“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
These words spoken by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have, in an ironic twist, become an anthem among women.
From fighting for the right to vote in the 1920’s, to gaining reproductive rights, and now, fighting for equal pay, women have proven time and time again that a little bit of persistence and a loud voice can move us towards equality.
McConnell’s words came after Republican senators implemented Rule 19, that states “no senator in a debate shall directly or indirectly impute to another senator any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” As a result of this implication, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the senate floor for her opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
Warren was citing a letter written by the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King. In the letter, King opposed Session’s 1986 nomination for a federal judge position due to her belief that he was racially insensitive towards black citizens.
Now by standing up for her right to be heard, Warren herself has become a symbol for women’s progress and the perseverance that one must have in the face of inequality.
“They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth,” said Warren during a CNN interview.
Although McConnell’s words were said in an effort to minimize Warren’s message, the opposite effect happened. People flocked to social media, hashtagging “#letlizspeak” in an effort to show their support.
However, Warren’s silencing runs deeper than Republican senators not wanting her to accuse Sessions of racist remarks. Rather, it stands as a representation for all the times people who were told to be silent raised their voices and made change happen.
The very history of America sits upon a foundation of voices raised for freedom.
When the British imposed upon our rights, we shouted on the battlefield.
When women were deemed incapable to vote, they yelled for a voice.
When African-Americans were told that they were equal but separated, they screamed for desegregation.
When the Travel Ban, or the nicknamed “Muslim Ban” was implemented by President Trump, people flocked to airports and voiced opposition to what they believed to be a discriminatory act.
When asked about the importance of protest, Holocaust survivor and author of “Night” Elie Wiesel said “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
It is when we are silent, but understand what is happening that injustice is allowed to grow. For Wiesel, German citizens not using their voice to stop the horrors of the Holocaust resulted in six million of his Jewish brothers and sisters’ deaths.
Silence can harm, it can cause pain, it can kill. If all the good in the world is silenced, then the world we live in would be unbearable.
It is those who speak up that remind us of the good in humanity. It is those that speak up that remind us that freedom is a privilege.
Freedom is a privilege that people both in America and around the world still fight for. It is a lot harder to achieve freedom than it is to take it away.
Protestant pastor and public foe of Adolf Hitler Martin Niemöller said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist… Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”
If we become complacent with the freedom we are given, and do not seek to help others obtain theirs, then who will help us if our freedom is taken away?
Warren was silenced on the senate floor. She was silenced because she had an opinion others disagreed with. But it is sometimes the opinion we disagree with that we must listen to the most.
If people stayed silent when Susan B. Anthony demanded woman’s suffrage, I, and other women, would have no place in the government.
If Rosa Parks didn’t say no to the man who demanded her seat, and if Martin Luther King Jr. did not raise his voice to paint a picture of inequality, then the Civil Rights Movement would never have happened, and black citizens would still be attending separate schools, and giving up seats on buses.
If Americans did not protest against things that violated their beliefs, then we would not live in a democracy.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” said Martin Luther King Jr..
Voices must be raised for change to occur.
Susan B. Anthony. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Nevertheless, they persisted
Elizabeth Warren. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Americans. Nevertheless, we will persist.