Friday, October 15, 2010

The message from a "Night of Terror"

Today I received the following compelling e-mail about the "Night of Terror, Nov. 15, 1917."

I was unaware of this atrocity. The e-mail was even more powerful because of the photographs of the victims. You can read determination and courage in their faces.

We should remember that even more recently in our history African Americans, seeking the very same rights, were subjected to similar and worse violence by the authorities.

The sender intended the e-mail for all who don't plan to vote, for whatever reason. It is particularly aimed at women, but it seems obvious that the story should be shared with all.

This is the story of our
Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

Lucy Burns. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

Dora Lewis. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vo

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

Alice Paul. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

Mrs Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a 60 day sentence. Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say.

Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown, New York

I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.
All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

(Berthe Arnold)

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was—with herself.

'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.'

The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'
HBO released the movie on video and DVD. Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Woman's Party headquarters, Jackson Place , Washington , D.C.

Left to right: Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right))

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized.

And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women.

Whether you vote Democratic, Republican or Independent party - remember to vote.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Does Israel's loyalty "shoe" fit America's "foot"?

The Congress is considering passing a law that requires all new US citizens to pledge allegiance to this country as a “Christian state.”

Well, not really.

That’s just a “shoe” I’m trying on because Israel’s cabinet just voted that all new Israeli immigrants must pledge loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish, democratic state."

So how does the "Christian state" shoe fit, fellow Americans?

A little tight in the toe?

At the very least there’s a contradiction here. No state can provide “democratic” protections when it requires allegiance to any religion. Not Israel, not Iran, not Britain, (where the Queen is still the head of the Church of England), not, ahem, the Vatican etc.

Under a democracy, minorities (whether religious or not) have equal rights.

Back to Israel.... I assume, the term “Jewish” here is being used as a religious, not a racial, classification.

If race is part of the definition, the equivalent here might call for loyalty to the US as a “Christian, Aryan” state.

The shoe is no longer a shoe; it has the feel of a jack boot.

As perverse as the Israeli government’s pledge is, one wonders what non-Muslim immigrants are required to do in, say, Iran or Indonesia?

Just how many religious pledges are there around the world?

Of course the US Congress would never, ever consider such a pledge — at least not yet (let’s see what happens after the Nov. 2 election) — but one thing it might consider is denying foreign (including military) aid to any country whose government requires such a pledge.

That should save us a few billion bucks.

Actually, our own Oath of Allegiance, which new US citizens must take, is hardly squeaky clean. Fortunately, it offers "outs" for those who find they can’t stomach it.

Among those given a "pass" are Quakers, who don’t take oaths and who practice non-violence.

Here’s the oath (the source is Wikipedia) followed by the exclusions:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

In some cases, the US government allows the oath to be taken without the clauses regarding the bearing of arms and performance of noncombatant military service.

The law also provides that the phrase "so help me God" is optional and that the words ‘on oath’ can be substituted with ‘and solemnly affirm’. Also, if the prospective citizen can prove such commitments are in violation with his or her religion, the lines "that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform non-combatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law" are sometimes omitted.

Labels: , , , , , ,