Persistance, Conviction, Bravery, and Compassion

You know, looking back at history can contextualize our current events, and it can also restore hope.We can look at those who have gone before, those who had endured the struggle, and persevered. I look, personally, to heroes like Judy Shepherd. The mother of Matthew Shepherd who has never given up.

  • The Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, introduced on April 3, 2001, by Rep. John Conyers and was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime.
  • The bill died when it failed to advance in the committee.
  • It was reintroduced by Rep. Conyers in the 108th and 109th congresses (on April 22, 2004, and May 26, 2005, respectively). It failed to advance out of committee.
  • In the Senate, similar legislation was introduced by Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R–OR) as an amendment to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 (S. 2400) on June 14, 2004. Though the amendment passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 65–33, it was later removed by conference committee.
  • The bill was introduced for the fourth time into the House on March 30, 2007, again by Conyers.
  • The bill passed the subcommittee by voice vote and the full House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20–14. The bill then proceeded to the full House, where it was passed on May 3, 2007, with a vote of 237–180 with Representative Barney Frank, one of two openly gay members of the House at the time, presiding.
  • The bill then proceeded to the U.S. Senate, where it was introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Gordon Smith on April 12, 2007, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • The bill died when it failed to advance out of committee.
  • On July 11, 2007, Kennedy attempted to introduce the bill again as an amendment to the Senate Defense Reauthorization bill (H.R. 1585). The Senate hate crime amendment had 44 cosponsors, including four Republicans. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ultimately dropped the amendment because of opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups, and Bush.
  • For the 5th time, Conyers introduced the bill into the House on April 2, 2009.
  • The bill was immediately referred to the full Judiciary Committee, where it passed by a vote of 15–12 on April 23, 2009.
  • The bill passed the House on April 29, 2009, by a vote of 249–175, with 231 Democrats and 18 Republicans supporting. And on October 8, 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was rolled into the conference report on Defense Authorization for fiscal year 2010. The vote was 281–146, with support from 237 Democrats and 44 Republicans.
  • Back in the Senate, the bill had again introduced by Kennedy on April 28, 2009. The Senate version of the bill had 45 cosponsors as of July 8, 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S. 1390 by a 63–28 cloture vote on July 15, 2009.

READY FOR THIS:

  • At the request of Senator Jeff Sessions (an opponent of the Matthew Shepard Act), an amendment was added to the Senate version of the hate crimes legislation that would have allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty for hate crime murders, though the amendment was later removed in conference with the House.
  • The bill passed the Senate when the Defense bill passed on July 23, 2009. As originally passed, the House version of the defense bill did not include the hate crimes legislation, requiring the difference to be worked out in a Conference committee. On October 7, 2009, the Conference committee published the final version of the bill, which included the hate crimes amendment; the conference report was then passed by the House on October 8, 2009. On October 22, 2009, following a 64–35 cloture vote, the conference report was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68–29.
  • The bill was signed into law on the afternoon of October 28, 2009, by President Barack Obama.

Persistence. Judy Shepherd, John Conyers, Ted Kennedy, Gordon Smith. Persistence.~~~And how about, bravery and conviction too? We never know how strong we are to our convictions until those convictions are tested, right? Like Judy Shepherd an opponent to the death penalty, who stuck by that conviction, and demanded life sentences for her son’s murderers.And conscience objectors, like Desmond Doss, now immortalized in (2016) Hacksaw Ridge. And Guy LaPointe too…

~~~On this day, July 2, 1948, Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. was born in Dayton, Ohio. LaPointe (July 2, 1948 – June 2, 1969) was a medic in the United States Army. Patrolling Hill 376 in Quảng Tín Province, his unit came under heavy fire from entrenched enemy forces and took several casualties. LaPointe, a conscientious objector, ran through heavy fire to reach two wounded men. He treated the soldiers and shielded them with his body, even after being twice wounded, until an enemy grenade killed all three men. LaPointe was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.~~~And then, there are the feel-good stories of compassion: On this day, July 2, 2016, Bono invited Adam Bevell onto the stage to jam with U2 during their U2 360 tour concert in Nashville, Tennessee. Adam Bevell’s brother-in-law had sketched out the small sign for him right there in the stadium and Adam held it over his head for the entire concert “BLIND GUITAR PLAYER. Bring me up.” at the end of the concert Adam’s wish was granted. The crowd hoisted him up on stage at the band’s request and Bono took his hand to lead him over to a guitar.” The guitar was strapped onto him and Adam chose to play his and his wife’s wedding song, “All I Want Is You,” while Bono sang along. Bono’s compassion for Adam brought out by Adam’s brother-n-law’s compassion for Adam as well.

~~~Persistence, bravery, conviction, and compassion…On this day, July 2, 2016, a man died who exemplified all those attributes and more.On July 2, 2016, Elie Wiesel אליעזר ויזל‎ died in New York, New York. Wiesel was a writer, professor, and political activist. He was the author of 57 books, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Wiesel was involved with Jewish causes, and helped establish the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In his political activities, he also campaigned for victims of oppression in places like South Africa, Nicaragua, and Sudan. He was outspoken against the Darfur Genocide and silence surrounding the silence surrounding the Armenian and Darfur genocides.

Weisel once said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Yes, we must take sides. Sides for the Medicare recipients who lost dental and vision today because KY Gov Matt Bevin didn’t get his way….

We must take sides, when innocent children are separated from their parents, and caged in the name of law enforcement.We must take sides when our Muslim sisters and brothers are banned from entry to the United States because of their nation-of-origin.

Yes, yes, we must take sides again White Supremacists who stage rallies in Portland and Charlottesville, and tie men to the back of trucks and drag them through Jasper, Texas.

We must take sides when a 21-year-old college student is beaten and left to die, simply because he loved differently from Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

Yes, The L.A. Times called Elie Wiesel “the most important Jew in America” and, in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called Wiesel a “messenger to mankind” when it awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.Guy Lapointe was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

~~~The rest of us? Who knows whether we’ll ever get any awards, accolades, or recognition. Heck, we might actually get arrested instead of getting awards. But what would we lose if we didn’t try? We might lose a bit of ourselves…Yes, looking back at history can contextualize our current events, and it can also restore hope. And perhaps reinvigorate our persistence, bravery, conviction, and compassion.

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