….wild is the wind…creative freedom is the seed….
I must admit that I did not know much about what was happening over in the USA when Victor Huey skyped me from Beijing to talk about his friend Annabel Park. I was intrigued. Vic is one of those people who are brilliant at sticking the right kind of things under my nose. Because he really wanted me to check out Annabel’s work, I did. I trusted Victor’s nose for talents!
This is how the Coffee Party USA described themselves: ”
The Coffee Party is a democracy movement that began on Facebook, powered by volunteers and small donations from every-day Americans; not by oil barons, corporate lobbyists, or partisan think tanks. Thus, we are able to advocate for the interests of the American people without having our objectives, and the notions on which they are based, governed by powerful interests that already have too much influence in Washington.
We are a non-partisan, fact-based, solutions-oriented network determined to have an impact in our nation’s deliberative process. If we abandon our civic duty to multi-national corporations and the ruling élite, the interests of our nation will be neglected. Recognizing that many Americans are searching for a way to participate in our political process without adhering to any partisan or ideological framework, our aim is to provide a gathering place and a method for those who might not otherwise have a voice in our democracy. These are the voices we value most.”
I don’t have much to say about that since I’m not a voter in the USA, although many of my relatives and Chinese American friends clearly are. My only experience of Bill of Rights issues was from a summer in Sweden being taught by one of the Constitutional judges from the USA. I don’t know what to say. That summer, I think I must have driven him crazy! Judge.L argued with his 20 students from all over the world about every aspects of Constitutional freedom. I argued a lot! 🙂 When it got to the point where some of us could not take yet another 3 hrs of “due process” discussions, we tried to skip class. He sent other Swedish students to come over to our dorm and told us to “Get back to class & finish the debate!”
I just laughed and turned up the next day, somewhat more prepared than the day before! We went through every article of the Bill of Rights. I , of course, had issues with the Right to Bear arms bit. He explained to us the context and the original intention of the Founders. The french students went nuts. He challenged the way Europe handles what he described as “the protection of civil liberties” without anything that even resembled a Bill of Rights. The french went more nuts and then got side-tracked in their criticisms of the lack of separation of power in England under common law.
I had no issues with Common law. I had huge issues with the lack of what I would consider Diversity representation in ALL appointments of judges and effectively said to the Venerable Judge.L ,” Have you noticed that all judges deciding on Constitutional matters tend to be men, mostly white in most 1st world countries, between the age of 50-90? Is this a fair representation if we accept the premise of your Harvard egalitarianism?”
He said,”Yes, but in my experience as an educator, positive discrimination cannot work in the training of legal professionals if it does not go hand-in-hand with a contextual reform. I can only go by my personal experience and it is very difficult for many afro-american students of mine in the first few years of being in law school. I have personally found that I had to sometimes sit some of my students down and say ,” No matter how it feels, come to class. I don’t pretend this is an easy environment. But you are here & millions others want to be where you are and they are not. So take that energy, frustration, difficulties & COME to Class!”
At the time I wondered in my head,”Wow, hope the good Judge did not think that I’m skipping class because I felt…that way. That’s really not my context. Lets not go there again.” I didn’t skip a single class after that. Fell asleep in one or two of them, but was still there! Lol.
I was one of the few Chinese Australian in his class. There was another Indian British girl. There was a Zimbabwian exchange student (lovely girl!) from an African country. She made a few northern europeans produce sanctimonious “tut, tut” sounds, when she talked about traditional Bride prices & how the tradition of that interfaced with the new UN law on human trafficking. She saw the tradition as a celebration rather than trafficking when kept within the social context. I did not see what the problem was as a social metaphor. In the chinese culture, a very well-educated, brilliant & beautiful daughter of a respected family would be referred to formally as “A thousand teals of gold”. Europeans can be a little “literal”. So I knew the in-joke when she used that to “shock” in class! My friend Leila from Tunisia was there. She had a lot to say about explaining the systems of Constitutional law and Islāmic law in Tunisia. It shattered a lot of my personal stereotypes about the role of women in Tunisia. The class was pretty much 50: 50 on gender distribution. So I really didn’t see what the big fuss was.
It was a very small class. I must admit, in Sweden, I can’t say I felt any of the Scandinavian Blonde boys were silencing my diversity! Some days they were lucky if they got a word in….really! But even now, I respect that there may be different experiences , out there, for those living in the USA!
By the way, there was no worshipping of Judge.L in that class. We really had a go at every aspects of the different Constitutional frameworks around the world. There was an Estonian student who challenged my premise and said,”Sorry, that is not true for all. My country had to draft its own constitution, not so long ago and two graduates from my law school had to do it because they were the only ones trained! So it is not all old men 50-90!”
I said,”Fine, but lets see who you appoint as Constitutional judges. I appreciate Meritocracy, but I really do prefer a meritocracy that has some attempts at levelling the playing field, otherwise….well….its all very Orwellian, isn’t it? Some pigs are more equal than others…and so on…”
Judge.L then came back with something that really changed my mind about the Bill of Rights, he said,” After so many years of looking at this, I concluded that all the different instruments within the legal system exist to protect civil liberties…the differences are the methods & applications. Even Drafters starting with the best of motives…..it is still up to those who take the baton to “construe the intention of the founders”. Humans are fallible! I prefer something that sets it out in Black/White to start with and then lets let history decide. It is still a base-line to go with. It gives the grounds for reform and for defence. ”
Who would have thought that a decade later, I find myself in complete agreement with him after Hong kong had to defend our Basic Constitutional laws again and again to protect civil liberties for our 7 Millions inhabitants!
I’m glad it is someone like Annabel Park and her friends who spearheaded this “Defence of Mr.Bill” in the USA. That is very powerful, for me as an Australian and a Hong kong chinese to see that, “Chinese princesses are doing it for themselves AND we don’t have to do it like the boys. We were never brought up to do it their way to begin with and never will! To a degree, it is thanks to the emphasis on education within all aspects of the chinese culture! In the right households we prioritise educating our children first, above a flash car or a big mansion!”
Recently in retaliation to a particularly ridiculous comment by a BBC commentator about how “white Brits are trying to be the new black” ( lets not get into what he thought he mean by this!). My intuitive response was, “Hey, maybe the old Black power is the New Yellow!” Food for thought, indeed!
There comes a time when the protection of Civil liberties, is not about being black, yellow, white or red; it is not about being male or female , straight, gay or bisexual…it is about the most Fundamental concepts of Freedom that enables Human Dignity and Integrity.
I got sick of the rhetorics of Left/Right/Center politics. I never cared for such things and by nature I am really very Gandhi Satyagraha in my approach to many diversity issues. But there is one thing I would fight for and call my friends about; that is the basic defence of Human rights & Civil Liberties! No, hours of debate with Judge.L had nothing to do with it if what he said did not “hold water”. But it did and it influenced me for the rest of my life. I would like that for all the future generations to come.
Don’t let anyone mess with your civil liberties. It is not negotiable. There is no “acceptable degree of atrocities or justifiable violence in the name of …blah..blah.” What you take from others in civil liberties & human dignity, you also steal from yourselves!
I celebrate what Annabel’s http://www.coffeepartyusa.com had to say about this: “Responsible citizenship is required to save our republic. Too many Americans simply adopt the rhetoric, and thus the agenda, of institutions wealthy enough to afford the tools of mass communication. A nation that is self-governed calls upon its citizens to make judgments and decisions for themselves. Thanks to technology available on the Internet, we believe that Americans can meet the challenges of self-governance in the 21st century by becoming active citizens rather than periodic consumers of partisan entertainment.”
I am glad we fb friend via Victor. He is an old soul and I can’t believe we’ve circled around this world for over a decade now and 2011 takes us on this journey of discovering that “Capitol Barbie (powerful darling that she is) is no longer Blonde & Scandinavian looking, she has black hair and she may be the chinese-american/australian/european princess that morphed into a chinese-american/australian/european princess, ready to defend Mr.Bill!”
Well done, Annabel! I hope you get your Million on Capitol hill! I am sure many will Step up!
If you are curious, please check out their website: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com
P.S After all that debate with Judge.L, he was the only law professor who gave me 100% for my final paper! Lets hope I put this to good use one day and I think we are all due for an online Coffee chat on skype with Vic! 🙂
Cecilia is a Hong Kong Chinese-Australian Social Entreprneur, Artist, Directors of NGO in Africa, South Ameria, Asia and California who really really likes to "tell it how it is", having travelled to over 40 countries around the world & seen some interesting things every so often.
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