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ACTION AS RESPONSIBILITY April 15, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy.
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As far as I can tell Leah Bolger has received no notice in The New York Times or The Washington Post. She is the former naval officer, who with articulate expression momentarily interrupted the hearing of the Super Committee formed to reduce social spending. She faced jail for her action.

Obviously, the mainstream media have more important matters to comment upon, not least the mooted war against the great enemy of civilization, Iran. Leah Bolger’s action is a principled one. It might even arrest the deadened awareness of the greedy, and those afflicted by the greedy. We might, just for the moment, leave aside any analysis and speculation as how this situation exists, and note perhaps too self-denial and manipulation, compounded with violence, both as threat and domination, the trusted constructs of injustice, may be eroding, at least swaying in the breeze, or then again the earth may be moving, as it does.

Thom Hartmann interviewed Leah Bolger:

Statement before Judge Nash, 12 April 2012,Hearing for disruption of Super Committee charge:

I joined the U.S. Navy in 1980 and served on active duty for the next 20 years relatively ignorant of the vastness of the U.S. military machine and its deep-seated entrenchment with our government and economy. I had little understanding of the “military-industrial complex’ that President Eisenhower warned us about 50 years ago, and I certainly didn’t know what Major General Smedley Butler meant when he said that “War is a racket.”

Now I am beginning to understand the enormity of the power that the U.S. military machine holds. Capitalism is supposed to be an economic system”not a foreign policy–but war making has become very profitable. Profit means money and it is money that controls the power in our government. It doesn’t matter to the government that wars are immoral, illegal or ineffective. Government policies are shaped by the will of the corporate interests who have direct, immediate and in some cases, almost exclusive access to them.

And so it was in the case of the Super Committee–a hand-selected committee of 12 senators and representatives who were given extra-ordinary (some say extra-Constitutional) powers, met in secret, and solicited testimony from not one citizen . My own Congressman did not have access to this committee, but over 250 lobbyists did. I have come to understand what millions of Americans already know–that the will of the people is of little concern to those in power. We can demonstrate and petition and write letters until we are blue in the face, but those actions can’t compete with the power of the money coming from the lobbyists and corporate interests.

It takes an enormous amount of money to be elected to Congress, and once elected Congress is forced to perpetually raise money in order to be reelected. It is a never-ending vicious circle, and Congress quickly becomes beholden to the interests who financed their elections–not the people they are supposed to be representing. So it doesn’t matter to Congress that the American people rank military spending as their #18 priority, according to the National Opinion Research Center. The same poll has repeatedly shown the health care and education are the top two priorities of the American people by far, yet the allocation of our federal tax dollars is completely opposite that of the people’s desires.

Our elected government repeatedly and consistently ignores the will of the people. So, when I saw an opportunity at the Super Committee to literally stand up and speak out on behalf of the American people–I seized it. I knew I would be arrested, but I also knew that it was a unique and rare opportunity to make sure that the voice of the people was heard. I know that most people are not able to act as I did. It takes a certain amount of latitude in ones personal responsibilities to be able to come to Washington, stand trial, and face jail time–not to mention a good deal of chutzpah to be able to walk to the well of a senate hearing room and directly address Congress. Because most people cannot do what I did, I acted on their behalf. It seems the only way for the average citizen to be heard is through an act of civil disobedience, and indeed , I am the sole citizen who was heard by the Super Committee.

Many people who support me have asked me why I am pleading guilty. I am doing so because I readily admit what I did. It would be a waste of everyone’s time to force the government to prove that. But in pleading guilty to what I did, I am also pointing an accusing finger at our government, which is completely failing its people.

I have been charged with “Unlawful Conduct–Disruption of Congress.” My dictionary has two definitions for “disrupt.” The first is to interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem– which is what I did. The second definition says to “disrupt” is to drastically alter or destroy the structure of (something). I only wish that my 52-second interruption could have truly “disrupted” the status quo, because if anything needs to be drastically altered, it’s Congress.

I think your Honor understands that I committed this act out of a sense of responsibility and obligation. I am aware that the potential penalties that you may impose as a result of my guilty plea include community service and fines. I would like your Honor to know that at this point I do not intend to pay a fine beyond the victims of violent crime fund assessment. To do so would violate my personal values. One of the main reasons I committed this act is my objection to the reality that one must pay money in order to have the ear of Congress.

I would also object to the awarding of community service as a punishment. I consider the work that I do every day as a full-time volunteer antiwar activist to be a service to the community.

Lastly, I would like to thank the court for listening to my statement and considering all of the testimony that has been submitted on my behalf.

This act of bravery and citizenship did not result in excessive hardship:

Judge Nash said twice that he sympathized with Bolger’s criticism of the government. She had asked the Super Committee to stop ignoring the public’s demand that wars be ended, military spending be reduced, and the rich be taxed. Nash, however, said that 300,000,000 people cannot all come and interrupt a Congressional hearing. After her court appearance, Bolger said that she would have liked to be able to tell the judge that if our representatives represented us, nobody would have to interrupt them. “It is a disgrace that we have to break the law in order to speak to our government,” Bolger said.

Nash’s imposition of such a minimal sentence was greeted by cheering from the packed courtroom and by multiple offers to pay the $50 on Leah’s behalf. Bolger does not view the $50 paid to a victims’ fund as a fine. She asked the court to impose no fine, as she believed no one should pay for permission to speak to our government. “I’m gratified,” Bolger said afterward, “that the judge agreed I should pay no fine.” The judge also imposed no “stay-away” order barring Bolger from Capitol Hill, despite the government’s request for one.

There is hope that a judge in the US can act independently of the Executive and Legislative branches of the Government. Leah Bolger demonstrates that there are times that as citizens of these democracies, we can act, and when we can we should. We have to make accurate judgements about the situation and our own capacities.

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