'Be anxious for nothing..." ~Philippians 4:6

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

TEACHABLE MOMENTS: THE HAZARDS OF SPEAKING UP
















I'm of the "Be seen, but not heard generation", but I now know how valuable confrontation is. Few things are more stunning than to be disrespected or silenced for expressing oneself, confronting error, or speaking truth. I've been asked my opinion when what was really sought was my consent. People know when what you have to say will be a game changer.
I felt for Senator Warren. There was no secret about the weight of the words she was about to utter. The Truth really is the light, and its no surprise that laws and rules have been used to extinguish it.

Whether we follow them or not; whether we are aware of them or not, there are rules...everywhere...and the best ones are written. Those who know, and play by the rules have the upper hand. Ignorance of the rules and tenets of one's own profession, or organization is hard to excuse. Of course, with any rules, there are ways to cleverly circumvent them, especially if they are perceived to be improperly applied. Can't speak on the Senate floor? No problem. It's practically impossible to silence people these days. There's YouTube, Facebook Live and  SnapChat. There's a bigger, more attentive audience on social media, but can that audience help you achieve your goal, or merely listen and register their outrage?

If anything, we're all getting wanted or unwanted refresher courses in Civics, Social Studies, and American History. Whether a rule is arcane, archaic or not; whether we are appalled or not by what seem to be offenses that cause us to challenge them, someone is going to find and enforce the rules that benefit them and their causes. They're going to dust off the rules that, even if temporarily, silence their opponents. 

There are so many teachable moments emanating from Capitol Hill concerning everything from citizenship, to civility, to Rule of Law. There's a committee on rules and administration. Maybe every congressperson should acquaint themselves with them and their decisions--old and new. Who knew about this debate Rule 19, and what happened that made it necessary? Was someone being rude and wiling out back in the day? Yes--one hundred-fifteen years ago to be exact, and the wiling out demanded that some new rules be set. According to the The Washington Post, Senators Benjamin Ryan Tillman and John Lowndes McLaurin (while the Senate was debating the Philippine Tariff Bill), started quite a slugfest.

"Furious that McLaurin was colluding with the other side of the aisle, Tillman used a February 22, 1902, speech on the Senate floor to harangue the younger senator. Gesturing toward McLaurin's empty chair, Tillman accused his counterpart of treachery and corruption, saying he had succumbed to "improper influences," according to a Senate history of the dispute. When McLaurin caught wind of Tillman's remarks, he rushed into the chamber and shouted that Tillman was telling a "willful, malicious, and deliberate lie." A fistfight erupted. As Senate historians recounted, "The 54-year-old Tillman jumped from his place and physically attacked McLaurin, who was 41, with a series of stinging blows. Efforts to separate the two combatants resulted in misdirected punches landing on other members."
Seventy-seven years later, an irate Republican Senator Lowell Weicker called fellow Republican Senator John Heinz "devious" and "an idiot". Fortunately, that time, there was no brawl to break up. 

Perhaps a better question would be, where has this rule been for the last eight years? (Surely there's a rule for, oh, I don't know, yelling out "You lie!" as the President speaks.)

Here's the debate Rule (in its entirety) that stopped Senator Elizabeth Warren mid sentence yesterday, as she attempted to read a letter penned by the late Coretta Scott King: 

1. (a) When a Senator desires to speak, he shall rise and address the Presiding Officer, and shall not proceed until he is recognized, and the Presiding Officer shall recognize the Senator who shall first address him. No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.

(b) At the conclusion of the morning hour at the beginning of a new legislative day or after the unfinished business or any pending business has first been laid before the Senate on any calendar day, and until after the duration of three hours of actual session after such business is laid down except as determined to the contrary by unanimous consent or on motion without debate, all debate shall be germane and confined to the specific question then pending before the Senate.

2. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.

3. No Senator in debate shall refer offensively to any State of the Union.

4. If any Senator, in speaking or otherwise, in the opinion of the Presiding Officer transgress the rules of the Senate the Presiding Officer shall, either on his own motion or at the request of any other Senator, call him to order; and when a Senator shall be called to order he shall take his seat, and may not proceed without leave of the Senate, which, if granted, shall be upon motion that he be allowed to proceed in order, which motion shall be determined without debate. Any Senator directed by the Presiding Officer to take his seat, and any Senator requesting the Presiding Officer to require a Senator to take his seat, may appeal from the ruling of the Chair, which appeal shall be open to debate.

5. If a Senator be called to order for words spoken in debate, upon the demand of the Senator or of any other Senator, the exceptionable words shall be taken down in writing, and read at the table for the information of the Senate.

6. Whenever confusion arises in the Chamber or the galleries, or demonstrations of approval or disapproval are indulged in by the occupants of the galleries, it shall be the duty of the Chair to enforce order on his own initiative and without any point of order being made by a Senator.

7. No Senator shall introduce to or bring to the attention of the Senate during its sessions any occupant in the galleries of the Senate. No motion to suspend this rule shall be in order, nor may the Presiding Officer entertain any request to suspend it by unanimous consent.

8. Former Presidents of the United States shall be entitled to address the Senate upon appropriate notice to the Presiding Officer who shall thereupon make the necessary arrangements.

Maybe these rules should be printed on big posters and displayed all over Capitol Hill as reminders. 
It looks like C-Span is now offering viewers intense drama, and Congressional Republicans and Democrats are becoming the best reality show stars on television.

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