Brothers and Sisters, Comrades!
I had hoped to be able to speak with you all, and hug you all and argue with you all and do some fajitas and mega margaritas with you all, in person, but that is not to be this year. So I am sitting in Brooklyn and thinking of you all as both Ralph and I still float euphorically about 1 foot off the floor after a sentencing reprieve that was as welcome as it was unexpected.
However, rather than bask in the glow I want to seize the time before you to brandish some of the truths that have risen out of this four and a half year struggle with the Government.
First, a” lenient” sentence of twenty eight months and the loss of my calling to be a lawyer is probably still more than enough to chill if not downright put on ice, the criminal defense bar. This was the government motive from the arrest onward and I have little doubt that lawyers in the trenches and our clients will suffer from this announced omnipresence of Big Brother at the counsel table and in the visiting rooms. So the fight continues to the Appeal and the significant Constititutional questions that we will raise and hope to be vindicated on. I believe that it is possible, even in Bush world and what may follow it, that Lynne Stewart will one day be able to walk into a Courtroom as a Counsellor at Law!
My second most important point is that I would not be sitting in Brooklyn writing this except for the most astounding outpouring of People Power- Not only the 1000+ letters, the 800 strong supporters attending at Riverside Church from every part of the fractious Left the night before the sentencing: the singing of the Battle Hymn (with Her Truth rather than His!) as we walked heads high into the Court on Monday. It was also anytime someone talked about the case, or staged a burning of the Constititution in Birmingham (thank you David Gespass!) It was Ian Head who kept us together via the web site and Haydee, who wrote and sweated the joint publication of the pamphlet that put the truth of the conviction to the public. Or those arranged a radio interview (Lafferty this one’s for you and all the others from the Hildes’ in Bellingham Washington to the folks in Chicago, San Diego, Portland, Tucson,Seattle, Long Island, San Francisco, Phoenix, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Maine and Washington DC who set up the meetings and put us up in style (that sauna in Minneapolis), those who played the DVDs on the campus and who wrote the letters!! Those letters and the outpouring of support enabled and enboldened a United States District Court Judge to state
“It is no exaggeration to say that Ms. Stewart has not only performed a public service to her clients but to the nation.”
It is a victory not only for me personally not to have to end my life in jail but to our brand of lawyering that centers on People, not the corporation.
I spoke to the Guild Convention at its closing in 2003, and I just want to repeat my personal vision expressed there about the renewal of our quests at these gatherings:
We now resume our everyday lives but we have been charged once again, with, and for, our quests, and like Hippolyta and her Amazons; like David going forth to meet Goliath, like Beowulf the dragon slayer, like Queen Zenobia, who made war on the Romans, like Sir Galahad seeking the holy grail. And modern heros, dare I mention? Ho and Mao and Lenin, Fidel and Nelson Mandela and John Brown, Che Guevara who reminds us “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” Our quests like theirs are to shake the very foundations of the continents. We go out to stop police brutality – to rescue the imprisoned – To change the rules for those who have never ever been able to get to the starting line much less run the race, because of color, physical condition, gender, mental impairment.
We go forth to preserve the air and land and water and sky and all the beasts that crawl and fly.
We go forth to safeguard the right to speak and write, to join; to learn, to rest safe at home, to be secure, fed, healthy, sheltered, loved and loving, to be at peace with ones identity.
Until we meet again our quests are formidable. We have in Washington a poisonous government that spreads its venom to the body politic in all corners of the globe. We have war – big war in Iraq, big war in Afghanistan, smaller wars in Columbia, Central America, Southeast Asia. We have detainees and political prisoners at home…..
That was 2003 and now we face a landscape devoid of habeus corpus where our government admits and enjoys rendering and torturing. With all of that
We know we can win. We know we can win because we must win. Arundahti Roy says “WE BE MANY AND THEY BE FEW”
There is a time when History and Justice meet. Let us Dare to Struggle Dare to Win.