February 10, 2017 by Editorial Board
On Feb. 7, Elizabeth Warren read began to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.
In 1986, Coretta Scott King wrote a letter opposing Jeff Sessions’ nomination to a federal judge position. But when the Democratic Massachusetts senator began to read that letter as evidence for why Sessions should not be appointed attorney general, she was not allowed to finish.
“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama, as warned by the chair,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said in objection to Warren.
The Republican from Kentucky referenced the part of the letter that read, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”
Warren was not only forced to sit down, but to remain silent for the remainder of Sessions’ confirmation hearing. Later, with a different Republican senator presiding, two male Democratic senators were allowed to read the letter in full.
If someone asked you what was wrong with this picture, where would you even start?
At the fact that Coretta Scott King’s words were too “impugning” for the Senate? Or that a woman was forced to sit down for reading a letter that two men were allowed to read the next day verbatim? Or perhaps you could go with the fact that Warren wasn’t allowed to speak for the remainder of the process because Mitch McConnell found something she said (as part of a quote from someone else) offensive on behalf of the nominee.
If we live in a world where we silence people who dare to speak against us, we will create our own downfall. Silencing the opposition only makes them look strong for speaking out — and it makes the silencer look weak for being unable to stomach the resistance.
So if someone speaks against you or disagrees with your values, do not try to stop them. If what you believe in is right, then history will prove them wrong. Don’t be disheartened if they talk over you — that they are louder doesn’t mean anyone will listen.
McConnell and his cohort may succeed in shutting out Warren this time, but beyond this hearing they don’t control her. They don’t control any of us. Even if Session gets confirmed, we still have every right to our values and our voices. Warren knew that she could be silenced, but she raised her voice for what she believed in. She persisted, and we must follow her lead and do the same.