[News] The Rebuking and Scorning of Cynthia McKinney

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 7 16:26:04 EDT 2006

April 7--9, 2006

"Invisibility Looks Good on You"

The Rebuking and Scorning of Cynthia McKinney


A Washington press corps that stood idly by while Bush and Cheney 
plundered the country, wrecked the environment, spied on Americans 
without a warrant, tortured civilians and lied the country into a war 
that will only get worse, woke up one morning and collectively 
decided: "Let's all play Get Cynthia!"

Let's get her for being too outspoken, bringing up the wrong issue at 
the wrong time, failing to get with the program, becoming a 
distraction, leaving House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi beside 
herself with rage.

Let's get her because, hell, she practically volunteered for it, and 
besides, she's an easy target, standing practically alone, fired upon 
at will by Republicans -- who seem to think her story cancels out 
DeLay, Abramoff, Katrina and Iraq -- and virtually undefended by 
Democrats, except by the rolling of eyes heavenward, as though to 
say, "Oh, please! We're not responsible for HER!"

Rep. Cynthia McKinney has now apologized for her part in the face-off 
at Checkpoint Cynthia. It was not enough to stop the cartooning of 
the coverage. Already the news wires are spinning her statement as a 
complete about-face, an abandonment of everything else she has said 
about the incident. Look, she said there was racial profiling in 
Washington! Look, now she's apologizing!

Journalists are reporting this story as though it were their job to 
"get" her, breathlessly revealing that the woman who receives more 
hate mail than Teddy Kennedy employs a part-time bodyguard, as though 
it proved something about her mental state.

But note, please, Rep. McKinney did not take back anything she has 
said about racial profiling in the nation's capitol. And the fact 
remains that, while each day's mail brings a new wave of personal 
threats, some of the people charged with protecting her affect not to 
recognize her. A Republican colleague offered the suggestion that she 
could announce "I am a Member of Congress" each time she passes a 
security checkpoint. But McKinney has served for eleven years, not 
eleven minutes.

Here's a test of media fairness: how many times, over those eleven 
years, have you seen Rep. McKinney on CNN, NBC, ABC, or CBS, asked to 
explain her views on Iraq and the Middle East? Not once, you say? 
Read on for the "why come" of it all.

The leaders of her own party turn their backs while she endures the 
most vicious racial stereotyping I've seen, since the last time I 
looked at that old KKK rag called the "Thunderbolt" when a fellow 
college student stuck a copy in my face back around 1963. "I know 
it's probably racist," he said, "but it's funny," as if that would 
have made it all right.

It wasn't funny, it was disgusting, and I don't think what's 
happening to Rep. Cynthia McKinney is funny now. Much of the 
commentary seems to have been written by the same sort of people who 
say they don't agree with Rush Limbaugh, they just listen to him for 
"entertainment." (Anybody out there who listens to Rush for 
entertainment, please get your eyes off of my words, I've got nothing 
to say to you and I sure as hell don't want to "amuse" you.)

Two-party collusion in the destruction of a reputation is the story 
here, folks. For Pelosi, the affair is "not something we need to 
focus on." Judging by Dennis Hastert's comments, Checkpoint Cynthia 
was the biggest national security event since 9/11.

Rep. Tom DeLay called McKinney a racist. Nothing DeLay said would 
surprise me, and that comment was no exception. What did surprise me 
was that I couldn't find any stories quoting any Democrats saying, 
"Tom DeLay called somebody a racist? Tom DeLay?!"

Oh, I know. They didn't want to take the bait, fall into the trap, 
keep the ball in the air for another news cycle. But really, how can 
they stand this? How can anybody?

Right wingers, aided by Democrats, are spinning McKinney as 
"arrogant," "haughty," a "nut-case," even "the madwoman McKinney" -- 
a woman who, just between us pros, wink wink, doesn't understand how 
"the game" is played.

She understands the game all right. She just refuses to play it. When 
CNN's Soledad O'Brien, trying to take control of an interview, said 
to McKinney, "Let me stop you there," what came back on her was 
something spoken in a tone rarely used toward a TV personality: "You 
can't stop me, Soledad."

And you can't control me, she might have added, and you can't dictate 
your own framing of the issues with me.

How easy it is for people who don't have a history of having their 
right to be present challenged, to counsel others to be more "calm" 
and "sensible" when provoked.

How easy it is to imagine a senior party member sitting down with 
Rep. McKinney, patiently and paternalistically explaining that 
politics is the art of compromise, sweetie. We all know what's 
supposed to be meant by that, but what kind of compromise do we 
really want our elected representatives to make with racial 
profiling, warrantless wiretapping, torture, and a war founded on lies?

The Democratic Party has already compromised this country into 
desperate straits, going along to get along with Bush. It has been so 
long since one of them stood ground on anything, we're all shocked 
when it happens.

Cynthia McKinney is standing firm, with little visible support, but 
then she has stood alone before. Like that time when she actually 
voted to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, when given the chance. She 
was joined by only two other members of the House. The Republicans 
dared the Democrats to vote for withdrawal, and the Dems all 
frantically denounced the maneuver as a trap. McKinney seized the 
moment and called their bluff. Is that what her critics have in mind 
when they call her a "nut-case" or even worse names?

If she's a nut-case, then maybe we need to send some more crazy 
people up in there.

She stood alone in 2002, when power brokers in her own party 
recruited a Reagan Republican stalking horse to defeat her, after 
McKinney expressed support for Palestinian rights and was among the 
first to call for an investigation of the Bush Administration after 
9/11. The party line at that time was that "we've all got to stand 
behind the president" in the Wonderful War on Terror.

And then, when McKinney rose from the political dead and returned 
uninvited from the oblivion they had consigned her to, and reclaimed 
her seat without anyone's special blessing, other than the voters of 
her district, the Democrats in the House celebrated her historic 
comeback by refusing to restore her seniority.

That was Nancy Pelosi's way of saying, "You will comply."

They wanted to keep Crazy Cynthia away from the microphone, of course 
they did. Out of sight, out of mind. Can't have our elected officials 
running around saying the same things the public is saying about the 
war on Iraq! Makes us look bad! And thus it comes to pass that we get 
news stories saying things like, "Since returning to Washington, 
McKinney has kept a lower profile until last week's incident," as if 
keeping quiet on public matters was her own idea.

The incident with the Capitol Police wasn't about her hair. It wasn't 
about the identity pin. It's about the fact that when you are female, 
black, antiwar, and militant, invisibility looks good on you, from 
where the pro-war Dems sit.

Some of us are old enough to remember that many Democrats accused 
Martin Luther King, Jr. of "ingratitude" when he began to speak out 
against the Vietnam War. That was the very moment when, in the eyes 
of many who had previously and publicly despised him, he was 
transmogrified into the Great Civil Rights Leader, who had now "gone 
too far" and "risked" damaging the wonderful "reputation" he had 
earned, not to mention all the "progress for his people" that (hint, 
hint) could be rolled back if a "backlash" were provoked.

Vestiges of this view persist today in some quarters. William F. 
Buckley has said (recently) that he regrets that National Review 
opposed Civil Rights. He has not, insofar as I am aware, expressed a 
hint remorse for not supporting King in trying to stop the war in Vietnam.

So now, today, we have Rep. McKinney calling Israel to account, 
demanding justice for Palestinians, questioning what happened on 
9/11, giving no quarter on racial profiling, and voting against the 
war in Iraq.

How are the do-nothing Democrats supposed to get the benefit of the 
antiwar crowd, if there are people running around actively voting 
against the war?

They act as though they believe all the country really needs is not 
to end the disaster in Iraq but to let the "good guys" run it.

The noble John "Nobody Spins Me" Kerry writes an op-ed calling for 
not one but TWO deadlines in Iraq (top that, Hillary!) and the whole 
party has a conniption fit because all anyone can talk about is this 
uppitty Black woman who won't let security or anybody else, including 
party leadership, manhandle her.

Nancy Pelosi had her party theme all picked out: we were all supposed 
to be talking about Tom DeLay and this "Republican culture of 
corruption," and if anyone pressed us on Iraq, we were to demand, 
with one mighty voice (are you ready? all together now ...) "that 
2006 be a significant period of transition" in Iraq.

The Democratic Party, in splendid unison, calling upon American sons 
and daughters to hurl their bodies into the immolating fire, for the 
sake of "a significant period of transition" -- who could resist?

How different from that other voice, that Black voice from Georgia, 
joined by a handful of others, saying "Bring the troops home. Stop 
this war. Now."

You begin to get a pretty clear idea why the Democrats have never 
asked McKinney to give the rebuttal after a Bush State of the Union.

And as for the Republicans, with few exceptions, they don't ever 
intend to let another person of color claim to be a victim of racism 
without attacking her credibility. Not one more. (Recall how 
patiently they explained to us all that what happened in New Orleans 
in the aftermath of Katrina "wasn't about race.")

Let them convene their grand jury and push their polls. Maybe one day 
a polling agency will call you, to ask what you think about white 
folks telling people of color that they're wrong to feel that 
anything, anything, is ever about racism.

Before judging Rep. McKinney, ask yourself, what kind of person would 
still be in public service, after setbacks and sabotage attempts like 
these? What kind of person would keep reporting for duty after being 
consistently disrespected, and repeatedly challenged to "identify" 
herself after 11 years in Congress? And then to be mocked and 
attacked for her refusal to meekly "comply" when physically prevented 
from going to cast a vote.

You got a bit of the answer if you saw Rep. McKinney on CNN with Wolf 
Blitzer. I liked it when she refused to let him control the 
conversation, but I have to tell you, we stood up and cheered at my 
house when she told Blitzer, "Don't even begin to twist my words."

Among the comments at our table that evening was, "Why can't SHE be president?"

Singer-songwriter David Vest can be reached at: 
<mailto:davidvest at springmail.com>davidvest at springmail.com.

His CDs includes 
Me Right To Shuffle and 
Down Here (Live).

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