Ready to get arrested?
You weren’t just going to grill cancerous hot dogs for the holiday, were you? (At least get the vegan ones.)
This holiday weekend, you may have noticed our rights and our very democracy hanging by a thread.
I’m sure you’d rather be doing something more American, more productive, like maybe join in an act of civil disobedience.
That would otherwise be known as getting arrested.
I do a livestream at 2p Pacific (see deets below), for which I cannot get arrested, as they say.
But there are others who do get arrested, like Rep. Judy Chu.
The California congresswoman representing Pasadena showed her leadership and courage by putting her body on the line this week.
For her beliefs. And for your rights.
While other members of Congress were on recess, Chu flew back to Washington to speak out against the overturning of Roe v. Wade at a protest organized by Planned Parenthood on the Capitol grounds.
“I am here to make sure every woman in every state of this country has the right to an abortion,” Chu reportedly told the crowd. “We saw the devastating decision of the Supreme Court, and it’s already putting lives in danger.”
I know Chu to be a savvy politician. She chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. She was the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress in 2009 and was behind the effort to get a Congressional resolution of regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
She also serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, the one that oversees taxes. Her particular focus is on health, and that has led her to be the principal sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, the law that would codify Roe.
The votes may not be there yet, but as she was protesting, President Biden called for the end of the filibuster, which could be an opening for Chu’s bill to pass and give back women the constitutional right that was stripped away a week ago.
Those are the stakes.
Civil disobedience is a time-honored practice as an act of protest and speech that shows the importance and passion of one’s mission. It’s as democratic and patriotic an act as there is.
Many will say, “But what will that look like on my resume?”
Wrong question. What does an arrest for your fight to correct an injustice say about your commitment?
Sometimes there comes a time when an Asian American’s got to do what an Asian American’s got to do. Protest? Why not add the extra hot Sriracha if you want to fight for choice?
In this new battle for reproductive rights, it may be time to make a choice like Judy Chu.
While Chu protested, then was arrested, held for two hours, and released, people were celebrating the swearing in of Ketanji Brown Jackson at the Supreme Court nearby.
Jackson is the first African American woman to serve on the court in its 233-year history. There were 115 justices before her. That’s a long wait.
You can see what I’ve written about Jackson here on this site, all of it supportive. But Jackson’s rise does leave a glaring omission to date.
Is there an Asian American on the Supreme Court? Has there ever been? Not yet?
And so we wait.
I was still engaged by Jackson’s oath taking, since oaths in a democracy are more than ceremonial.
The first oath Jackson took was the one required by the Constitution. The second one was required by the Judiciary Act. And that caught my attention, especially the line where the oath taker swears to “administer justice without respect to persons and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
All the other justices had to take that oath. The five (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett) who overturned Roe did.
Did they consider the rights of the poor who will be burdened by travel expenses to find a place for reproductive health care that doesn’t endanger their lives?
And then there was the most recent ruling of the day on the powers of the EPA, limiting its right to regulate power plants and restricting the Biden administration’s efforts to fight climate change. Who does that serve, the rich and poor alike? Or just the rich corporations fighting deregulation, as this ruling will impact any federal agency’s ability to be an effective watchdog for the people?
And who did the justices say knew better than the experts at EPA? Congress. And since Congress in our gridlocked politics has been made legislatively immobile, it’s a moot point. There will be no regulation.
That is, except by the conservative court that has seemingly become more political and powerful than ever.
The court is poised to weigh in on even more big issues in the fall. Like voting rights. LGBTQ+ rights. And affirmative action.
Justice Brown replaces another liberal, Justice Breyer. The court’s imbalance is only preserved, not fixed. We cheer her ascent at oath-taking, but she won’t be able to save the day alone.
Consider it another choice and call to action.
THINKING ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION AND JAN. 6 ON THE FOURTH
The good news is where we find ourselves in 2022 is not just a problem for Democrats, the left, or people in the middle leaning left. The problem of our constitutional future is a problem for all Americans.
If you’ve been following the January 6th Select Committee Hearings, the fireworks from this past week were a prelude to the Fourth.
The hearings are intended to help us understand what really happened when a mob nearly prevented a presidential election from being certified. But we can’t get to that until someone has the courage to tell the truth.
And it needed to be someone on the MAGA inside, like Cassidy Hutchinson, 26, a white female conservative Republican.
You want to know what it was like on the day of Jan. 6 from within the White House? Hutchinson was in the West Wing, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
And so Hutchinson did what even her old boss has failed to do–cooperate with the committee.
At the hastily set up hearing this week, under oath, garbed in a white suit jacket, she was like a symbol of light.
She had the courage to break the Trump code and speak out.
We learned that the morning of the big rally on Jan. 6, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Hutchinson to “make sure we don’t go to the Capitol.”
The consequences? Hutchinson said Cipollone told her that “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”
Hutchinson testified it wasn’t the first time Cipollone mentioned that going back to the Capitol would look like they were obstructing the Electoral College count or generally inciting a riot.
But as Jan. 6 evolved, Hutchinson said that Trump knew the crowd was violent and armed, and that once the rally attendees made it to the Capitol, Trump wanted to be there.
Hutchinson testified about an incident after the rally in the presidential limo, “the Beast,” when Trump was told by Secret Service chief Bobby Engel that they were going back to the White House and not the Capitol.
“I’m the f—ing president,” Trump said according to Hutchinson’s testimony. Then Hutchinson was told Trump tried to grab the wheel and physically threatened Engel.
Is any of this activity criminal? Not any more than Trump staining the White House walls by throwing plates with ketchup and flipping tablecloths, another revelation from the hearings. More important, and potentially criminal, are the reports that Hutchinson received intimidating reminders to be loyal to Trump World, a possible example of witness tampering.
Let the Justice Department decide on criminality.
Our lower bar as Americans is to ask if the unhinged Trump is a person who should have ever been president, or should be president again.
It’s a question for all of us, especially Republicans like Korean American Michelle Steel, a member of Congress representing California’s 48th. She still backs Trump. Why? Her opponent Jay Chen doesn’t.
The frustration has been in the silence of those in the know. White House lawyer Cipollone has now been subpoenaed and is negotiating the manner of his cooperation. Others have pleaded the fifth or are hiding in their silence. Time for them to make a choice, as should the Asian Americans amongst us who are Republicans.
Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House select committee gave a speech at the Reagan Library last Wednesday, talking about the crossroads our country is in.
She called out Trump as a “threat to democracy,” and said: “Think about the choice in front of us. We have to choose because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.”
Cheney got 19 seconds of applause.
It could be the tidal wave of change about to come. People should take this long weekend to think about what the Sixth has to do with the Fourth, and what it means to be an American.
The Republicans at the event erupted again when Cheney said “We must not elect people who are more loyal to themselves or to power than they are to the Constitution.”
Seventeen more seconds of loud applause.
It was fireworks to my ears, the sound of people coming to their senses. And maybe an America coming together as one and not just for the Fourth of July.
NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.