Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do you hear the people sing?

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!"

Do you Hear the People Sing- Les Miserables

I am not a political person. You can ask anyone I know, and they would quickly tell you this is the truth. I never participate in political debate and rarely will even stand in on a conversation of anything vaguely political. It is just the way I am.

It is not that I have no opinions, far from it. I have enough opinions to drown in. I was always that child in school who would ask questions that would make my teachers vaguely uncomfortable. I saw things in a way that most people didn't and always had trouble with people who couldn't see other peoples opinions as valid.

Mostly I hate that most of the time I feel like people are trying to force their beliefs on me. It just doesn't sit well with me on any front. I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe and that is fine. Educated discussions are one thing. Mostly though political debates end with someones feelings hurt because the other party won't bend to new view points. 

Still I have opinions and thoughts, and it is not impossible to get me involved.

For those of you who are not a Texas resident, and somehow missed the social media explosion yesterday, let me tell you a little about what occurred in the Texas State Senate yesterday.

Yesterday was the last day of the special session of the Senate. On the table to be voted on was Senate Bill 5 which was a bill focusing on abortion issues. It was a fairly pro life bill that while it was being showcased to may as a bill improving abortion conditions was really cutting and restricting legal abortions to the point that it would make abortion options almost null. It would cut the number of clinics in the state from 42 to 5.

Texas is a very large state. Even if the clinics were evenly placed within the state you could be looking easily at a 7 hour drive one way to get to a clinic. I mean really how stupid is that? Talk about cutting out a woman's options.

This was a strongly Republican supported bill, and the Texas Senate is majority Republican. The bill was going to pass. In order to try and kill the bill Democratic Senator Wendy Davis (Ft. Worth) was attempting to fillibuster the bill to death. In order to accomplish her goal she was going to have to talk for 13 hours straight. By far not the longest fillibuster in history (that I believe was 42 hours long), but staying on topic and standing unassisted with no food, drink, or bathroom breaks for 13 hours is a fairly herculean feat.

Senator Davis made it just over 11 hours before the Senate flagged her with her 3rd infraction attempting to bring her fillibuster to an end. There was still at this point an hour and a half until the midnight cut off. It takes only about two minutes to take a vote. The Democrats scrambled to stall.

This was all being covered live and being broadcast across the web. There were over 180,000 people watching the live feed on YouTube. Austin and the capitol building were full of people protesting the bill and showing their support for a woman's right to choose.

The crazy thing was, I was watching too. Yes me, miss non political, was glued to the live feed coverage of the Texas Senate. I had live blogs going in one screen, I was following several friends on Twitter and Facebook, and I was even making my own posts about what was going on. Granted a number of my posts were asking for my more politically minded friends to explain to me what I was watching, but still I was involved.

Me. Involved in something decidedly political. Crazy.

Why you might ask? Why was this so important to me so suddenly? Well because it is.

Here is the thing, and I am paraphrasing a very wise friend of mine, I am not saying I am pro-life, I am not saying I am pro-choice, I am saying I am pro-woman. This is a bill infringing on my rights as a woman. This is a bill that could potentially effect what I am legally allowed to do with my own body and reproductive processes. Whether I would or wouldn't have an abortion for any reason is not important, what is important is I legally be allowed to choose and not have my options restricted.

No this bill was not outlawing abortion. This bill was in theory designed to make things safer. What this bill did do was limit my options. What this bill was was a way to eat the elephant that is abortion rights.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you take away peoples rights? One limitation at a time. You whittle it away bit by bit until there is nothing left.

People just let it happen. Not just on women's rights, but on all of our rights.  You think it is just one little thing, or it is something that doesn't directly effect you, and then suddenly it is all the things and totally all about you. Then it is too late.

Years ago, when my mother was a teenager and in her early 20's, people got all up in the governments face about everything. My mother's valedictorian had the mic cut off during his graduation speech for saying political things. Her high school was actually stoned (as in people throwing rocks at them) over race issues. People sat in protest and stuck flowers in soldiers gun barrels.

Now you get some angry people sitting in front of financial institutions and state capitols and they are called bums and unruly mobs. I have to imagine that 40 or 50 years ago that they were saying anything positive about protestors either. Government is never fond of subversives.

What we do have now though, that my  mothers generation lacked, is the internet. We have social media. We can watch law being made in real time, and we can show our outrage from our living rooms as easily as we can from the state capitol. We can have literally have the voices of a world cry out in outrage as an injustice is being carried out.

And that is exactly what happened last night. I think I read somewhere that there was something ridiculous like 6000 Tweets a minute on the subject. That was just Twitter. There was Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and a slew of other social media sites lit up with people in support of Senator Davis' efforts.

It wasn't just on the internet though. There were still thousands of people at the capitol all day long watching the proceedings. People stood in protest of SB5 and sat in the gallery listening as every argument and appeal was lodged. They were there and they were not going to simply sit by and watch as their rights were taken away.

As time began to grow short Lt Governor David Dewhurst, presiding as President over the Senate session, began to show his frustration and perhaps even a little desperation as the clock began to quickly wind down. The Democrats had managed to eat up most of the remaining two hours but there were still almost 15 minutes left. A Democratic Senator from Bexar county, Leticia Van de Putte, attempted to move to adjourn the session but Dewhurst conveniently didn't here her and called for a vote on an appeal over the last infraction Senator Davis had committed.

Senator Van de Putte attempted repeatedly to question Dewhurst on why he had ignored her asking
 "Did the President hear me or did the President hear me and refuse to recognize me?" but he just kept brushing her off.
Finally she asked him in obvious frustration "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”.

That is right she called him out for being sexist on the Senate floor, and the gallery went wild.

The live feed was almost deafening as the people in attendance began to clap and cheer. Only they didn't stop. At all. They just kept cheering and screaming and chanting from their seats. The noise was so great that despite Dewhurst's best efforts to silence them he could not be heard.

At one point after the crowd had been carrying on for about five minutes he called for attention, but no one would listen to him. No Mr. President you may not have our attention. We will have yours. With their applause and cheers they were saying that they would not stand by silently and watch this bill be bullied through. If the Senate would not allow Senator Davis fillibuster the bill to death, the people would do it for her. 

It was a moment that made me suddenly fiercely proud to be both a Texan and American. For a moment our voices were all raised, both in the gallery and through the internet, and no one could miss that we would not stand an injustice to fall. We are the people. We will be heard.

The clock ticked down, and despite his best efforts to sneak the vote in anyways, the session closed on the bill not being passed. With our voices raised as one, we had won the battle.

Sure it was a rough ending. The Lt. Governor tried to say a vote had gone through before the midnight deadline. There are allegations that he even attempted to alter the time stamp on the vote to make it read before 12pm, though I can't confirm any of that. When it looked like they were going to cheat and get the bill through anyways the crowd was enraged.

The capitol was full of angry citizens who filled the rotunda and sat in protest. State Troopers were dispatched to deal with the crowd, but voices still rang out across the world. There was not going to be any silencing anyone now. We were going to scream until things were made right.

It took several hours but in the end Dewhurst had to admit that the bill had died. He had to admit that the vote was invalid. At close to 3am, after several hours in a closed door caucus, the session was adjourned. Texas awoke this morning with the rights of its women still intact.

Certainly this is not the end of SB5. Governor Perry can, and probably will, call another special session of Senate to try and push the bill through again. He can do that as many times as he needs to either push the bill through or to finally hear the unending voices that cry foul.

It was in that moment last night, as I sat on my couch watching the screen of my laptop, that I realized something. I realized that the world was changing. I realized that maybe in this moment we had seen a power in ourselves that we have been denying. Perhaps we were waking up to see that the elephant is almost devoured and we have to use our voices to stop it.

I know that SB5 is not the biggest scariest most threatening legislation out there. It is one restrictive bill in one state. It is just one small bite. It is not something as monumental as DOMA being overturned (which thankfully that was overturned), but we have to remember every little bite, is one bite too many.

If we do not stand up against the small things, how can we ever stand against the big things. Right now we are the ants and they are the grasshoppers.

Do you hear the people singing Lt Governor? Do you hear them politicians everywhere? You really should.


  1. I was working on a very similar post, but this expresses my thoughts beautifully. What has been needed for some time is a figurehead Democrats can rally around. Both of the Senators you mentioned provide that. Let us hope a spark has been lit to fire up a lethargic voting populace to toss the rascals out

  2. I was working on a very similar post, but this expresses my thoughts beautifully. What has been needed for some time is a figurehead Democrats can rally around. Both of the Senators you mentioned provide that. Let us hope a spark has been lit to fire up a lethargic voting populace to toss the rascals out

  3. Brilliant, Megan!!