The Lone Voice of Dissent
by Shannon F. Reeves 9/19/02

September 17, 2001 - At a time of unprecedented unity in our nation's congress and senate, one lone politician remains partisan. At a time when people across the United States have come together to support those who would be strangers and share a collective sorrow, one lone member of Congress divides us and prevents residents of the ninth congressional district of California from being part of the national unity that is mending fences like nothing in this country ever has. That lone voice is Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Perhaps she's forgotten that her district's large Black population is the result of migration from the south by Blacks who wanted to ensure that our military was prepared in the 1940's and 50's. These Black settlers were patriots who understood that we must fight to defend and protect our freedom and American democracy, and made their contributions at the Oakland Army Base and Alameda Naval Air Station.

Thousands of Black veterans have fought in every American war and have given their lives for our freedom and democracy, despite legalized racism and discrimination here in America. One need only consider the grit, determination and patriotism of the Tuskegee Airmen, who, even in the face of segregation and racism, were proud Americans willing to die to defend freedoms in America that they themselves could not enjoy because they were Black.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee seems to have forgotten the legacy of Black American patriots who have given their service and their lives for freedom and democracy. The fact that the only Black federal or state elected official north of Crenshaw Boulevard (Los Angeles) has put her "moral compass" in the way of protecting our lives dismisses the gains Blacks have made in this country and that for which we have fought. Perhaps she's forgotten that her ability to vote in Congress is assured because American troops went to war to defend and protect our representative democracy, and to preserve our Congress' very right to vote without fear of retribution or, in many countries, torture and death.

Free speech is one of the great and inalienable rights of each and every American, however, Congresswoman Barbara Lee is elected to represent Congressional District 9, not her self. People from across the district have called and emailed to express their shock, dismay and anger over what they see as Congresswoman Lee's lack of conscience and patriotism. How do you think her "moral compass" would guide her if it had been the Ron Dellums Federal Building in Oakland that had been hit last Tuesday and her hard working district staff was still missing? Do you think the Black community would continue to shower her with unconditional support if she disrespected the memories of people lost in our own city? Her vote does not speak for the level of patriotism in the Black community.

The constitutional responsibility of our government is to protect and serve our country, and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This is an oath to which our elected and appointed officials must swear when they take office. Congresswoman Lee has neglected her first and foremost responsibility to her district and our country with what she spins as a "vote of conscience". None of the 420 other members of Congress, nor the 98 members of the Senate saw fit to forsake their districts or our country. None of them felt it necessary to take divisive measures during our time of national pain and vulnerability. They recognized and accepted their responsibility to protect our country, as they swore to uphold their oaths of office. They vowed to support the people of New York, Pennsylvania, Washington - the victims and survivors of last week's horrendous attacks. And they committed to keeping the United States safe from future attacks. The only voice of dissent, the only dereliction of duty we saw came from our very own member of Congress, Barbara Lee.

As Americans, we must remember that freedom unfortunately, is not free.

Shannon F. Reeves is President of the Oakland NAACP, a resident and business owner in the 9th Congressional District of California.

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