Vicarious Activism

John Lewis Arrest at Darfur Protest
“It is important to send a message not only to the people in
this country and our own government, but to the people
of the world that the genocide in Darfur must end,” Lewis
said outside a DC Metropolitan Police Department precinct
after his arrest. “What is going on there are crimes against
humanity.” (quote from the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Hundreds of thousands in Darfur have been killed and millions displaced by the Sudanese government since 2003. It is a deteriorating humanitarian crisis on an unimaginable scale. We had to act. That is why on April 27th, joining with millions of others from Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, California and Massachusetts, I vicariously demonstrated in front  of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, was arrested by the US Secret Service and taken to jail. We can only hope that our government and the United Nations will take notice and let us act to stop the continuing tragedy.

This is not the first time that I have vicariously championed important issues. I am fortunate to live in Georgia’s Fifth District and am represented by the Honorable John Lewis. A true hero many, many times over. A champion of civil rights, the poor and the suffering.

Were it not for John’s courage, beliefsvotes and activitism, or if I lived elsewhere in the South, I might have vicariously supported the tea baggers; voted for the Iraq war; tried to deny women their rights; promoted discrimination; voted to reform welfare by ending it as almost everyone knows it; sought mass arrest of immigrants; denied people their right to vote; taken bribes disguised as campaign contributions; protected corporations at the expense of their employees, customers and taxpayers; favored dirty industries and oil over clean and green; denied science and commonsense; and sewn seeds of fear and hate by championing intervention against a host of other imaginary problems. Or maybe, I would vicariously just have had my head in the sand. So thank you, John. Again.

And, yes, I do believe that vicarious activism is an oxymoron.

Members of Congress, Darfur Activists Protest at Sudanese Embassy

Save Darfur Activists Arrested
This morning (April 27, 2009), Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Lewis (D-GA), Donna
Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and activists Save Darfur Coalition
President Jerry Fowler, Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast and Rabbi David Saperstein,
director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism were arrested for civil disobedience outside
of the Sudanese Embassy while protesting the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Suggest Reading:

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8 thoughts on “Vicarious Activism

  1. Billy Howard

    You helped me hold my head a little higher today. Rarely have we had a leader actually willing to put their own life on the line, as John Lewis has countless times, for what they truly believed. Taylor Branch’s description of John Lewis’ experience in Birmingham during the Freedom Rides in his remarkable biography of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement: “Parting the Waters,” is one of the most harrowing accounts of non-fiction I have ever read.

    Reply
  2. Dallas

    Well done! We do, indeed, need leaders who give us the opportunity -- vicarious or otherwise -- to live, learn and edge toward taking a stand.

    Reply
  3. Jane P

    Lee, in the “New China Syndrome” you wrote against banking and corporate bailouts, but I gather you did not demonstrate in the streets about it (tea parties.) What is it about John Lewis that stopped you from doing that, but moved you to demonstrate about problems in other countries?

    Reply
  4. Lee Leslie Post author

    Jane -- I truly believe that bailing out banking and too-big-to-fail corporations was the wrong place to start. For most businesses, financing without consumption will only prolong the crisis -- only consumption will solve it. For most consumers, financing without income, will only make it worse. I felt we should help rebuild the consumers in the this country -- minimizing and making their taxes fair is a part of it. I didn’t support the Tea Party “movement” because I’m not anti-tax, my problem is that I’m not making enough money. Besides, in my list of what’s bad, genocide trumps tax policy.

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  5. Jane P

    Nor am I anti-tax; we could not have an orderly society without it. What I am against is taxing small, honest successful business to reward big, corrupt failing business. I am also against deficit spending, printing money, and all other forms of fiscal mischief.

    Agree that genocide trumps tax policy. I also believe that the antidote to human rights abuse is the distribution of power (democracy.) But if America is the font of freedom and we bankrupt her…

    Reply
  6. Lee Leslie Post author

    Sounds like we agree. Question now becomes how you wind down the deficit without either printing money or increasing taxes or making the economy even worse. Seems to me, there must be a mix of heating the economy (printing or borrowing money) that will result in more tax revenue; redistributing the tax burden to those who actually have money left to pay them -- somebody has to pay and it might as well be those who can afford it easier (who gets to judge?); cutting the industry tax subsidies that are contrary to good long-term policy; taxing those who are in off-shore tax havens; etc.; -- while cutting expenses to match revenues. Problem, of course, is those with power have the lobbyists and tell Congress how to vote. So where does it start? Lobby reform? Repeal Bush tax cut? Cut the subsidies? Get out of the wars? Cut the ridiculous spending on exotic weapons and spying? Regulate off-shore companies? Etc. ad nauseum. I suspect it will start by tough choices affect those with the least power. I’m afraid simple solutions will take a decade to implement and none of us will like the tough choices when we are affected. Nor will like who decide those tough choices. Enough to make me want throw some tea bags in the harbor.

    Reply
  7. Jane P

    Much to think about with deficit reduction. When I finish reading my banking book I will present Jane P.’s plan to save America and the World. Hang on to your seat.

    Reply

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