, much like MKULTRA and others, did not require any major action by Congress to come into being. Guantanamo Bay, for example, isn't the result of Congressional action. It's the result of the executive branch overstepping its bounds and Congress failing to act. At no point did I say that the FBI did not see MLK as a threat to national security. I said this bill wouldn't, on its face, define him thusly.

Next point, unlike the Sedition Act and other staples of Statist legislation, this isn't a criminal statute, nor does it create a new enforcement agency complete with jurisdiction. I'm not saying that this bill is good for the nation. However, telling Congress not to engage in something that looks like fact-finding is likely to produce no effect. Asking congress to alter the bill's language to contain a 3rd party civil liberties auditing group is much more doable. Vague definitions are generally part of the stock-in-trade of legislative wrangling, but those terms usually have specific legal meanings which legislatures take into account. The legal definition of "force" is physical coercion or legal requirement. (In the interests of full disclosure, there is another definition which includes the term "pressure," but that essentially refers to the threat or insinuation of violence.) Again, I don't think that this bill is important or good. I merely think that making subtle alterations to bills like this is easier for activists than stalling their passage. Effective activism in the information age doesn't mean marching and organizing physically. It means generating diffuse resistance expressed through local media and within locally organized voting blocs. Handwritten letters to elected officials, when they come in by the dozens, get noticed, especially if they can list some other interest group of which the person is a member. Just my thoughts.

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on January 24, 2008 5:29 PM.

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