Tuesday night, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor by Republicans for being “disrespectful.” Warren, exercising her first amendment right, was urging Republicans to reconsider Trump’s pick for attorney general- Jeff Sessions. Elizabeth was simply reading a letter written by Corretta Scott King, exposing Sessions for “intimidating elderly black voters” in the state of Alabama. The controversy following this incident speaks to larger issues within our governance far beyond the vicinity of that Senate room.
The bipartisan nature of the Senate cultivates the engagement of civil debate by two opposing parties, each exercising their first amendment right to decide what is best for our nation collectively. The issue with last night’s occurrences didn’t stem from the presence of conflict, but rather how that conflict was handled. Although Republicans may not have entirely agreed with Warren’s views on Sessions, silencing and disregarding her right of free speech proved to be an inadequate resolve. Republicans argued that Warren was violating some obscure rule that Senators mustn’t “speak ill” of one another. Violation against such a law lacks validation as Warren utilized the words of Corretta, not her own.
Additionally, the letter itself never bashed Sessions, but first exposed facts of his past actions. Sessions serves as a major threat to not only voting rights in Alabama but civil rights nationwide. The Senate’s decision to silence Warren had nothing to do with this rule at all, as intolerance and inability to face the truth were the critical components behind her censorship.
Additionally, the Senate’s plea for politeness proved volatile to not only the free speech of opponents but mainly women. Senator Orrin Hatch argued that Warren failed to consider Sessions’s wife when rightfully demeaning his character. What exactly his wife had to do with Session’s inadequacy to fulfill his position, I don’t know. But what I do know is insinuating that Warren must even be polite at all portrays the volatile ideal of women’s inferiority. Warren had every right to speak up, and she shouldn’t be confounded to “politeness” to get her point across.
This issue is happening today, in 2017. Although King’s letter may be dated back to 1986, her opposition to Session’s prove to be validating concerns for not only now, but for the next four years. Not only must we speak up on this issue for the sake of civil rights, but for allowing women the equal platform of voicing their concerns freely without regard to “politeness.”
Corretta’s letter may be viewed here.