by Michael Maharrey
When the white only seats in the front of the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery, Alabama filled with passengers, leaving several white men standing, bus driver James Blake moved the “colored” section sign behind the row Parks was sitting in and demanded that she and the three other people move to seats in the rear of the bus.
The three other people in the row complied.
Parks did not.
“When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You may do that,’” Parks recalled in a 1987 PBS documentary on the Civil Rights movement.
Blake called the police and an officer arrested Parks. She spent the next day in jail. She was tried four days later and convicted of disorderly conduct. The judge fined her $10 and $4 in court costs. She also lost her job as a seamstress at a local department store.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” she wrote in her autobiography.
She refused to submit.
And she faced the consequences.
Many Americans today say they are tired of giving in – tired of giving in to blue shirted bullies who demand a peek or a grope before allowing them to board an airplane.
Lawmakers in Texas decided to do something about it. Rep. David Simpson authored HB1937, a bill that affirmed the Fourth Amendment, making it illegal for government agents to conduct pat-downs involving intimate touching without probable cause. The legislation passed the Texas House unanimously 138-0.
The bill was on its way to Senate passage when the bully stepped on the bus.
U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy wrote a letter, delivered to key Texas lawmakers and executives. On behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Murphy threatened to turn the Lone Star State into a no-fly zone.
“If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew,” he wrote. “We urge that you consider the ramifications of this bill before casting your vote.”
Texas lawmakers promptly got up and took their seats on the back of the bus.
The ominous letter prompted senate sponsor Dan Patrick to pull the bill. Yes, for all of its “Don’t Mess With Texas” bluster, it only took a DOJ letter written by a constitutionally illiterate federal attorney to elicit a blink in this political game of chicken.
Does the federal government have the power to shut down Texas air travel?
Would the feds actually do it?
But who cares?
“You may do that.”
Yes! Let the TSA shut down all of the Texas airports. That’s a public relations battle I’m willing to fight.
Such a move would not only impact Texas, but significantly affect air travel worldwide. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport ranks as one of the top-10 busiest airports in the world. It serves as an American Airlines hub. More than 160,000 passengers fly out of the airport every day and thousands of flights from all over the world connect through DFW daily. Continental Airlines utilizes George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston as a hub. IAH serves 43 million passengers per year. Southwest Airlines calls Dallas Love Field home.
So let the feds shut it all down. And then let them explain to Americans how they are creating a transportation nightmare, inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of people and wasting millions of dollars so that TSA agents can keep them safe by groping somebody’s little girl.
Dadgummit Texas, this was a winnable state sovereignty issue. We might have a hard time selling state level health care freedom acts. A lot of Americans like the idea of “free” health care delivered from Washington D.C. We might have a hard time selling state medicinal marijuana laws. A lot of Americans simply see them as a foot-in-the door issue for potheads. But most Americans aren’t buying the argument that standing around in their socks, waiting for some badged agent to feel them up is making them safer.
If state legislators and executives remain unwilling to face any consequences for standing up to federal overreach, the Tenth Amendment means nothing at all. If elected officials and the citizens they serve will not risk losing some federal funding, are not willing to take some rhetorical slings and arrow and won’t accept the possibility that they might even face federal charges for resisting unconstitutional overreach, the Constitution is nothing but some fancy calligraphy on yellowing parchment.
For all of the moving speeches, proposed resolutions and tough talk, most state lawmakers are just spineless snakes slithering toward the backÂ of the bus.
So the bully does what a bully does. He blusters, threatens and spits in his victim’s face, defying anybody to do anything about it. And until somebody stands up and swings back, the bullying never ends.
Yes, that means taking a risk. The bully may punch you back. You may find yourself in an all-out brawl. You may even come out of the fight beaten, bloody and bruised.
But by God, isn’t that better than quietly walking to the back of the bus, sitting down and shutting up?
Rosa Parks refused to give in.
She went to jail.
“It was just time… there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”
Indeed - it is just time.