Something about the angry people, mostly white, with signs, screaming things have caused Rep. James Clyburn, pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement to have what I sometimes jokingly call a “slavery flashback.” That’s a moment where you see something that causes a chill to run down your spine, something you know about deep in your subconscious that scares the living daylights out of you because it reminds you of a less than pleasant past — whether you experienced that past or not.
For Clyburn it’s the healthcare debate. He sees “hate” and he sees “fear” and he doesn’t like it. It reminds him of a time he would rather forget.
“I have seen this kind of hate before. I have seen this discussion before,” he said. “I have seen snarling dogs going after people who were trying to peacefully assemble. I have seen the eyes of people who were being spat upon.”
I was born well after the Civil Rights Movement so I can only go by what I’ve read in books. While I sympathize with Clyburn, I think he’s about one Bull O’Connor, several vicious police dogs, some water cannons, and many Klan-style, righteous beatdowns short from a Civil Rights Era protest. Even at the “peaceful” ones involved arrests and being spat on from what I’ve read. These folks showing up at townhalls just seem delightfully nutters and the police seem more interested in keeping the peace than say … joining in. But let’s hear Clyburn out.
“This is all about activity trying to deny the establishment of a civil right. And I do believe that health care for all is — a civil right,” the House Majority Whip argued. “And I think that is why you see this kind of activity. This is an attempt on the part of some to deny the establishment of a civil right.”
Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, said he was particularly appalled by the use of the Swastika symbol at some of these town hall events. Noting that one had been painted on the office of Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), an African-American, Clyburn insisted that was proof enough that some of the protests were racially motivated.
“There is no question in my mind,” he said.
I’m with him on the swastika, obviously. And I’ll admit that the healthcare debate has gotten a little unhinged, but I don’t know how you can compare this organized chaos to such historic events as John Lewis getting his head busted open like a melon while trying to cross a bridge (re: Selma), or marches in Boston and Chicago where people spat and threw things and there was violence, or any civil disruption that ended in mayhem and people screaming, running for their lives. I mean. People DIED during the Civil Rights Movement. These yahoos screaming about socialism are just annoying to me. I’m not necessarily afraid of taking two to the head from them — at this percise moment. Now the guy who brought the gun to the Obama healthcare townhall, that was kooky and intimidating, but still, I can’t see the comparison with the horror of those days when Civil Rights workers were murdered, never to be heard from again and they’re just now finding their bodies.
But I could be wrong.
What do you think of what Clyburn had to say? Are today’s protests similar to the anti-Civil Rights protests of yore?