Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dust Off The Constitution And Fight Back

Rev. Dr. William Barber II:  "Is there a lawyer in the house?"
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
-- Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again
How many lawyers does it take to fight, resist and oppose the national -- indeed, global -- nightmare that is Donald Trump?  And how do you do it?  Well, the first way to deal with a nightmare is to wake up.  And more than 1000 of us got a wakeup call on Friday at a remarkable Strategic Engagement Conference at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco

The breadth of the panel discussions reflect the scope of the dangers posed by a Trump Administration.  Virtually every aspect of social justice is at risk.  The topics included hate crimes and the rise of the white nationalist right, the government targeting of the Muslim community, immigrant rights, the LGBTQ backlash, protecting people with disabilities, criminalization of people of color, reproductive rights, combatting domestic and sexual violence, worker rights, and environmental justice.

The brilliant Dahlia Lithwick observed the inability of the media and the public to focus on more than the two or three of the most outrageous things Trump does every day, and argued that we cannot allow his scattershot approach to communication distract us from taking note and challenging all aspects of his presidency. She urged us to look beyond our narrow interests and "show up for all of it." 

Indeed, while we all have our areas of expertise and particular interests, it is essential that we realize how interconnected our communities are.  An attack on immigration rights is an attack on all vulnerable populations from the LGBTQ community to those who are medically at-risk.  An attack on the Muslim community is an attack on all religious groups.  An attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on the poor, on people of color and on undocumented immigrants.  And so on.

The mighty Charles Blow made an important distinction between resistance and opposition.  Resistance is critical, but it is a negative position.  As he put it in a recent column, "You need to augment your outrage with actions that are affirming, behaviors that reinforce principles and values."

Of course, this goes for more than just the legal community.  There is much to do and many ways to do it.  We need to protest, starting with the Women's March On Washington and the concurrent marches in other cities around the country the day after the inauguration.  We need to donate to programs that are at risk and to organizations that will be taking on the fight to protect them.  We need to volunteer for those organizations.  We need to stay informed and remain vigilant.  We need to contact our local, state and national representatives over and over and over again.

In an audacious and powerful brew of scripture, poetry and legal theory, the Reverend Dr. William Barber II delivered the keynote address, demanding: "Get up from your bad feelings from November 9th, dust off your Constitution and fight back!"  In closing, he quoted virtually the entirety of Langston Hughes' Let America Be America Again, and then asked:
Is there a lawyer in the house that will work to ensure that America will be?
Is there a lawyer in the house that will take every demagogue and despot to court and stand on the Constitution?
Is there a lawyer in the house that will not give up on the soul of this Democracy?
Is there a lawyer in the house that will stand on what is right and worry more about justice than a judgeship?
Is there a lawyer in the house?
If there is, than American will be.
I urge those of you in the legal community to sign up at this website to volunteer for some of the organizations that will doing just that:  click here


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