“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, February 7, 2017.
President Reagan nominates U.S. attorney Jeff Sessions, Alabama, for federal district judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds contentious confirmation hearings that produce significant opposition testimonies of Sessions’ record of racist remarks and civil rights violations.
Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., writes a letter to Strom Thurmond, committee chairman, imploring the committee to deny Sessions the appointment because he “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
Mrs. King’s letter of objection is not read into the record even though such letter reading “into the record,” whether from proponents or opponents, is common. In the end, however, the senators block Sessions by a 10-8 vote.
Thirty years later, President Trump nominates this same Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. The hearings, again, are contentious as the allegations of racism and civil rights violations resurface.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stands at the senate podium to read aloud into the record Mrs. King’s 1986 letter. However, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not allow it by using an arcane procedural rule that senators cannot impugn fellow senators. This, despite the fact that everyone who watches the hearings witnesses plenty of “impugning” going on.
In defending the chamber’s censorship, McConnell says, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Within hours, McConnell’s tongue-lashing becomes a rallying cry for men and women who believe that Sen. Warren was more a victim of chauvinist cowardice than of senate procedures. Ironically, Mrs. King’s letter catapulted from the dusty vaults of forgotten, thirty-year old history to the top of the news and newsfeeds all across the country.
It’s reasonable to imagine that had Sen. Warren been allowed her right to read that letter into the record, it would have been news for a day. However, because so much of the country judged McConnell’s scolding as inappropriate and Sen. Warren’s persistence as strength, the words he meant to demean are now an overnight industry of t-shirts, coffee mugs, car decals, window clings, jewelry, journals, buttons, and magnets.
If you read Rhoda: The Mad Woman of Acts 12, you know at least two of the countless numbers of women in humanity’s marvelous history who wouldn’t shut up. Who persisted. One was told she was mad for speaking a truth too miraculous for others to believe. Another was told she was rude for speaking a truth too painful for others to believe.
Don’t shut up. Persist.