Seems, my entire political career I’ve had my back against the ropes. The Good Ol’ Boys in Georgia . . . trying to take me to the canvass for a full ten count. But each time they thought they had me, women, including women from Detroit, rose to stop the referee.
A few years ago, the issue was redistricting. They thought they could redistrict me out of office. They put me in a district with almost no black people in it and laughed as they wrote my political obituary. But the women of Detroit responded with knowledge, unity, and money. We won and started partying. But we couldn’t celebrate long because the Good Ol’ Boys didn’t stop plotting. Because down south, that’s what good ol’ boys do!
So finally, they hit on a formula.
They remembered the days of Helen of Troy. And how the Greeks were able to penetrate even the tightest security by presenting what appeared to be a peace offering, but that instead was nothing more than an aggressive act of war.
Computer viruses today are sent through what are called Trojan Horses. That is, seemingly innocuous e-mail messages–like the “Love Bug” message that was sent out some time ago–that have embedded within them nasty little files that just tear up your entire computer system.
So in like manner, these good ol’ boy strategists set about to find a Trojan Horse. And this time, they hit upon what they considered to be a winner: in my case, another black woman who would in actuality be one of them. Imagine it. Good ol’ boys from the bad ol’ days making bad ol’ girls for today.
Now legend has it, that for ten years the Greeks laid seige on Troy and for ten years they couldn’t get through. But only when they decided to fool the people of Troy, and send in an offensive war machine cloaked in a peace offering did they project themselves past a stiff Troy defense.
Meanwhile, Troy believes that because it’s won every battle for the past ten years that it has defeated the Greeks . Troy didn’t realize that the Greeks had planned one more battle and that one would win the war.
So, in my last election, 48,000 Republicans crossed over and voted in the Democratic Primary.
Now, in Georgia the good ol boys think they’ve won the war; they’ve set about in reverie. They even changed the state flag back from the one confederate flag flag that we used to have to the two Confederate flag flag that our former governor gave us to the new Confederate flag flag that we now have that’s really still a confederate flag in drag.
But even as they revel in their successes, I would warn them, Don’t mistake a mere battle for the war.
Now, today, I want to sing the song of a few women who are facing battles big and small.
Of course, we have to start with the visionaries who began as abolitionists and who then founded the Suffragist Movement: Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. And despite an imperfect movement, their vision that women can be thoroughly integrated into every aspect of American society prevails as the ideal.
And as I can clearly see from the makeup of the Detroit City Council, either ya’ll don’t have any plotting good ol’ boys up here, or woman suffrage is alive and well and ya’ll have won every battle!
All I can say is Kenneth, Alonzo, and Kwame, ya’ll had better watch out.
No one should ever talk about the voting power of women and not mention Detroit!
Now, in December of last year, Time Magazine declared it’s person of the year to be three women: Cynthia Cooper, Coleen Rowley, and Sherron Watkins. All women whistleblowers who saw wrong and tried to right it.
Cynthia Cooper had worked her way up to Vice President at Worldcom. She knew what they were doing there and she knew it was wrong. Moreover, it hurt the many people who had invested their last dollars in Worldcom stock. So she wrote a letter to the Worldcom Board and told them that the company was covering up $4 billion in losses. Worldcom’s bubble suddenly burst and the rest is history.
Coleen Rowley’s now famous letter to Robert Mueller, her boss at the FBI, exposed what FBI insiders knew: that something was terribly wrong in Washington, DC where warnings and pleas, including hers, were brushed off.
Sherron Watkins worked at Enron. She knew the company was lying about its profits and so she wrote a letter to Ken Lay and told him so. When that letter became public, she became another of Time Magazine’s celebrated women whistleblowers of 1992.
Now, these women faced a tremendous decision. Should they turn a blind eye to corruption? Or even could they? In the end, we all know that they chose to do the right thing in the face of what must have been incredible pressure to remain silent. In January, May, and June, these three women stepped forward and won important battles in our war for an America that lives up to its ideals.
Sherron Watkins said that Enron passed out a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that she had to look at every day. Dr. King’s quote reminded us that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Watkins said she saw that quote every day and was compelled to act.
Now, I won’t get into what I think about Ken Lay passing out quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But suffice it to say that Sherron Watkins found the courage to act because Ken Lay had failed to do so.
Time Magazine goes on to say that these women didn’t wait for a higher authority to tell them what to do. These women, as each of us must also be prepared to do, took the helm to steer the ship of our community. That these women saw the ship in citizenship and they stepped up to that wheel.
Now, I’m not surprised that in three of the biggest political stories of the year, maybe even the decade, a woman’s conscience lies at the base of what we now know. What is surprising is that Time Magazine recognized them.
But how many of you know women who do this literally every day of their lives yet who remain unsung; some are even stung. Like the young woman, Cathy Harris who told on the US Customs racial screening policy at America’s airports. Cathy Harris from Georgia gave us “Flying While Black.”
Or like the young women who joined our military to get a college education and who now find themselves on the frontlines of what the international community has labeled an illegal war.
What about the young 22-year old woman soldier who took both the anthrax and smallpox shots and who died before she could even be deployed overseas.
Or the young woman of the military who refused to take those shots and who is now being court-martialed. Isn’t it a shame that the Administration can’t tell those young women what the effect of these vaccines is on them and their as yet unborn children, but it can jail them for not taking them?
What about the young women, scared literally to death, and threatened with having their organs sold if they don’t submit themselves to the sex slave business that’s thriving in Eastern Europe today and one of the worst offenders is DynCorp corporation, the very company that peddles ist anthrax and smallpox vaccines to the Pentagon through its sole source contract with the Pentagon.
What about the young frontline females who are too young to drink in their hometown pubs, but who are not too young to find themselves in the quicksands of Iraq.
And, my sisters, what kind of America do they come home to?
What about a sister, Catherine Austin Fitts, who served as Assistant Secretary of HUD under the Bush One Presidency, but is being harassed today by lawsuits to deprive her of a living and who uncovered massive financial fraud at HUD and reported it.
My mother, an Emergency Clinic nurse of 40 years in our big public hospital in Atlanta, warned me the very first time the TV cameras showed the first responders walking in the dust and smoke of the September 11th tragedy. She called me on the phone and told me that I needed to make sure that those workers got adequate treatment because there were certain to be health effects from their presence in whatever known and unknown toxins were present. A caring woman, skilled at saving lives knew that those workers in particular, and New Yorkers in general, could soon have a massive health problem.
But what none of us knew was that the Bush Administration would tell the EPA to lie about the health hazards faced by the 9/11 workers at Ground Zero. The New York Times tells us that the White House was motivated by a strong desire to see the Stock Market quickly reopen on Wall Street. No wonder Christie Todd Whitman threw in the towel and went back home to her loving husband.
And what about me? I tried to call attention to the fact that $2.3 trillion dollars was missing from the Pentagon and that they didn’t need any more money until they could account for what they already had lost.
And that those close to this Administration were poised to make huge profits from any increase in defense spending. Shouldn’t the President’s father and our current Vice President protect themselves and our country from the appearance of conflict of interest?
In addition, I asked the question that could expose the Administration’s secrets. I asked, What did the Bush Administration know and when did it know it about the tragic events of September 11th. Who else knew? And why did no one warn the innocent people of New York.
When I asked that question I was called looney; my words were intentionally twisted by journalists who should have known better. But we all know better now, and what we know is that this Administration has not leveled with the American people on so many issues.
What we also learned is that in politics, when the going got tough, many men got going. Through some of the most important issues confronting our country, you have heard the voices of women.
Women will ask the questions that no one else will ask. Why? I believe it’s because we haven’t lost our souls yet.
But just as sure as I can tell you that today, please know that at some far away place, some good ol’ boy is taking the souls out of their cloned bad ol’ girls. Now is a particularly dangerous time. Because sister will turn against sister and most casual observers won’t even know why.
They will send us Trojan Horses. But some gift horses, deserve to be looked at in the mouth!
The Founding Mothers of Woman Suffrage envisioned a better America and women helping to make it so.
Let us live up to their vision and to the mantle they’ve left us; let us celebrate each victorious battle, but also let us recognize that winning a battle is not the same as winning the war. Nor is a battle lost a lost war.
And as for me, stay tuned for 2004!
CYNTHIA McKINNEY served in Congress as a representative from Georgia.